Imagine this: You’re hiking to the summit of Philmont’s famed Baldy Mountain — that’s 3.5 miles and 2,400 feet of elevation gain — and you’re carrying not one, but two 50-pound backpacks.
That’s 100 pounds of extra weight.
Now imagine dropping those packs at the trailhead before you start hiking. Think how much easier the climb would be.
One hundred pounds. That’s the average amount of body weight that three Scouters from different parts of the country lost to get into hiking shape for high-adventure trips with their Scout troops. Here are their inspiring stories of dedication and triumph.
Brian Rose, 46
Scoutmaster, Troop 77, Greenville, Wis.
Weight Before: 341
Weight After: 266
He drank six sodas a day. He ate whatever he wanted and never exercised. Then Brian Rose experienced a life-changing moment at a Philmont shakedown meeting: A leader, Jerry Dold, got up and started talking about his experience at Philmont Scout Ranch with his kids.
“He was so passionate,” Rose says. “I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to miss out on that whole segment of Scouting.’ So I cut out the Cokes.”
The pounds started to melt away, and no wonder: Six sodas contain 186 grams of sugar and 762 calories. Rose had been swallowing more than 5,300 liquid calories a week!
Encouraged by this first small step, Rose next cut out chocolate bars.
“I modified my diet slightly; I’m not a vegetable fan,” he says. “It was mostly getting rid of the sweets.”
Then he signed up for a Philmont trek and started going to the gym to prepare. Later, a fellow Scoutmaster, Leah Schwarz, turned him on to running, something he had never done. He started with short runs and walks, and as the weight came off, he began running 5Ks and 10Ks, training for a half-marathon and bicycling. Now he bikes about 1,000 miles every year with his son, Bailey.
After 13 months of training, Rose lost 83 pounds to meet the weight requirement for Philmont, and he hiked to the summit of Baldy with his troop.
“At the top, I hugged my son and cried for 10 minutes,” he says. “It was the greatest moment of my life.”
Rose hopes to repeat that experience with his daughter, Caleigh, a Life Scout with Troop 177, in the summer of 2022.
James Maniscalco, 46
Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 213, Saddle Brook, N.J.
Weight Before: 315
Weight After: 205
In 2017, James Maniscalco joined his son’s troop on a 50-miler near Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks of New York state. He weighed 315 pounds.
His size didn’t bother him paddling in a canoe, but on the third day out, the guys hiked Ampersand Mountain.
“Halfway up, I was in pain,” Maniscalco says. “By the time we got down, my knees were on fire.”
A construction worker in New York City, Maniscalco would typically order a pizza for lunch and eat four or five slices on the job.
“I could eat an entire box of cookies with a glass of milk,” he says. “I knew I couldn’t continue this lifestyle and enjoy the rest of my life.”
He decided that by the time he took the next high-adventure trip with his son, Michael, he would be in better shape. In January 2018, he started a weight-loss program. He drank protein shakes as meal replacements and took supplemental vitamins. But the biggest change, he says, was drinking lots of water.
“I drank two gallons of water a day,” Maniscalco says. “Whenever I got hungry, I drank water.”
He would walk the stairs of a 15-story building at work for exercise. For dinner, it was salad and grilled chicken. He snacked on celery. And drank more water.
“When you stop eating junk, your stomach shrinks, and you’re not so hungry all the time,” Maniscalco says.
By the time July rolled around and his son’s troop was ready for a canoe trip in Louisiana, Maniscalco was down to 205 pounds.
“I went from an XXL shirt to a large, my pants from size 46 to 36,” he says.
One day on the job, a contractor he hadn’t seen in months came up to him and said, “I’m looking for James, have you seen him?”
“I said, ‘I’m right here,’ ” Maniscalco says. “The guy didn’t recognize me.”
Brad Gable, 50
Scoutmaster, Troop 529, Shalimar, Fla.
Weight Before: 345
Weight After: 225
Brad Gable wasn’t planning to go to Philmont with his troop. At 345 pounds, the assistant Scoutmaster was too heavy. But just eight months before the trek, one of the other adults had to drop out.
“I said, ‘OK, I’ll do it,’ ” Gable says. “I had eight months to get down to 226.
“Honestly, I felt a bit hypocritical teaching the Scout Oath and Law and not keeping myself physically strong,” he says. “But the real catalyst for losing weight was not wanting the boys to miss the trip to Philmont.”
A big eater of unhealthy fast foods, Gable admits that he has never been good at following trendy diets.
“So I just went back to what I learned in 10th grade health class: Eat more fruits and vegetables, and lean chicken, cut out the sweets and sugary drinks, like sweet tea and soda,” he says. “It worked for me.”
And he set an exercise goal for himself: Walk a minimum of 4 miles every day. Treadmill or outside. No excuses. In the beginning, it would take him 90 minutes to walk that far, and he found it challenging to carve out the time, especially after taking on the role of Scoutmaster.
“It got easier when I could walk faster,” he says. “I upped it to 5 miles and got done in about an hour.”
Reminding himself of the cost of a Philmont trek helped Gable stay motivated.
“Knowing that could be a $4,000 cookie made that cookie easy to pass up,” he laughs.
He also found it helpful to use smartphone apps to track his food intake and weight.
“I was eating anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day, and my goal was to burn 4,000 a day,” he says. “On average over the eight months, I lost a half pound a day.”
Gable lost 120 pounds and passed his physical exam three weeks before he was scheduled to depart for Philmont. Unfortunately, his troop’s trek was canceled the same week due to the Ute Park Fire that forced Philmont to close in July 2018. Gable scrambled at the last minute to find another adventure and was able to take three Scouts to BSA’s Florida Sea Base.
“That kept me on pace, and I immediately registered us for the Northern Tier program,” he says.
While training for that trip in 2019, Gable lost another 19 pounds to reach 206. For motivation to maintain his remarkable weight loss, Gable is planning to finally get to Philmont.
“My doctor would always say, ‘You’re the healthiest big guy I know,’ ” Gable says. “But now I feel even better. I’m sleeping much better. My cholesterol and blood pressure are way down. I used to use every excuse in the book to avoid exercise, but now it has become contagious. If I can do this, anybody can.”
Jeff Csatari’s latest book is The 14-Day No Sugar Diet.