HAMILTON - A local crew of 24 teenage Scouts and their adult leaders from the Hamilton, Cazenovia, Holland Parent, and Oneida Boy Scout Troops embarked on a life changing summer trek through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico beginning on July 15 and ending on July 29. Philmont covers 214 square miles of vast wilderness with trails that climb from 6500 feet to as high as over 12,400 feet. The Scouts and their leaders had been training for well over a year to carry everything they needed to survive during the trek on their backs, including food and water, while they hiked from camp to camp. They had learned wilderness survival skills, practiced emergency scenarios, created routes and contingency plans all while training and hiking many miles throughout Central and Northern New York to prepare them for the rough terrain and heat of New Mexico. They participated in backcountry programs along the way including rock climbing, mountain biking, fly fishing and gold prospecting. The trek included a conservation project where the Scouts learned and participated in the upkeep of Philmont’s ecosystem. Along the trek, Scouts endured tough challenges including backpacking in bear and mountain lion territory, steep climbs and often inclement weather which tested their determination while building leadership, teamwork, character and other important life skills. Even in the most crowded destination, each Scout group camped in isolation, out of sight and sound of all other groups.