Life In The Mountains Of New Mexico

Life In The Mountains Of New Mexico

In 2013, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life with the Boy Scouts with the Philmont expedition

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At least once in your lifetime, you've probably gone on a family camping trip. Maybe even a scouts camping trip.

You know the drill:

Campfire, tents, marshmallows, a guitar, bug spray, animals. And if things get too extreme, there's always the car to hide in during the middle of the night in case things get too cold or uncomfortable in the tent.

But what if I told you that you could go on a camping trip so challenging and extraordinary, that your own life may depend on wilderness skills.

The camping trip I went on in the Summer of 2013 was exactly that with the two week Philmont expedition in the middle of New Mexico. It had been about half a year since I turned 18 and earned the highest honor in the Boy Scouts with the Eagle Scout rank. But with this Philmont expedition opportunity, I knew that my full potential as a Boy Scout had yet been reached.

My Philmont Boy Scout group included my brother, members of our Scout Troop 149, and a few other Pennsylvania-based Boy Scouts. Our journey actually did not start in New Mexico, but in Denver, Colorado where our flight landed. The first adventure we embarked on was going down the Colorado Rapids. It was such an exciting raft trip through the rivers of Colorado and the rocky landscape surrounding us was fantastic.

I'll never forget being in the hotel the night before our arrival at the campsite and seeing the mountains in the distance. You could see the lightning strike in the distance and could count long it took for the sound of thunder to arrive, indicating how close the lightning actually was.

What was a typical day like during our never-ending hike through the mountains?

It consisted of hiking while carrying huge backpacks, carrying our concealed meals for every day of the week. There were no convenient stores or grocery markets nearby, we had to carry every meal with us during our 10-day journey and having them exposed to the air was not an option.

Any trace of smell, or smellables as we called them, had to be captured and contained in a bag which we had to tie up and suspend in the air as it dangled from a tree. That was important because it prevented bears or any form of wildlife from finding us while we slept overnight. It was not only a procedure we had to follow to save us, but also to save the animals because if they found the scent of a smellable item then they're lives were in jeopardy too. Philmont authorities may be forced to execute animals who discovered and were used to a new scent exposed by the Boy Scouts.

The only time we caught sight of a bear was when my brother spotted one in the distance while we hiked. We were extremely quiet in trying not to disturb it and could also see a cub with it.

I also recall getting out of my tent one morning and all-of-the-sudden a deer, a doe, and a fawn all sprinted in line across the woods, about thirty feet in front of me.

Our favorite animals in Philmont, however, were called Mini-bears. Too big to be considered squirrels, but too small to be bears, mini-bears were all over the hiking trail as an advanced type of squirrel. They were the most likely to find and eat our food, but we loved them nonetheless for being consistently around.

Even brushing your teeth was a chore. You couldn't slab on a typical amount of toothpaste and brush, you had to put a small dab of the toothpaste on the brush and had to swallow it all. No sinks or toilets to spit into, no trash cans. If you had to throw up, you better swallow that too because you'd be screwed.

Wanna drink some water? You gotta find a streaming river and fill it against the current, then put in a tab to dissolve in and make it clean. How about a travel mule? Just kidding we didn't take one, but it was an option.

We had to wear reusable clothes, there was no laundry, everything down to socks and underwear had to be conserved. The closest thing to cleaning them was hanging them to dry at our campsite. (All the clothes I wore in Philmont I use to this day, they're perfect for exercise.)


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The height of the trip was the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the Philmont mountain range with Mount Baldy. It was such a long trek up the peak of the mountain that my group and other teams were singing songs like Taylor Swift's "Love Story" and "Bohemian Rhapsody." When we finally reached the top of Baldy, the view spoke for itself. We could see clouds near us and saw the lands below us like pictures on a map. It was simply breathtaking.

Despite the challenges and incredible circumstances we faced on a daily basis, Philmont was the greatest bonding experience I had ever been a part of. Our entire group came together fully understanding that we as a group were as strong as our weakest member and that the slowest person would lead the trail, no man was left behind (that guy was occasionally me.)

We went on plenty of adventures and met plenty of great people working throughout the mountains. Some were pretending to be living in the early 20th century, others were guiding us through challenges like pole climbing (THE WORST) and rock climbing.

The days were long but well spent, the weather was almost always nice, and the views down the trail were often breathtaking. When our trip finally ended we were glad to finally shower and get comfortable back in our own homes, but wouldn't have changed a thing about the experience.

Philmont was the greatest adventure of my life (so far) because it felt living through a J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel with me playing the role of Bilbo Baggins. All that was missing were orcs, dragons, an epic battle and Enya music.


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9 Things That Happen When A Walt Disney World Cast Member Visits Disneyland

I traveled from the most magical place on earth to the happiest place on earth.

