Summer’s Pastime

Summer’s Pastime


What’d you do this summer?

Chances are, you didn’t live in a rustic cabin in New Mexico for three months, forgoing electricity and firing black powder rifles while re-enacting the operations of a Civil War encampment on the Western frontier.

Senior history major Cory Ciepiela, however, did.

Ciepiela worked as a counselor at Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M. It’s the largest adventure camp for the Boy Scouts of America, with 34 staffed camps and 55 trail camps spread out across 137,000 acres in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of the Rocky Mountains. About 20,000 Boy Scouts visit the ranch each year.

Those who visited Ciepiela’s remote camp, which is a mile away from the closest service road and an 800-foot change in elevation, really roughed it. The bathroom was an open-air latrine. The refrigerator was a hole dug in the ground. Home was a poorly insulated cabin of bunk beds that got very cold at night after the fire went out. The cabin was also popular with rodents.


Ciepiela, who has been a historical interpreter since he was 12, impersonated a Civil War soldier and told war stories around the campfire at night. The history and religious studies major also passed time hiking, chopping firewood and teaching thousands of scouts how to blacksmith and shoot historic replica black powder rifles. He maintained hygiene by occasionally taking a dip in a fishpond.

For Ciepiela, those three months in the wilderness were incredible. Both he and his scouts learned a lot about the great outdoors and, just as important, a lot about themselves. Going without air conditioning and plumbing was a small price to pay for such valuable life lessons.

“You learn leadership, you learn how to deal with hard stuff,” Ciepiela says of his experience at the Philmont Scout Ranch. “It’s this rough and tough place, but it’s also gorgeous.”

So, what’d you do this summer?