President's Day weekend of 2003 will be remembered for one of the worst blizzards ever to hit the northeast. For eight Scouts and Scouters from Troop 75, it will also be remembered as the weekend of our Philmont prep hike, intended to accustom our 2003 Philmont crew to multi-day backpacking. On Saturday morning, February 15, the the forecasts were calling for an inch or two of snow Sunday night with temperatures around zero for both Saturday and Sunday nights. Our group, not accustomed to canceling trips due to cold weather, packed some extra warm clothes and went backpacking despite the forecast. After waiting for one Scout to get the appropriate non-cotton clothing, we pulled out of the Key Food parking lot around 7:00 AM prepared for a cold yet fun weekend at Harriman State Park.
After arriving at the Red Apple Rest parking lot near Tuxedo, New York and beginning our hike eastward over the snow-covered trails of Harriman State Park, the group soon realized that the weekend would be about survival. While hiking, one produces enough body heat so that even 15 degree temperatures don't feel too bad if you are dressed properly. Once stopped, however, the bitterly cold temperatures really begin to affect the body. Our group, prepared with the proper cold-weather clothing, hiked over five miles and set up camp near the Fingerboard Mountain shelter. They set up a tarp and cooked a dinner of chicken and noodle stew in single-digit temperatures. While cooking, people took turns jogging around the campsite just to keep warm. After dinner and clean-up, everyone headed straight for their (relatively) warm sleeping bags.
The temperature by Sunday morning had dipped to -2 degrees. With the long weekend, we had planned to stay out until Monday, getting these Philmont-bound Scouts used to backpacking for more than one night. Common sense prevailed, however, and the group chose to return home on Sunday. Another night of sub-zero temperatures was simply not worth it. We quickly packed up and followed the same route back to the Red Apple Rest as we had taken on Saturday. It was not until we got back in the cars that we heard about the approaching blizzard. The one or two inches that had be predicted on Saturday morning had turned into one or two feet. Luckily, the bitterly cold temperatures were enough to get us to come home early and be back on Long Island before the blizzard hit.
The five Scouts who attended were Billy D., Keith J., Brian L., Chris R., and Danny S. The adults were Mr. Carlson, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Boundy. It was a memorable weekend for all.
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