Troop 868 in Action
(Bear Wallow, December 2~3, 2011)

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Bear Wallow near Nashville, Indiana has been home to four hiking trails popular with Boy Scouts for more than 60 years.  In addition to the 12.1 mile American Heritage Trail that we hiked on this particular weekend, the Flags of the Nations, Yellowwood, and Ten O'Clock Line trails are also available to provide hikers with a choice of different lengths.

We arrived at Bear Wallow about 9:30 PM on Friday evening.  It was well past sundown, but our group is pretty experienced at setting up camp after dark, so this wasn't much of a challenge.  Our scouts quickly setup lightweight backpacking tents and crawled into bed.  Everyone had eaten dinner at home before we departed Shepherdsville, so we didn't need to bother with starting fires or doing any cooking.  In fact, our SPL made the decision to not even bother breaking out the propane lanterns we had brought!  Setup was done by flashlight.

At dawn on Saturday morning, our group was up and had their personal gear re-packed and loaded back onto our bus.  Scouts made their trail lunches then set about taking down their tents.  After our campsite had been secured, we enjoyed a fast breakfast of doughnuts and pop-tarts, then proceeded to Trail Headquarters to register and get started on our hike.

Like most of the terrain in central and southern Indiana, the area around Bear Wallow Hill is hilly --- lots of valleys and ridges --- and the first half of the American Heritage Trail has lots of ups and downs.  While quite a few of the climbs are steep, only a few of them are very long and most of the trail is comfortable walking, even for young hikers.  We averaged pretty close to 2 miles per hour.

We stopped for lunch about 3 hours into our walk and believe we had covered just under half the trail at that point.  The trail was well-blazed.  The fact we were hiking in the late fall meant that leaves covered the ground and the trail itself was generally covered over, so the abundant blazes were very helpful.  There were only two or three short sections where blazes were missing and we had to look closely to make sure we were on the right path.  We didn't take any wrong turns or have to do any backtracking.

The trail passes the old Brown County State Forest fire tower which the boys enjoyed seeing.  The tower has been closed for many years and is no longer safe to climb, but it's still impressive.  At least half of the second part of the trail was along roads --- some asphalt and some gravel, but all lightly traveled.  We were passed by about half a dozen cars total, and all but one driver slowed way down out of courtesy.  Hiking on roads is not ideal, but does tend to be move level than hiking cross-country, so we were easily able to cover 2 miles per hour.

We finished the hike (which both begins and ends at Trail Headquarters) right at dusk.  We had carried flashlights just in case we had to finish the trail in the dark, but that wasn't necessary.  With the shorter amount of daylight time in December, it's wise to be prepared!

After purchasing trail patches for all the hikers, we boarded our bus and headed home to Shepherdsville, making an extended stop at a Golden Corral Restaurant for a nice dinner on the way.  We rolled back into the parking lot at the Community Center around 11:15 PM to find parents waiting to claim their sons.

ASM Mike Cancola prepares to light a camp stove to heat water to make hot cocoa as scouts secure their gear and tents. New SPL Spencer and Cobra PL Kraig were the among boys leading our group on this particular outing.
Noah prepared the lunch he would eat later in the day as Thomas and another scout examined a utility pole? The group snaked their way up on steep, but short climbs typical of the first part of the trail.
Beaver Patrol Leader Nicholas and Pack 868 Webelos Hunter and Zach during a rest stop. Spencer, Kraig, and Noah striking a pose they hoped would make it on the website.  (They lucked out.)
Quartermaster Tyler and Chaplain Aide Tristan. Webelos Zach thought it was cool that Scoutmaster Meek didn't care how many chocolate bars he ate.  (Don't tell his mom!)
Nicholas and Tyler during the lunch break. Noah, Kraig, and Spencer.  Kraig and Spencer sneaking in their traditional "thumbs up" signs.
Assistant Scoutmaster Mike Canchola ... a walking machine if there ever was one.

The group paused to let Scoutmaster Meek get in the front long enough for a photo shortly before the end of the trail.