North Apollo woman, kids bond during adventure at New Mexico Scout ranch
NORTH APOLLO -- The noisy chatter of a dozen 10- and 11-year-old boys fills the room at the Hyde Park Volunteer Fire Department. Standing amidst the chaos is Carolann Fulton, the den leader at this meeting of the Pack 551 Webelos.
Fulton quickly quiets the boisterous boys for a flag ceremony before they settle in to listen to a guest speaker's presentation about geology.
She slips to the back of the room, reflecting on her many years involved in both Boy and Girl Scouts. Her thoughts turn toward a camping trip.
While she has taken her Scouts camping at Crooked Creek Park near Ford City and Camp Agawam in New Castle, it's a trip to the Boy Scout training center at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico that makes her smile the most.
"I drove across the United States with my three kids, and we made some sightseeing stops along the way," Fulton says. "Then we spent a week at Philmont. It was just a wonderful trip."
Philmont Scout Ranch is about 215 square miles of rugged mountain wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rockies.
A hiker, Fulton says she "loved the adventure of seeing the world outside of Pennsylvania. The beautiful scenery you see in books -- we were actually experiencing it."
She recalls how clear the skies were.
"We laid out on blankets at night looked at the stars. The boys (sons Matthew and Mark) pointed out constellations."
Her daughter, Sarah, got a kick out of being in the Rocky Mountains in the summer wearing shorts but being able to throw snowballs at her brothers.
The family also went horseback riding and rock climbing, and participated in some of the "Old West" programs offered at the ranch.
Her children learned how to use a lasso.
The family watched a branding demonstration around a campfire, where each camper was able to have one of their personal items branded with the Philmont insignia.
Fulton chose to have her hiking boots branded.
She was able to return to Philmont a few years later as a chaperone for Matthew and four other Boy Scout Junior Leader trainees. This time, they flew to New Mexico from Cleveland.
"I dropped them off where they needed to be at Philmont, and I was able to spend the week by myself, just hiking and exploring."
Fulton hopes to return to Philmont someday and share its beauty with her husband, John.
And she also wouldn't mind making the trip with about a dozen Webelos.
Carolann FultonAge: 40.
Hometown: North Apollo.
Family: Husband, John Fulton; children, Matthew, Mark and Sarah Fulton.
Occupation: Educational assistant at Freeport Junior High School.
Hobby: Den mother for Webelos 2, Hyde Park Pack 551; crafts; hiking.