Aurora -- A group of teenage Boy Scouts from local Troop 269 are scheduled to return to Aurora on July 27 after a life-changing summer trek through the Sange de Cristo Mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

The journey started July 12 with a six-hour drive to Chicago, where the group boarded an Amtrak train headed for New Mexico. Upon arrival July 13, the boys and adult leaders began learning water conservation and special trail cooking techniques needed for the 12 days of backpacking.

The group was to hike up to 81 miles through the mountains, reaching altitudes of more than 12,000 feet above sea level.

The Scouts and their leaders carry everything they need to survive in the wilderness while hiking from camp to camp. They are enjoying horseback riding, mining for gold, 3D archery, shooting black powder rifles, rock climbing and rappelling.

Participants are Dan and Tyler Blechschmid; Robbie Blackham; Sam, Logan and Chris Roliff; James and Ben Lucal; Jim and Colin Burns; Thomas and Austin Reitz; Dean Hayden and Sean Atwood.

The boys and leaders started training for the expedition more than a year ago, including regular hikes and camping trips to prepare for the grueling challenges they would face.

Thomas Reitz, who is hiking with son Austin, started working out daily to increase his stamina and improve his health. "When your 16-year-old son says 'I want to spend two weeks with you, dad,' you can't say no!" Thomas said.

JAMES LUCAL is on the treak with his son Ben. "This trip is something I wanted to do as a Scout, but was never able to do," said James. "I'm looking forward to the lifelong memories of this trip with my son."

Local residents can read a blog about the trip at It is compiled by James Lucal whenever he is able to gain enough signal strength. While Troop 269 plans a high adventure trip regularly, this is the first time it is keeping a blog so the community can follow along.

Troop 269 meets on Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. To learn more about Boy Scouts and the troop, visit or call Scoutmaster David Stafford at 330-995-0277.

Troop 269 invites boys who are 11 years old or have completed the fifth grade to attend a meeting and learn more about Scout activities.

Meanwhile, boys from Aurora's Troop 265 recently traveled to the Florida Keys to attend Florida Sea Base for seven days. An 80-foot schooner was their home for the week.

As the crew of the schooner, they were instructed in navigation, fishing and sailing, and remained on board the ship for the entire trip. They explored the Florida Keys and experienced snorkeling and abundant fishing.

Scouts and leaders participating were Nick and Tim Moeller, Steven and Michael Boan, Isaac and Michael Cooper, Alex Pigat, John Wallette, Josh Toth, John Garrett, Justin Meyer, Bryan Rees, Scott and Bruce Carlson and Michael Nemeth.