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Conyers Scouts climb New Mexico mountains
BSA Troop 973 on top of Baldy Mountain (12,441 feet). Pictured (L-R) Scott Maxwell, Matthew Watford, Andrew Maxwell, Josh Schindler, Sam Carter, Dustin Dorman, Steve Carter, Scoutmaster James Wall, Zach Schindler, Drew Baker. - photo by Submitted Photo

A crew of teenagers and their leaders from Conyers tackled a life-changing adventure at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico this summer, trekking 100 miles in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

During the 11-day hike the Scouts from Troop 973, sponsored by First Baptist Church of Conyers, also climbed numerous steep summits including Comanche Peak (11,303 ft.), Mt. Phillips (11,736 ft.) and Baldy Mountain (12,441 ft.).

The Scouts carried on their backs everything they needed to survive as they marched from camp to camp. Food was provided on Day 1 and resupplied on Day 4 and Day 8. As they used maps to navigate up, down and around the mountains, the boys also visited various program camps. They were able to load and fire black powder muskets, climb spar poles a la utility linemen, take part in a blacksmithing program, and - being Boy Scouts - participate in a service project to construct a new trail in the Scout reserve.

The troop endured numerous tough challenges on the trail such as altitude sickness, nosebleeds from the extremely dry air (5 percent humidity), blisters, exhaustion, and hiking in dust storms at 6,500 feet and thunderstorms at 10,500 feet. One storm covered the ground with hailstones.

The Scouts encountered a variety of wildlife including several Black Bears and even identified mountain lion tracks on their trail. As a safety precaution Scouts not only suspended all "smellable" items (food, lip balm, duct tape, etc.) from an elevated cable each night, but also swallowed their toothpaste -- to spit it out might attract bears into camp.

As the Scouts made their way home from New Mexico, they stopped in Canon City, Colo for a daylong rafting trip through the Royal Gorge on the Arkansas River. The foot-sore hikers enjoyed the change in transportation as they splashed their way through Class 3 and 4 rapids. But, it was not all relaxation. The boys came across six soaked vacationers who were upended in a Class 4 cascade and plucked the unlucky rafters from the river and onto the Scouts' own raft.

Philmont is the Boy Scouts of America's premier high adventure camp, and the largest youth camp in the world at 214 square miles.