Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Walk in the Woods

On Saturday, Nov. 18, eleven Troop 50 Scouts and three leaders made the familiar drive north on U.S. Highway 431, past its frequent summer camp stop at Camp Sequoyah, for two days of backpacking in the Talladega National Forest near Cheaha State Park. On this trip, the troop made a first-time trek up the southern portion of Section 7 of the Pinhoti Trail — logging 7.4 miles by the time the group completed its trip Sunday morning. Subscribing to the "pack-in, pack-out" philosophy, each Scout and leader carried his own personal gear, as well as a portion of the weekend’s food, tenting, cooking, water filtration, and other gear divided among the fourteen backpackers.

After two miles of rugged, uphill, and rocky backpacking, the troop came to the Blue Mountain Shelter, which proved to be an excellent campsite for the group. After the troop staked its claim on the site and enjoyed a trail lunch, it continued to Bald Rock. The summit, at 2,326 feet, offers scenic views of the surrounding forest and terrain. It also offered the group an unanticipated sermon from an unknown mountaintop preacher who used the outcropping as a makeshift pulpit. The trip there and back to the Blue Mountain Shelter accounted for another three miles of backpacking.

Hunter and Camp prepare dinner while completing
backpacking cooking requirements for Cooking Merit Badge.

Everyone gladly took the chance to relax after
the day's backpacking was over.
After returning to the shelter, the troop began setting up camp — with some Scouts opting to make the shelter their backpacking home-away-from-home. The campsite also was in close proximity to a creek, which made accessing cooking and dish-washing water, as well as filtering drinking water for individuals, convenient. After beds were secure and muscles stretched, and with cooler temperatures and winds destined to roll in, Scouts set out to build a roaring campfire. Other Scouts started preparing dinner — tortellini with summer sausage. The troop ate and cleaned up by 8 p.m. — just in time for the start of the evening’s rain showers.

Everyone was more warmly dressed for the start of Sunday's backpacking
compared to their Saturday attire.

The rain, which lasted only for a couple of hours, immediately gave way to a drop in temperatures of more than 20 degrees. The troop was greeted by temperatures in the low 40s by the time everyone began waking up around 7 a.m. Prompted more by shivering bodies than by growling stomachs, Scouts hurriedly got a campfire going before perusing the breakfast offerings. Campsite pack-up went relatively quickly, and after completing that and a Sunday morning devotional service focused on Samson’s inherent weaknesses despite being one of the strongest men mentioned in the Bible, the troop set out on the trail by 9:15 a.m. for the last leg of its trek and the return home.

A sample of the scenic views of the surrounding forest and changing leaves,
which were more easily enjoyed Sunday, compared to Saturday's clouds and gray skies.

At the troop’s Patrol Leaders Council meeting the following Monday, Scouts and leaders debriefed about the weekend outing. Youth leaders commended the group’s overall evening planning with the knowledge of the pending rain. On the flip side, it was noted that operating backpacking stoves and using proper dishwashing techniques, especially in a backpacking environment, could bear continued training and reinforcement. Overall, it was noted that everyone worked together well and the trip was completed without any major issues.

For more photos from the backpacking trip, visit the troop’s online photo album.