Monday, April 18, 2011

Boy Scouts - The Trail of (Raindrop) Tears

This past Saturday (April 16th) the Troop did a hike in eastern Pennsylvania along the Skippack Creek Trail in Evansberg State Park. We'd been wanting to do a hike for some time because we have a number of scouts that needed a 5 mile hike and compass/map reading training as a requirement for the rank of 2nd Class.

We had postponed this trip two other times because of scheduling conflicts and were on the edge as far as canceling this trip. The weather forecast (as everyone now knows) was not promising but we felt we could get it in before the heavy stuff came down. We ended up with 5 scouts (including The Pudge) and 3 leaders (including yours truly). The Boy was supposed to go but I couldn't get him out of bed and quite frankly, I didn't try too hard. This was just going to be a trip for me and The Pudge.

No one in the Troop had ever been to this state park or done this trail before, so it promised to be an adventure. It was only an hour or so ride and the GPS found it with no problems. So after we huddled up and decided what routes we wanted to take (there were several options), went over some basic map reading skills and discussed safety, we were on our way at about 9:30AM.

The sky was overcast, temps around 50 and the forecasters said it would start raining around noon. That gave us 2 1/2 hours to cover 5 miles - no problem right? Well, we forgot we were in Pennsylvania. The first couple miles were relatively flat, maybe 20 or 30 feet of elevation change and mostly followed the north side of the Skippack Creek. The trail criss-crossed with the horse trails which were rocky and made of brownish clay. The horse trails were well used and pretty sloppy because of the hoof prints and "horse deposits".

The only other people we saw were fishermen who were trout fishing in the creek. We got to a highway bridge that took us to the other side of the creek. Looking at the map, we decided to cross to the south side of the creek and go down about 3 miles to another bridge where we could cross back over. This turned out to be a tactical error on the part of the leaders as I will explain later.

As we followed the creek on the south side, we had a substantial elevation change, maybe 100 to 150 feet. And it was an almost straight drop down to the creek below. No big deal but it was a lot more effort. Along the way we saw this tree and weren't sure if it was woodpeckers or bugs. I'm thinking woodpeckers or some other type of bird.

The boys also found these raccoon tracks. Part of another 2nd Class rank requirement is identifying indigenous animals.

The park boasts that there are a lot of 18th and 19th century structures and ruins throughout the park. We came upon one around 11:30AM and decided this was a good place to eat lunch.

After lunch we continued on about another 2 miles - and the rain started. Nothing heavy but enough that we broke out the rain gear. We got to the 2nd bridge and found that it was - OUT. I mean gone - as in not there - under construction - no way to cross. We looked at the map again and we had 2 options; proceed forward another 2 miles to a bridge we crossed coming into the park and then walk another 4 miles to the cars or backtrack about 4 miles. We chose to backtrack.

As we started back up the higher elevation, we noticed the clay paths were becoming extremely slippery. And I noticed I was starting to get a lot of pain in the groin area of my right leg. But we kept moving along. One scout (Simple J from my Eagle Project post) was having a real tough time keeping up with the scouts and started having a meltdown on us. Fortunately, he's the scoutmaster's son, so he dealt with that.

The rain kept steady but the wind started picking up. The scouts were troopers though and once we got back over the first bridge, even Simple J was in better spirits. The scoutmaster had a GPS that tracked our distance, so all told we hiked almost 8 miles on a trail I would classify as an intermediate level of difficulty. A couple of the younger scouts (and one who just joined the troop with this being his first scout outing ever) who I thought might have trouble doing the trail were outstanding, even leading a good bit of the time with The Pudge, who was the senior scout on the trip. I, on the other hand, didn't fair as well and could barely lift my right leg at trails end and am still in some pain (but getting better) on Monday afternoon.

We huddled up again under a pavilion to review the map and trail we had just taken. We also reviewed some orienteering skills and everyone got the requirements signed off in their handbooks. This state park was in very good shape and very clean. The trails were well marked and very clean. Except for the rain and my crumby picture taking, it was a nice trip and one that we all decided we would like to do again sometime. Maybe a Fall hike.

See Boxer, I'll still post when I have something to post.


Glen Gailey said...

And it's a great post!

8 miles is a TON of walking when you have a combination of ages and different reasons for doing the hike. When Mr. Boxer was at UPenn we used to go for drives out into the countryside and state parks. It's a beautiful part of the country and out here we have so many evergreens it's odd to see your woods so open. No ferns or moss dropping from the trees? I bet you get above 65 degrees in the Summer too?

