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Rockies hold adventure

Mark and Nathan Kelly ought to be in New Mexico by now.

Of course, that's only the beginning of their adventure.

The father and son from Troy headed out early Friday for Philmont Scout Ranch - a legendary Boy Scout facility in the Rocky Mountains.

It's anything but a typical summer camp.

For the next 10 days, the Kellys and their group will hike 63 miles, from an elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level to 12,400 feet above sea level.

"No cell phones, no radios, no TVs, nothing," Mark said Thursday. "It's a real strenuous expedition

sort of the ultimate of what Scouts do."

Mark and his wife Teresa are the parents of four children. They're active in their church, First Baptist, and in the Scouts,, and they regularly camp and hike together. But this hike will be different.

For Mark, the adventure provides both a challenge and an opportunity. "I wanted to do something with Nathan that we can look back on and remember doing together, before he graduates from high school."

Nathan is a 16-year-old junior at Charles Henderson High School, where played on the varsity football team last year. He's an avid Scout, working diligently toward the rank of Eagle Scout. "I never made it that far," Mark said, turning the conversation to Nathan's progress. "But Nathan's close; he's working on the daycare facility at the First United Methodist Church," Mark said, describing the service project Nathan chose to do as part of the Eagle Scout requirement.

That same focus and perseverance will be necessary over the course of the next 10 days, as the pair trek through Philmont's 137,000 acres.

"A guide goes with us for the first day and a half," Mark said. "And then he abandons us

"We take out our compass and we're on our own."

Philmont offers more than 20 expeditions, which take Scouts to sites where they work on activities that range from archaeology to black powder rifle shooting to rock climbing to burrow riding.

"You basically hike between camps and battle the elements for 10 days," Mark said.

Mark and Nathan have been working with Stanley Peters, a longtime Pike County Scout volunteer and a veteran of Philmont. This year, Peters is taking Aaron Barr from Banks along for the hike. The remainder of the group comes from Enterprise, Dothan and Elba, Mark said.

They've had two "shakedown" treks, Mark said, but he missed both of those. A private pilot, he was flying at the time of both trips.

"But I've been riding my bike a lot, and reading up on it," Mark added.

"I bought my backpack from Sierra Trail, and started packing what we'll need," he added, laughing that he'll need very little on the trail.

"The trick is to see how much you can't bring," he said. "They say an extra ounce feels like a pound by the end of the day."

Camps along the expedition route will provide the hikers will additional food and water. They'll carry their tents, their clothes, their supplies on their backs.

"And we'll hike," Kelly said.

"We end up the last day at a place called Mount Baldy. We'll drop our packs and hike about three or four hours to the top, and it's sort of like the ultimate place to reach," he said.

And, when all is said and done, they'll have the signature belt - "it's sort of a badge of honor" - and a memory to last a lifetime.

"I'm looking forward to it," Kelly said.

Stacy Graning is publisher of The Messenger.

She can be reached at 670-6308 or via email, stacy.graning@troymessenger.com