Troop 868 in Action
(Friday~Sunday, November 1~3, 2013)

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The German Ridge Trail in the Hoosier National Forest is a combination hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trail.  As such, it is relatively flat with very few steep climbs or descents.  Even though the trail is a 19-mile loop, it is easy walking by Boy Scout standards.  The trail can easily be extended by up to 4 additional miles by taking a spur trail at the northern tip to make the hike more than 20 miles in order to meet the most difficult requirement for the Hiking Merit Badge.  That was our primary objective for this trip.

We arrived and set up base camp at the German Ridge Campground after dark on Friday night.  The Campground is seldom full except on summer holiday weekends and we had our pick of campsites.  Only two other campsites were occupied, so we were able to get a campsite near the latrine.  The campground doesn't have any potable water, but we knew this in advance and had brought plenty of water with us.  For the sake of expediency, the boys had chosen to bring and use our lightweight nylon backpacking tents rather than our canvas wall tents.  We also had everyone eat dinner at home before departure so that we could dispense with our normal practice of preparing and eating dinner in camp after setup.  This allowed the group to go to bed around 10:30 PM and get a good night's rest before the long hike.

Hoping to hit the trail shortly after daybreak, the group rolled out of their sleeping bags shortly before 7 AM.  As dawn was breaking, scouts were up and making their lunches for the trail.  Rather than spend time cooking, Saturday morning breakfast consisted of what we jokingly refer to as "health food" --- cereal, doughnuts, bagels, pop-tarts, and juice.  After the obligatory group photo at the trailhead, we were hiking by 8 AM.

As is typical on most hikes, the boys quickly separated into three groups according to their natural walking speed.  We had the "jack rabbits," a group in the middle, and the "turtles."  The latter group consisted primarily of the younger scouts who had shorter legs.  The three groups kept in contact with each other by FRS radio and were seldom separated by more than a mile.  When the jack rabbits got too far ahead, they simply took break to let the other guys catch up.  Because the trail was relatively flat and easy walking, and because the temperature was in the mid-50s, everyone moved along smoothly for most of the day.  The adults walked with the turtles to keep them moving along.

Our objective was to cover about 22 miles.  Even at a steady pace of 2 miles an hour, that's 11 hours of walking at a time of year when dawn to dusk is about 9 hours, so everyone had brought a flashlight and we were prepared to finish the hike after dark.  As the sun began to set, Scoutmaster Meek radioed the jack rabbits to stop and gather the entire group together to finish the last 4 miles.  They stopped as requested and the turtles caught up with them in about half an hour.  It was then that we discovered three scouts in the middle group were missing.  Having scouts lost in the woods is never a good feeling for any scout leader.  The fact that we couldn't establish radio contact with the group of missing scouts was even more disturbing.  But there was little choice other than to continue on to the end of the trail in hopes that the three missing boys were together and would somehow manage to follow their maps and make it back to the campsite.

Fortunately, that is exactly what had happened.  When the main group of hikers walked into camp at 9:30 PM, they found the three missing scouts already in camp with a large campfire built and dinner cooked and waiting.  It turned out the three had decided to go cross-country in order to "short-cut" off a section of the trail that took a long U-shaped bend.  By the grace of God, they had managed to find the trail at a point ahead of the jack rabbits and had made it back to camp nearly 2 hours before the rest of the group.  The Scoutmasters had a mixed bag of emotions --- happy the scouts weren't lost in the woods; proud of their navigational skills; but less than pleased about their leaving the marked trail; and downright upset that they had been out of radio contact.  So a conference with the boys and their parents lay ahead for them.

On Sunday morning, we enjoyed a hardy breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage.  We picked up our tents and moved them out onto the campground access road where they would catch more sunlight and dry as we held a worship service.  After worship, we finished breaking camp, ate lunch, then boarded the bus for the drive home.

Andrew, Gavin, and other scouts were up before daybreak fixing their lunches for the trail. Faces visible in this photo include Kenneth, Matthew, Ronnie, Martin, Thomas, and Scoutmaster Meek.
Here we can recognize Matthew, Dawson, Ronnie, Martin, Thomas, Adam, and Mr. Meek's gray hair. These guys are lined up and ready to hit the trail.  We recognize Noah, Noah, Kenneth, and Dawson.
A group photo at the trailhead.  (L to R): Dawson, Adam, Andrew, Noah, Eli, Gavin, Martin, Mr. Frank, Matthew, Thomas, Ronnie, Noah, Kenneth, and Preston. And off we went into the woods ...
Scoutmaster Meek paused with Ronnie and Kenneth to do some tree identification. Preston and Thomas verify their progress at one of the markers along the trail.
Kenneth, Thomas, Scoutmaster Meek, and Preston. Preston, Matthew, and Ronnie.
This is the way our campsite looked shortly after daybreak on Sunday morning before the boys started getting up. Martin and Eli were early risers and the first ones up on Sunday morning.
Hot cocoa was a popular beverage.  Wakeup temperature was in the low 40's. Kenneth.
Unlike Saturday morning when everyone was rushing to eat breakfast and prepare their trail lunches, Sunday morning was very relaxed. After breakfast, scouts packed up their personal gear.
The boys then carried their tents out of the woods and placed them in the sunlight along the edge of the gravel access road. After our morning worship service, the tents were dry and ready to be taken down and rolled up.
Eli, Noah, Kenneth, and Gavin did dish duty as one of the last tasks before we departed camp.  We try not to bring home dirty dishes. Scoutmaster Meek chatting with Noah, Dawson, Preston, and Andrew.