Wow…what a difference a year makes! Last year on our September backpacking trip to Harriman State Park, we found the place gripped by drought. It was hot, and the water sources were dry, so we had to conserve the water we had brought with us. Campfires were out of the question.
This year, after a rainy summer, we returned again for our first backpacking trip of the season (September 16-17, 2006) and found Harriman to be lush and green and wet everywhere – that is except for the showers that were forecast throughout Saturday but never materialized.
Our small group of nine Scouts and four adults gathered early Saturday morning and made good time on the drive north to the Reeves Meadow Visitors Center, from which the Patrol Leaders Council had planned a loop route covering a little more than six miles. This was the first time backpacking in rugged terrain for a few of us, so before heading out we made sure our backpacks were ready for the trail, and we reviewed map and compass skills. Our hike initially paralleled the swollen Stony Brook – first a half-mile along the Pine Meadow Trail followed by another two miles, mainly along the Stony Brook Trail – to the dam at the southern end of Lake Sebago. From there we hiked another three-quarters of a mile along the Tuxedo-Mt. Ivy Trail to the Dutch Doctor shelter, where we planned to camp. It was just warm enough for shorts – ideal for our hike. The forest was mossy and damp, and the rocky trails were slippery in places, but our group of mostly younger Scouts finished the hike fairly quickly and without much difficulty.
At Dutch Doctor, the shelter area itself had been taken over by a troop from Nassau County, so we camped in an overflow area a couple of hundred yards further down the trail, which turned out to be nicer anyway, so we were pleased. We rested, ate lunch, and set up our campsite. A small stream that ran just below our campsite made water plentiful and easy to get, and its sound was very pleasing. The campsite also had a good fire ring, so the Scouts decided to have a campfire after dinner.
With a few hours of free time on our hands, we decided to hike the 1¼ miles over to Claudius Smith’s Den – a massive rock formation featuring scenic vistas from atop and cave-like spaces to explore underneath. Everybody had a great time, and as we walked, younger Scouts worked with Tim, our nature instructor, to complete the native plants requirement for First Class.
When we got back to camp, we were eager to get dinner underway, which turned out great by all accounts. The various meals included tortillas, spaghetti and meatballs, and a cashew rice curry. Everybody pitched in nicely to get everything done and cleaned up easily. Afterward, we lit our campfire and had fun talking and singing together until we decided to turn in. It was a mild night.
On Sunday morning we packed up and headed out pretty early, opting ahead of time to go with trail breakfasts. We kept up a good pace – that is until one of Richard’s hiking boots, which was from an old hand-me-down pair he was using because he had outgrown his last pair – fell completely apart. After a good laugh at how punishing our hikes must be to cause such destruction and several attempts to stabilize the boot enough to make it back to the cars, he finally had to give up and accept Tim’s offer to borrow a sneaker from a pair in his pack.
After returning to the cars, we recapped the weekend with our customary ‘thorns and roses’ exercise before heading out. We stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s and had a smooth trip home.
Participating in this trip were Bryan C., Jonny F., Tom F., Tom L., Rich L., Tim R., Jason S., Jonny S., and James W. as well as Mr. Falletta, Mr. Loiacono, Mr. Lowen, and Mr. Weller.
- Mr. Mark Lowen, Scoutmaster
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