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2018 Cranberry Wilderness Backpacking

Jul 29 – Aug 2, 2017


The 1128 High Adventure Crew left Andrew Chapel at 6:45 AM heading to Adventures on the
Gorge, in Fayetteville, WV. After a 5.5 hour drive and a few issues navigating through very rural
areas with little or no cellular service, we arrived at and had a really good lunch at the restaurant
at the Gorge.


The crew set up camp and prepped to zip line over an area near the Gorge. With a few practice
runs of 400 and 500 feet, the crew and others in the group headed to longer and steeper runs.
Several scouts used Go Pros so there is some video available to show the footage. After a
couple of 1300 and 1800’ runs, we went over to the final zip line called Adrenaline. This zip is
close to a 1/2 mile long and one can get up to speeds of 70 MPH. High, long, and fast!
Everyone really enjoyed the zip line activity and afterwards we headed back to the campsite to
chill out before dinner. Dinner on Sunday was beef stew in the dutch oven. After a long car ride
and zip lining, the stew hit the spot.

On Monday, we headed over to whitewater raft the New River. The ride to the launch point was
about 20 min and we received a very solid and humorous safety briefing by the lead guide.
When we arrived at the launch point, we met our raft guide, Neo. Not the Neo from the Matrix,
but a really knowledgeable guide with about 30 years of experience. With all of the rain that
moved through the Mid Atlantic region, the water level was very good for rafting. We were able
to hit a large number of Class, 3, 4 and 5 rapids. The guides stopped us at a swimming hole
that had a rock that offered an excellent jump down into the water; about 20’ high.

While it rained some of the time we were on the river, we had a lot of fun rafting and swimming.
Only saw one water snake and had a fantastic lunch provided by the rafting company. Towards
the end of the rafting trip, it poured down rain as we floated under the New River Gorge Bridge
that is 876’ high and 3,030’ long. The bridge is the 4th longest arch bridge in the world!
After getting back to the camp site, we relaxed for a bit. For dinner, we had King Ranch
Chicken in the dutch oven. A dinner prepped by ASM Wilson. It was delightful. Jack prepared his first ever blueberry cobbler in the dutch oven and it was very tasty.

On Tuesday, we broke camp and headed for the Cranberry Wilderness. After leaving our
itinerary at the Nature Center, we moved out for the trail head for final prep and gear
distribution. Loaded up with food, gear and water, we began the trek with a hike down the North
Fork Trail which took us down to the valley where we encountered our first of many water
crossings. After about 4.5 miles, the crew decided we should hike on for a few more miles. As
we departed a fairly nice area to camp, the sky decided it was time to start raining. 2 hours
later, it was pouring and we were able to find the camp site near the intersection of the North
Fork and Fire Road 22.

Setting up our camp in the pouring rain was a challenge even for the adults. We managed and
had a nice hot meal that was prepared by Eric. Given the weather, crashing early seemed like
the right thing to do. The rain let up overnight but as we were leaving the site the next morning,
rain came back very heavy and the leaders decided to reassess our conditions a few points up
the trail to ensure we had an executable back up plan if we needed to cut the backpacking
short. This was mostly to ensure that we would not incur any undue risk given the number of
water crossings and terrain. Luckily the rain stopped mid morning and we climbed and hiked
our way over to the Birchlog Run and Laurelly Branch trails headed for the Middle Fork Williams

Several larger water crossings had to be made along the way and we found a nice campsite off
of the Middle Fork Williams trail. The weather only gave us about 20 minutes to get set up
before the rain started. Although it did stop raining for a few hours, it did rain overnight. With
the rain break, several of the scouts took a nice cold West Virginia river bath before dinner.
After dinner, we turned in after a long up and down hill hike of about 9 mi.

Rain, rain, and more heavy rain overnight made for a real challenge getting out of the tents for
the final leg of the trek back to the cars. The scouts decided 5:30 am was a good time to begin
breaking camp. Out of the tents to do the wet gear such and shove to get out of camp. Starting
off with a significant water crossing due to the heavy rain, we were back on the trail by 6:55 am.

Our packs were about 5 lbs heavier due to all of the wet gear. About a 1/4 mi up the trail, we
had to cross the same small river leaving camp but used the bear bag rope due to the deep
swift current. All made it across safely. On the other side, ASM Simms tapped up Tobin’s
ankle to protect it from the foot roll the day before. Collin took weight off of Tobin’s pack and
distributed the gear among the crew for the last 4 mi up hill to the cars. While the trail was
mostly turned into little creeks and thick muddy lanes due to all of the rain, we made it back to
the cars at about 12:30 pm.

Back at the cars, ASM Wilson conducted the dry sleeping bag test. Needless to say, it was
easy to see where this experience will be etched into pack prep on future outings. Off for
burgers, fries, and other calorie laden goodies for a late lunch in Lewisburg, WV.

Taking the scenic route into Lewisburg, we stopped at Jim’s Drive In for burgers. We conducted
the roses and thorns and talked about lessons learned for future outings and the HA 301.

The scouts: Eric, Tobin, Michael, Collin, Connor, and Jack did a great job on the hike and under the circumstances related to the environment and the elements, learned a great deal about their own strength and fortitude to deal with adverse conditions. After the experience we can happily say we saw no bears (although there were definitely signs), that the terrain was indeed rugged and difficult to navigate, and that in the wilderness being prepared and being good at the basic backpacking skills are essential to deal with an unforgiving environment.



Lessons Learned / Adult Observations:

The following is a consolidated list of items that were observed by the adults or scouts as “things to do better” as part of 2018 HA201. They are listed in particular order.


Scout Planning

  • Better gear check specific to keeping key items dry – zip locks, garbage bag in pack (a couple scouts didn’t check the weather before departing)
  • Improve gear check event specific – backpacking, rafting
  • Menu – less sugary snacks, keep to approved menu, maybe list sample items to choose from / not to choose from
  • Food intake – scouts need to better understand calorie intake and hydration (we arrived in camp w/ at least 1 liter left often)


Gear list – items we should add

  • Add 2 carabiners to gear list – just plain handy
  • Paracord/550 cord – there but make sure it’s in pack
  • Add Xtra ziplock bags to gear list – regularly short on trips


Camp setup

  • Revisit order of setup specific to rain – should boys setup tents first and work together vs independently
  • Rain specific – Crew tarp on ground w/ packs underneath asap


Key skills that need constant refreshing

  • Map/Compass
  • Bowline & Taut-line hitch
  • Wet water crossing – some boots got wet as they fell off pack.  Can only practice in actual scenario.  We hit some very tough one.
  • Nutrition/hydration


General thoughts

  • No major changes, just reinforcement of key skills
  • Practice tent setup/ bear bag / crew tarp – Contest?
  • Done very well – hiking, speed of cooking dinner meal, day 2 camp breakdown, everyone pulled their weight, water crossings
  • Done not so well – day 1 camp breakdown, menu execution, day 1 navigation (trails disappeared a lot though)
  • Zip line / rafting experience was great




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