Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Lessons learned while Backpacking with the Boy Scouts

I just got back from a backpacking trip into the Uinta Mountains with the Boy Scouts.  I recently became an assistant Scout Leader for a group of varsity and explorer scouts (14-18yrs old).  Each summer we spend a week or so either going to a high adventure scout camp or coming up with a camp of our own.  This year the boys decided that a trip to King's Peak was what they wanted to do.  I had been up there once before (a few weeks ago with my wife) and knew what sort of terrain, weather, and mileage to expect.  The boys, on the other hand, hadn't.  In fact, this was the first time many of them had backpacked.  This, of course, made for some pretty entertaining (read frustrating) experiences.

We had been preparing all spring and summer for this trip, hiking progressively longer and harder trails every couple weeks until everybody proved that they could make the top of King's Peak.  We had also been preparing by making a menu, assigning the boys to eating/sleeping groups, assigning and dividing up gear between group members, and teaching the boys about proper backcountry etiquette.  We thought we had prepared the boys, until:

Experience 1:

We started hiking from the Henry's Fork trailhead at about 7am.  At about 7:03am the first boy started to complain, and he didn't stop complaining for almost 9 miles until we made it to camp.  Some of the leaders tried to ignore him and some of the leaders were confused because this boy had done pretty well on our training hikes.  Some of the faster boys waited for over 90 minutes for him to catch up so they could hike the last two miles.  When we got to camp and took off our packs the boy instantly had a ton of energy and started to brag that he had a bunch of gatorade.  I asked him how much gatorade he brought.

"I drank one already, so I have 11 bottles left," he said.
"Are they all 1-liter bottles?," I asked.
"Yeah!," he bragged.
"You brought 12 liters of gatorade?!"
"You brought three gallons of gatorade?!"
"Yeah." he said, now a little less enthusiastic.
"That's 24 pounds of gatorade!"

About an hour later the boy said that he was hungry and was going to eat a couple burritos.

"Burritos?," I asked. "We didn't bring burritos."
"Well, I was hungry and didn't think our food would be enough, so I brought some burritos."
"How many burritos did you bring?"
"15," he said, as he pulled out a big bag full of burritos.  These were big burritos.  This big bag of burritos weighed at least seven pounds.
"Is that all the food you brought?"
"No.  I brought two packages of hotdogs too."
"Don't you remember we told you not to bring food that has to be cooked over a fire?"
"I forgot," he said.
"Did you bring any other food?"
"Just the other food we were supposed to bring."

So, to summarize, on top of the approximately 10 pounds of food we gave to the boys for four days of hiking, this boy brought over 30 pounds of extra food or gatorade!  Because he had 40 pounds of food and gatorade, he didn't bring a whole lot of anything else and was constantly asking the leaders to cook his food, filter water for him, and carry his food and water during our day hikes because he didn't have anything to carry it in.

The lesson learned (by the scout, in this case):  Don't go backpacking with know-it-all scout leaders who constantly give you a hard time about how heavy your pack is but are secretly jealous that they didn't get to eat burritos and gatorade each night for dinner.

Experience 2:

One of our boys loved ramen noodles.  He brought four packages of ramen noodles to eat and then traded most of his other food with the other boys for more ramen noodles.  Pretty soon he had about 10 packages of ramen noodles.  He ate five packages each night (that's right, 5 packages for dinner!), and then started to complain on the third day when he was all out of food.  We let him suffer for a little while, before some of the leaders pulled out some extra, "just in case" food to get him through the last day.

Lesson learned:  As the scout explained on the drive home, "Why carry enough food for the whole week all the way up to our camp when I can bring half the food and the leaders will bail me out with the food they carried.  Suckers!"

Experience 3:

On Friday we decided to hike a few miles to a remote lake to do a little fishing.  About two miles into the hike one boy said to the other scout leader, "Hey, uh, do you have some toilet paper?"
"Where's yours?" the leader replied.
"I left it at camp.  Can I borrow yours?  I gotta take a dump!"
"Sure, you can use mine," he said, handing the boy a whole roll of toilet paper.  A few hours later the boy disappeared into the talus on one side of the lake where we were fishing, announcing, "Be right back, I gotta go take another dump."
When the boy returned to the lake, the other leader asked, "Do you have my toilet paper?  Now I have to go."
"Uh, it's all gone."
"What do you mean 'it's all gone'?" the leader replied, a little annoyed.
"I used it."
"The whole roll?!"
"I had to take two dumps," the boy replied.
"You used the whole roll on two dumps?!" the leader said in frustration and disbelief.
"They were big dumps! You should have seen them!"
"Seriously?  I can't believe this!  Does anybody else have any toilet paper?" the other leader asked.  We all shook are heads, trying not to laugh.  He shook his head in disbelief for a few more minutes before he finally strolled off to look for some leaves that might work.  Unfortunately, soft, broad-leafed bushes don't grow above tree line so that leader was a bit uncomfortable the rest of the afternoon until we made it back to camp.

Lesson learned:  Never share your toilet paper (or any other valuable commodity) with a 14-year-old boy scout.

The trip ended up being really fun.  It was definitely frustrating at times, but it was well worth it.  All the boys had a good time too, I think.  Though most of the boys were complaining on day one that they were on the trip, by the end they all admitted that they had a good time and were really glad they went.

1 comment:

  1. There's nothing like sharing your gear with an unprepared Boy Scout.