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As a cast member, you can get free entry to the Disney theme parks. So why not make use of your tickets to head over to Disneyland to see where all the magic originated?

1. Freak out about the history.

Walt Disney LITERALLY walked these grounds. Not that you're freaking out or anything, but you are. Let's talk about Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. Walt Disney literally had a hand in all of it. This is the original park where all the magic was designed and created and you can't help but geek out.

2. Compare the attractions.

They're the same, but they are also different. Let's talk about the facade of The Haunted Mansion. Loving it in New Orleans Square! Thunder Mountain: the same but mirror opposites. Space Mountain you have a riding buddy, but on Splash Mountain you don't. As a Cast Member, you notice all these small differences and can't help but geek out a little when you notice things you like better.

3. Admire the costumes.

They're SO CUTE! When you get used to seeing and wearing the same costumes all the time it is really cool to freak out over the new and unseen ones from a new land.

4. Appreciate the additional discounts.

Food. All the food. I feel like a VIP with all these food discounts!

5. Run back and forth between the parks...because you CAN!

You can get from California Adventure to Disneyland in about one minute! It's so close! What a dream! No busses, no monorail. It's just so convenient! You can hop back and forth all day without losing much time at all!

6. New Orleans Square.

Let's talk about how cool this land is! Walt Disney World is TRUELY missing out here. Without a doubt this is my favorite land in all of the Disney theme parks! I love that the Haunted Mansion is here. I LOVE the Mickey shaped beignets. The shopping is super cute. And you cannot forget about the Blue Bayou inside Pirates of the Caribbean.

7. Test Track<<Radiator Springs Racers.

Beth Monnig

There's literally no contest here. After riding Radiator Springs Racers you'll never care about riding Test Track again. The story is just so immersive on Racers. And you actually are racing someone. It's so cute you could just ride over and over again.

8. Suddenly discover that Disney World is massive in comparison.

Walt Disney World is SO BIG! It really is its own world in comparison to Disneyland. Also, let's talk about the fact that Disneyland is literally right in the middle of LA. There has to be something said for the fact that Walt Disney World is all on its own. The experience is a bit more immersive in that way in Florida.

9. Plan your next trip back.

Beth Monnig

Seriously though. The trip is just so short, even when you spend a couple of days at Disneyland. Despite its smaller size, there is still so much to see and do that you feel like your trip is inevitably too short no matter how long your stay is. The only thing to do is brainstorm to start planning your next trip out!

Walt Disney World will always be home, but as a Disney Cast Member, it's always good to go back to the place where the magic originated.

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A Gap Year Was Just What I Needed

Taking a year off between high school and college was the best thing I could have done for so many reasons.

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Everyone around me was buzzing with excitement about their acceptances to their dream university and I didn't feel the same. I was accepted to every school I applied to, but none of them felt right. At my high school, if you didn't go to college, you would have been deemed a failure and that is not what I wanted my reputation to be. When the day came, I sat down at a computer to accept my admission to a college. I was in a panic mode, and I knew that's not what I wanted. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and I had no idea if that was where I wanted to be, so I exited the website and came up with a plan.

After graduation, I boarded a flight to Denver, Colorado. I was alone on a plane going 1,000 miles west to a place I've never been. In a short amount of time, I knew I had made the right decision.

I spent eight months in the Rocky Mountains learning how to do the "adult thing." I worked 40+ hours a week in freezing temperatures and a ton of snow, making ten dollars an hour. In a resort town, ten dollars is not a lot of money. I lived on Wonder bread and eggs, I cooked on my hotplate on the top of my mini fridge. I was shown what it's like to work for the things I want, and it taught me to appreciate everything I've always been handed so easily, and that was something I really needed.

Throughout my adventure, I met so many different people in all different stages of life. I think that's the most important aspect of my entire trip. By working and living with people young and old, I learned different skills, living habits, and ways of life which I am forever grateful for. These people had shown me more about life in eight months than I had learned in my entire life, and without this experience, I would have never been introduced to half of the things I was introduced to.

I hiked 14,000-foot mountains, watched the X-Games in Aspen, attended endless concerts, and became a better snowboarder by having the chance to do it every day. Without my friends and taking this leap, I would have been sitting in a classroom wondering what I could have been doing instead. Because of taking time off, I am now back in class, able to focus on my work and doing better than I ever have before.

The most important part of my gap year was finding myself. I proved to myself that I am strong and independent, and I can achieve any goal I set as long as I work hard and have fun along the way. Before I left, I had no idea what I wanted to do or be. Upon my return home, I realized I needed to go to college to receive a higher education to better myself. Having a full-time job and being out in the real world helped me to narrow down what I really want to be and what I want to achieve for myself. I learned how to truly live and that there is no set path I need to take because this is my own life to create.

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