Sept 13-14, 2014
Dark and early on Saturday morning, Scouts and adults began gathering at Herman C. Michael for the first pre-Trek hike to prepare for the Tetons. Under the threat of rain, we pack up the cars and left for the McDonalds in Dahlonega at 5:30am. After a quick breakfast, arrangements were made to send hikers and Scouts to opposite ends of the weekends planned hike on the Appalachian Trail: Hightower Gap to Gooch Gap. Two groups comprised mostly of Troop 7 Scouts and Adults arrived at Hightower Gap deep in the Appalachian Mountains (or at least down a long, gravel forest service road). The two groups set out with about 15 minutes between them to simulate 2 separate groups and headed north on the trail. These 2 groups were facing a 6.5 mile hike to the shelter that would make that nights camp. However, between them and the shelter, stood Sassafras and Justus mountains. The Scouts set off at a great pace and took turns leading the group. Leading is an important skill to learn as the leader sets the pace for the group and has to know what pace to travel both uphill and downhill. We met other hikers out for day hikes and the trail and learned some important AT information: follow the white blazes, uphill hikers have the right of way, and drink water regularly.
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After making it over the two mountains, we stopped at Cooper Creek for lunch. Recharged with protein bars, peanuts, beef jerky, and fruit gummies we began hiking again. Spirits stayed high as we reached the 5 mile mark and the first water source for our groups. The Scouts learned about water purification with chlorine tablets and filtration systems.
The two groups made it to Gooch Gap shelter about 3pm. There was plenty of time to set up tents, explore the area, and eventually cook dinner. Several of the Scouts were getting their first exposure to freeze-dried food and enjoyed spaghetti with meat sauce, chicken with rice, chili mac, and even beef stroganoff. The big entertainment for the afternoon was not talking to the other hikers, but following the large snake that was spotted leaving camp. Before it got dark, the Scouts learned the valuable lesson of hanging a bear bag.
With darkness settling in, the Scouts also settled in to tents to prepare for an early morning. Up at 5:30am, the Scouts broke camp in the darkness and prepared for the mile hike to the cars. The motivation, breakfast at the local Dahlonega diner: Danny’s. Leaving out just before light, the Scouts made good time the waiting vehicles. From the back of the pack, I knew we were there when the shouts began. A short drive took us to Danny’s where stomachs were filled with biscuits, pancakes, French toast, orange juice and hot chocolate. I think a couple people actually had the fruit bowl, too.
Oh yeah, did I mention that the weather man was totally wrong. We had wonderful weather and by the time we made it too the shelter, there was sunshine galore. A cool night made for great sleeping weather. We never had rain until we were at the restaurant eating breakfast.
I look forward to many more trips with all the Scouts.
Scouts on the hike: Stephen P, Jacob P, Pierce S, Jackson S, Jack B, Conar J, and Mathew A
Adults on the hike: Tom W, Pete J, Jamie S, Robert P