The coldest weekend of the season didn't stop more than a dozen Troop 75 Scouts - many of whom are in their first year - from venturing out to the trails of Harriman State Park for the troop's second backpacking trip of the year.
The group began at the Ramapo-Dunderberg trailhead along Route 106 in the south-central part of Harriman State Park. We hiked south over Tom Jones Mountain, enjoying some great views of the park. For some younger Scouts, that initial climb was an indication that the hike would not be an easy one. They pushed on, however, hiking southward along the Victory and White Bar trails, passing the scenic Lake Skenonto. Saturday's hike ended at the Dutch Doctor lean-to site, where we set-up camp by mid-afternoon.
For some adventurous Scouts, the 3.8 hike to Dutch Doctor was only the beginning. After setting up camp, a small group side-hiked to the scenic Claudius Smith Den while others stayed back to purify water and prepare for dinner. Cooking began just before dark when the side-hike group returned. For a couple of the patrols, cooking dinner became a challenge. One group forgot fuel and had to wait until another was done cooking to borrow theirs. Definitely a lesson for next time! Another patrol had stove trouble and also took until well after dark to finish cooking. Everyone was done eating and cleaning up by around 7:00, by which time a lunar eclipse had begun. The troop braved the 20-degree temperatures to view this total eclipse of the moon. With the sky perfectly clear and no lights around, the sight was an awesome and memorable experience for most of the group.
Sunday morning was a cold one with the temperature having dipped well into the teens. The patrols were up early but had trouble getting packed up in a timely manner. With the cold weather and lack of experience of the group, it took nearly two hours to break camp - about twice as long as planned. Everyone warmed up once we finally starting hiking around 8:00. The route back to the trailhead would be shorter but tougher than the hike in - covering three mountains rather than one. Once again, the pace was slow as some of our younger Scouts struggled over the rugged trails. By early afternoon, we reached the trailhead, completing a challenging yet rewarding weekend.
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