How's your leg?

chickory said...

great looking countryside. not unlike north georgia as we have previously established. im sorry but i laughed about the groin -what a drag to have to hump a slippery mud trail in that way. and simple J is back! whatta name.

sometimes when we hike we use a gps gizmo with trails downloaded into it. but i still use my old hiking trails of georgia book most. You are such a good dad. great day!

Buzz Kill said...

Once again my lack of photography skills has not done this post justice. It is still early in the season and I bet within a month or so there will be all kinds of flora growing - especially in the lower, marshier areas. As I reviewed my pics, I realized there were so many more shots I thought (or wished) I had taken to give you, my loyal viewers, a better idea of what this hike was like. Not wanting to slow the group down and being distracted by kids not drinking water, kicking rocks, falling in ravines, etc I didn't take some of the more spectacular shots. And it was dreary and raining most of the time anyway. This was really a beautiful park.

The groin is way better today. Saturday night when I got in bed, I had to lift my leg with my hands it hurt so bad. Years ago I spent time in Alabama and this clay (although darker) reminded me a lot of that.

Simple J is my blog name for him. The boys don't call him that and it's actually a juxtaposition of his real name, but I kind of like it and it does fit him.

We wanted the boys to use maps and compasses because that was the major reason for the hike. The scoutmaster's GPS was mearly to keep track of our distance.

Even though The Boy is not a scout (he's a junior scoutmaster right now) I've become more interested in the scouts. I think because The Pudge started at age 11 and is enthusiastic about it and advancement. The Boy started at almost 14 and his first couple of years he was just there for the camping and the Xbox (his age group of scouts were big time gamers). He didn't really turn on the advancement afterburners until he was 16. That's when he started to need my help and sucked me in. I am hopefully going camping with the troop next month and this will be my first trip since I did one with The Pudge in cub scouts. We'll see.

Pam said...

Hi Buzzy. Don't underestimate your photos, I think they are great. That part of the world is truly beautiful. And how fun to be with a bunch of young men .... good for you. You may never know how much you touch their lives. Injuries aside, the time is precious, the lessons eternal.

Buzz Kill said...

Yeah, well we'll see how many of them come to the next meeting. Bwahahaha Even The Pudge was sore the next day. Fortunately, we had so much rain his soocer game was postponed because I don't think he would have been able to run. Boy Scouts will give you more endurance memories than anything. It'll be "Dad, do you remember when we stuck in the middle of nowhere in the rain and we weren't sure how to get back and you pulled a groin muscle and my ankle hurt and we thought Simple J was dead and..." Precious life lessons there.

And I just have to remember that if I have the camera, I have to take the pictures. I need that mind set.

Karl said...

Good evening Buzz Kill,

Funny how it's the stuck in the mud or the tent collapsing in the rain, excursions you remember the most. Stick with them, it will be a time that Pudge remembers his whole life, because of your involvement.

Buzz Kill said...

I have some fond and not-so-fond memories from when I was in scouts. But my father wasn't in any of them. So this is a chance to relive my scouting days ats the alledged father and hopefully it won't F-up The Boy and The Pudge too much.

moi said...

Just goes to show you how so very often Mother Nature has the final word when it comes to an outdoor excursion. I applaud y'all's Über Scoutliness for forging through like champs! Also, those woodpecker holes are worrying me. They must grow them REALLY big out your way.

Buzz Kill said...

I'm not 100% sure those were woodpeckers. They're too low to the ground. I wasn't going to poke my nose in there to see. The scouts also found a very small cave that turned out to have a geocache in it (no pics of that). All in all a nice trip with a manageable group of boys.

fishy said...

Yea Buzz!
I am sure the parents who trusted you with their sons are glad you thought it more important to keep their kids from ravine plummets before picture taking. Kudos for being the scout Dad who is willing to encourage charges to not chicken our because of a little rain. Life is full of rain.

One of my friends is a scout master here. He is the father of girls, not boys. He swears he got involved to have a hand in what kind of boys would be in his daughters dating pool! The reality is he is a great example/influence for his scouts because he isn't also someone's dad.

You seem to enjoy this a lot so maybe you could consider staying in after your boys are grown.
Too bad about the groin pull, slippery clay is

Buzz Kill said...

Most scout parents are glad to get rid of them for a few hours. If they come back in one piece - more or less - then it was a successful trip. They all came back wet this time.

Two of our leaders had their boys age out years ago (all 3 boys made eagle by the way). They enjoy Boy Scouts that much that they stuck around and the troop is glad they did. The Pudge, if he goes the distance, still has 5 more years so I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

The groin is all better. I don't remember slipping or over-stretching - it just started hurting. Thanks for stopping by.