Troop 868 in Action


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June is another traditionally busy month for Troop 868 because of summer resident camp during the latter half of the month.  But we still like to hold a monthly outdoor activity, and our Patrol Leaders' Council chose a day-hike in a nearby forest.

The chosen hike was the Siltstone Trail, a fairly strenuous 6.2 mile trail in the Jefferson Memorial Forest.  The trail runs from the park Welcome Center on Mitchell Hill Road to Scott's Gap, ascending several knobs and descending into several valleys along the way.  At Scott's Gap, there is a 3-mile loop trail that circles the knob and a shorter 1.25-mile "shortcut" loop trail.  On this particular outing, we hiked from the Welcome Center to Scott's Gap, hiked the shortcut trail, then hiked back to the Welcome Center; a total distance of about 13.6 miles.

The trail was well-marked and blazed.  It was also very well-maintained.  Except for crossing roads at 3 points and several wooden bridges, it was 100% dirt path --- a very comfortable walking surface.  It was also entirely under the forest canopy, so we were walking in shade the whole way.  The trail was narrow --- definitely single-file walking --- and a healthy crop of poison ivy grew on both sides of the trail along many stretches.  Hikers who are allergic to this wonderful plant would be well-advised to wear long pants, knee socks, or take other precautions.

The hike started off with a very strenuous climb about 200 feet uphill at an incline of about 60 degrees less than 1/4-mile into the hike.  Fortunately, this was the only really grueling climb.  The rest of the uphill portions tended to be longer but considerably less steep.  The majority of the trail other than near the two trailheads was predominately level and relatively easy walking.  The more challenging uphill portions were definitely eastbound from the Welcome Center to Scott's Gap; there were only 3 or 4 significant uphill climbs going west to east on the return trip.

Our group numbered 13 hikers and included younger boys and one brand new scout.  We still averaged about 2 mph.  We hit the trail about 8:15 AM and reached Scott's Gap right at 11:30 AM.  It took us just over 30 minutes to hike the shortcut loop around Scott's Gap before taking a leisurely lunch break.  We got started on the return hike from Scott's Gap back to the Welcome Center about 1:30 PM and our lead group arrived there about 4:30 PM.  Everyone was there before 5:00 PM.

The trail would be an excellent conditioning hike for backpacking.  Unfortunately, the City does not permit overnight use or backcountry camping along the trail.  This is really a shame because there were a number of spots that would be ideal for camping.  Some of the views from the tops of the knobs were quite impressive.  The other drawback is that water is not available anywhere along the trail or at Scott's Gap.  The temperature was in the mid-90's the day we hiked, so we arranged to have one of our adult leaders meet us at Scott's Gap with water.  This turned out to be a real life-saver because everyone was really sucking down water due to the heat.

After the hike, we stopped at a local Dairy Queen for ice cream.  That was obviously a big hit with the entire group!

An exceptionally steep climb at the very beginning of the hike had us concerned about what was yet to come. The trail was narrow and scouts hiked single-file for virtually the whole way..
Connor and Mr. DiEnno crossing one of the few rainy weather creeks.  Most of the creeks were bone dry on the day we hiked. Matt, John, Nick, and Adam pose next to a mile marker.
Nick, Tim, and Philip pause for a photo. The entire hike was under the shade of the forest canopy, so sunburn wasn't a concern.
At the lunch stop at Scott's Gap, several scouts found the support rails of a bridge to be makeshift cots. Connor, Gabe, and Nick walking back to the trail from the parking lot at Scott's Gap where we took our lunch break.
Nearing the end of the trail, Connor and Nick paused for a photo.  The narrow dirt path visible behind them was typical. John, Tim, and Philip at DQ on the way home.  Chris and Matt look over from the adjoining booth.
Chris, Matt, Adam, and Nick. Nick, Connor, and Gabe enjoyed Blizzard treats.