Troop 75 got its camping season off to a great start with a backpacking trip on the weekend of October 2-3. Twelve Scouts and four adults left Key Food at 6:30 Saturday morning for Salisbury, in northwestern Connecticut, to hike the Lion's Head section of the famed Appalachian Trail. This would be our first event of the year, a first or second backpacking trip for several Scouts, and our first opportunity to put into practice some of the things the Philmont crew had brought home from their summer adventure.
Lion's Head is such a great hike at the beginning of the year. Challenging but not punishing. Great views at the peak while you eat your lunch. Although visited by many hikers, you can always find a place to camp. Nature provided us with a perfect Saturday. The weather was just a bit chilly at the start, but the sun was out and after about 10 minutes on the trail we called a halt to shed jackets and heavy clothes, and T-shirts and shorts became the order of the day.
The trail led through dense woods, and a lot of New England fall color was on display with the trees showing various shades of green, red, orange and yellow. The trail ran gradually uphill at the start then leveled out into an easy walk until we reached the base of the rock outcropping known as Lion's Head. At that point the slope went from gradual to steep to steeper, and the last 50 or so feet to the peak could be better described as climbing than hiking.
We reached the top at just past noon and stopped for lunch at the overlook. The clear weather let us see for miles over the valley below, easily picking out distant roads, houses, farms and lakes. After lunch, another couple of hours of easy hiking brought us to the Brassie Brook campsite at about 2:30. We shared the site with a local Troop that we had met at the trailhead and with whom we had been sharing the trail that day. They elected to take the lean-to and had some of their Scouts sleeping under a huge blue tarp that must have been 10x20 feet or more. We picked out a different section of the large camping area and, as planned, pitched our tents in patrol groups.
The boys were divided into patrols. Keith did a great job working with the guide patrol. Will, our newest member, impressed us all with his ability to keep up even though this was his first hike. All of the young guys seemed to have a good time. After camp was set up, they were all over the woods.
We debated a day hike up the trail to Bear Mountain, but instead decided to spend a leisurely afternoon setting up camp and exploring the nearby stream. Deciding to apply their Philmont experience to local camping the "Silver Fox Patrol" (the adults) had left water filters at home in favor of iodine, so their water-gathering was a simple task. (Mr O'Brien, apparently lacking confidence in the notion of iodine treatment, opted to borrow another Patrol's water filter and pump himself a drinking supply.)
Tim, Mike B, and Mike S. introduced the troop to thorns and roses at the end of the evening, reviewing the low and high points of the day. The plusses far outweighed the minuses, a reflection of what a great day it had been.
Following a sound night's sleep in the cool air, we arose and put into practice yet another lesson from our Philmont experience. Instead of spending an hour or more preparing a hot breakfast and then cleaning up after it, we packed up and hit the trail without eating. We were on our way by 7:30, probably a record for a Troop 75 camping trip. We stopped for a no-cook breakfast at the same point, Lion's Head, where we had eaten lunch the previous day. This time the overlook was shrouded in a thin morning fog, and looked very different from the day before.
We made excellent time on the trail Sunday morning and were back at the parking lot before 11 A.M. and back in Kings Park only a little after 2 P.M. The troop covered 4.6 miles in three hours. This was a fabulous pace and all the boys should be proud of their accomplishment. It was clear that even our newest Scouts were quickly turning into seasoned backpackers.
Next hike will be in November. If you missed this hike, try to join us on the next one.
- Mr. Buono and Mr. Carlson
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