Signal Knob – Meneka Peak Trail
George Washington National Forest, Strasburg, VA
Sep 16 – 17, 2017
For the new scouts joining the troop last March, this trip will up the ante. They had been to a couple of car camping, “survived” a week-long summer camp where to have to cook three times a day and did a lot of new things. This weekend they will do their first backpacking trip ever. The weather cooperated, actually it was a very beautiful weekend, if not a bit hot for September.
Most of the scouts started arriving at 6:30 am in the morning and after a roll call just shy of 7 am, 25 scouts and 7 adults boarded the cars and drove to the Signal Know trailhead parking lot. At the parking lot, the patrol leader divvy up the crew gear and scouts and adults alike chose a pile to carry.
One by one, in 10 minutes interval, patrol left and started their 6 mile hike to the camp site near the reservoir. Immediately, most of us felt the uphill effort and few had to stop to shed their outer layer. After a mile or so, the trail became rockier and rockier. That slowed down some of the new backpackers.
The patrols decided when and where to have their lunch on the trail, so we do not gather again until the end. We were practicing dispersed camping so each campsite is occupied by only one patrol plus an adult site.
After setting up tents, the scouts started doing the dinner prep – some fetch water from the reservoir, purify it, and some started setting up the stove. Within two hours of arriving, most patrols were ready with their dinner and the adults eat with their respective assigned patrol.
The new scouts learn about the “Bermuda Triangle” (aka Bearea as the 2017 Philmont scouts named it), how to sump their bowl/plate, how to do the backcountry dishes and how to hang the bear bags). The adults left the scouts to their own device after all the tasks were completed. We can hear (very loudly) from at least one patrol all the way until 9:30 pm.
However, all of them managed to wake up on time, “cook” breakfast (not all patrols decided to have hot breakfast), broke down tents and clean the campsite and one patrol was ready to break camp by 7:15 am. As usual, patrols left in 10-15 minutes interval. We started the hike of 6 miles in a relatively easy trail (compare to yesterday’s rocky trail) and finished about 30 minutes ahead of the drivers who were supposed to pick us up at the parking lot in front of the Elizabeth Furnace Group Site.
While we were waiting, we ate our lunches and one scout stumbled to torn apart campsite (torn tent, torn gazebo, and scattered garbage). We believed it was torn by a bear. The ASMs gathered the scouts and led them to the site so they can see what could happens if they ignore the bear prevention methods that the troop is trying to teach them.
The drivers came on time and Mr. Kendall brought donuts and apple cider for the backpackers! What a treat. Thank you! The drivers shuttled the adults to the starting parking lot and all the cars came back to where the scouts were waiting. Driving back to Andrew Chapel was uneventful with most scouts fell asleep in the cars. Most of the scouts cannot wait until their next trip to Dolly Sod.