Beartown State Forest Backpacking
May 20, 21 and 22, 2011
This was the first backpacking trip that the whole troop has done in a while and with the large number of new boys we knew it would be a challenging weekend. The troop got together Thursday night with fully packed backpacks so that we could weigh each boy and ensure no one was overloaded. We distributed all of the troop gear (tents, stoves, etc. ) and each patrol divided up their food. So when we arrived at the Elk’s at 4:00 on Friday everyone was ready to go.
We arrived at Beartown State Forest around 7:00 and set up the camp. The Bat Patrol got the fire going and we relaxed by the fire until it was time to head to bed. The sky was clear and the stars were amazing so just before bed we went out to an open area and did some star gazing.
Saturday morning we woke up to a beautiful view of the pond we were staying on and the sun rising over the mountains. Each patrol cooked breakfast and when the boys were finished they cleaned everything up. We took down all of the tents, packed up our backpacks and headed out.
The boys had the maps and led the troop. We headed out on a trail around the pond and soon ran into the Appalachian Trail (AT). The boys correctly figured out that we needed to go North on the AT and we were on our way. Pretty soon we were climbing up hill and the packs felt a little bit heavier. All of the boys did a great job pushing through and getting to the top of the first climb. At the top we crossed over a stream and were soon at a rock outcropping that had a wonderful view of the mountains. After a short break we continued on over the first mountain. With packs on their backs many of the boys realized that going downhill can be just as tough as going uphill. When we got to the bottom of the valley several of the boys were pretty tired and were feeling a little cranky. With 2 streams running through the valley this was the perfect place to stop and have some lunch.
About halfway through lunch it started to rain and the boys did a great job of getting their rain gear on very quickly. We finished up lunch and started our final climb up to the AT shelter area. The climb was tough but the food gave the boys the energy to make it.
At the Shelters
When we arrived at the shelter area we were surprised to find that both shelters were occupied by groups of people who were spread out and taking up all of the available space. The original plan was to have the boys sleep in tents and the adults stay in the shelters. It was time for a new plan. Mr. Rich met with the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) and they decided to put up all of the available tents and see how much space we had. One of our options was to triple up people in the tents so that there were enough tents to house the adults as well. This would have worked fine since we had several 3 man tents that the adults could fit in. However, since there was still plenty of daylight left, two adults volunteered to go down with empty packs and bring up a few more tents.
While most of the troop rested out of the rain in tents the Tree patrol led the building of a fire. They did a great job finding the wood and putting it together. Just about the time they got it started the rain stopped. Although the long hike and rain had been hard on a few of the boys, the warm fire had an instant impact on everyone and spirits were raised. We began cooking supper and Richie did a great job putting together the plan for that evening’s campfire. After supper was finished and everything was cleaned up we were ready to start the campfire. There was lots of laughter with skits and songs and everyone had a fun time.
Sunday morning we got up and made breakfast. While we were finishing up and taking down the camp, the groups in the shelters headed out. Before putting our packs on we explored the AT shelters and talked about what it is like to hike the AT. We then put on our packs and headed back down to the cars. We had beautiful weather while hiking back down. Once we arrived at the cars we took a break and set out the left over cheese, sausage and veggies from the trip for a snack. We then loaded up the cars and headed back to the Elks.
Overall the trip was great success. This was the first time camping for some of the new scouts and the backpacking along with some rain was a little challenging at times. However, everyone pushed through the hard times and learned what they were capable of achieving.