Andy Davis, one of the leaders of Troop 113 said the Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared" is driving the thoughts of the adult leaders who are trying to figure out some sort of alternative for the youngsters slated to make the trip. "The good news is that almost all of these young men are young enough to have an opportunity to go again in the next year or two," Davis said.
"Right now we're looking at all of our options," Davis said. As tough as the conditions and situation is for the kids, Davis said it is equally difficult for the adult leaders who have planned their two weeks of vacation around the trip. He said trying to change arrangements at the last minute is complicated by the difficulty in making any kind of travel arrangements.
The trip was to include a flight to Denver followed by a camping expedition at Canyon City, Colorado and camping at the Echo River campground, followed by a tour of the Royal Gorge and rafting on the Arkansas River before going to Philmont on Tuesday.
"It stinks that Philmont was cancelled, but I was expecting it because of the wildfires," said Nate Smith, 15. His mother, Julie Smith, said Nate had for the most part been packed for the trip since last October.
Noah Hood, 15, said, "I was really looking forward to it." He said he had been on numerous training hikes at Keown Falls north of Rome, Pine Mountain near Cartersville, and the many trails at Berry College.
Thad Watters, another of the leaders of Troop 113 said this would have been his 12th trip to Philmont and he, like the youngsters, has been training hard for the past six months to prepare for the trip. They would have hiked somewhere between 100 and 110 miles in the backcountry. "You're at high altitudes, base camp is at 7,600 feet, I think. We go as high as 12,441 feet," Watters said. "Yes, you've got to get in shape."
The trip cost each person approximately $1,800. Watters said Southwest Airlines has already agreed to give full refunds in response to calls from Scout groups all over the country.
Normally, the Scouts work two years out to schedule trips to Philmont, but Watters said he was hopeful Scout leadership might be able to squeeze in some of the troops that had to cancel this year into the 2019 season. Others may have to wait until 2020.