There are a lot of ways you can spend your summers in college. Internships, research opportunities, jobs, the list goes on. But every summer, I trade my apartment for a tent and head out to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, to be a Ranger at Philmont Scout Ranch.

woman sitting in a bed of yellow flowersNestled in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Philmont consists of 140,000 acres of intricate canyons, stunning peaks, and sprawling meadows. But it is not the beauty of the land that makes me return summer after summer, it is the opportunity to deliver wilderness experiences to youth in hopes of leaving a lasting impact on their lives.

Participants come to Philmont prepared to spend 12 days backpacking through the Rocky Mountains and come ready to learn the outdoor skills necessary to have a successful trek.

As soon as each crew arrives, they are greeted by their Philmont Ranger. In the simplest form a Ranger is a backcountry guide and wilderness educator, someone who teaches the participants the basics of life in the backcountry. Rangers spend their time demonstrating how to throw bear bags, explaining how to use a compass as navigation, and how to cook a proper backcountry meal.

woman sitting on cliffs edge overlooking a mountain rangeYet, that is not all that a Philmont Ranger does. To be a Ranger means to hold a special responsibility to foster love and respect for the wilderness. To encourage personal growth through challenging experiences and to guide leadership development. A Ranger is there to make a Philmont trek one that is not only about hiking beautiful trails but one that is a life changing experience.

Just as crews leave Philmont with life changing experiences, so do the Rangers who hike alongside them. As I have taken out each new crew, I have had the opportunity to grow in my own personal ways.By the end of each summer at Philmont I look back on who I was only 2 months before, and see how far I have come. By teaching skills during summer I gained confidence in myself and my abilities. I learned patience and humility. I practiced my communication skills and I learned how to act in high stress situations.

From the outside, Philmont may not seem like the ultimate resume-building internship but it has given me life experience that will lead me to be successful in the next ventures of life. I owe a lot to Philmont Scout Ranch and the experiences I have had there. And I hope in my time as a Ranger, I have helped to instill those same lasting experiences to the participants who hike those same trails.

a group hiking down an open path