Troop 868 in Action
German Ridge Trail (July, 2004)
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To complete the "20 mile hike in a single day" requirement for Hiking (or Backpacking) merit badge, Troop 868 selected the German Ridge Trail, a 24.1 mile loop that begins and ends at a public campground in the Hoosier National Forest. Figuring that it would take all available daylight hours to make 24 miles in July heat, the troop decided to drive in on Friday evening and camp overnight in the campground to get on the trail as early as possible Saturday morning. This was a good decision. The campground, designed primarily with horseback riders in mind, was not at all crowded. Campsites were fairly large, well separated, clean, and flat. We respected the maximum 8 persons per campsite rule and assigned 8 scouts to one site and the 3 scoutmasters who made the trip to an adjoining site. Not wanting to have a bunch of tents to take down on Saturday morning, we erected a single dining fly in each site to sleep under. This worked well because everyone managed to stay dry despite a steady overnight rain.
Following a quick breakfast, we hit the trail at 8 AM Saturday morning. The terrain in southern Indiana can be very hilly and quite brutal, but this trail turned out to be only mildly strenuous. While there were some ascents and descents, most of the trail followed ridgelines and the use of switchbacks eliminated any truly steep inclines. The hiking was really very comfortable and pleasant. Most of the trail was wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side and nearly all of it was constructed of finely crushed stone. Not only did this provide a very comfortable walking surface, but it kept the trail firm and nearly dry despite heavy rain in the area during the prior week.
The trail was extremely well-marked with numerous blazes and etched aluminum trail maps posted at trailheads and other intersection points. The trail lacked mile markers, but distances were indicated on the etched maps, so figuring out how far one had hiked wasn't difficult. A couple of our older scouts (who had already earned the Hiking MB) decided to hike with full backpacks to work on the Backpacking MB. Despite the extra weight and summer temperatures, the trail was such easy walking they had no problems keeping up with the rest of the group. Though we hiked the full loop, several "crossover" trails would allow hikers to easily create a shorter excursion.
The campground had water for horses but it was not potable for human consumption, so we had to bring water in with us. Though the trail crossed several streams, we elected not to try and take drinking water from them, opting instead to have one of our Assistant Scoutmasters meet us at two different points along the trail to re-supply the thirty with more water. The trail had multiple trailheads accessible from forest access roads, so this was not difficult.
Less than a week before our visit, a severe thunderstorm bearing tornado strength winds had moved through the area. A combination of high wind and lightning had downed numerous trees, and completely blocked the trail in 104 different places (according to Philip, our official counter). While some of these blockages were simply a single tree that could be walked around or stepped over, others were real obstacles that required us to climb over, crawl under, or burrow through! The boys thought the first few such instances were fun and challenging; but by the 8th or 10th such occurrence, the "fun" was wearing thin!
The group covered the distance more rapidly than anticipated and finished the trail right at 6 PM. Considering time taken for lunch and other breaks, our average walking speed was nearly 3 miles per hour.
Upon finishing the hike, we boarded the troop bus and headed home; stopping along the way at McDonald's for dinner. There's just something about burgers and fries that makes teenagers forget about sore feet!
|Mr. Guzman and scouts enjoy breakfast as scouts at the other table prepare their lunches for the trail.||Back Row: Mr. Guzman, Dave, Tim, Philip, and Mr. Meek. Front Row: Patrick, Stephen, Chris, Clinton, and Trey.|
|Trey and Tim lead the way ... followed close behind by Patrick and Stephen ... Chris and Dave bring up the rear.||Seated on a log for lunch are Dave, Patrick, Trey, Philip, and Clinton (who obviously loves peanut butter!)|
|A close look reveals Clinton and Philip carefully working their way through a clump of downed trees that blocked the trail.||Tim, Stephen, and Mr. Guzman crawl under and over downed trees at another point on the trail.|
|Tim and Stephen prepare to cross one of several creeks that we encountered ... none as much of an obstacle as the trees!||Backpackers Dave and Patrick pause for a photo as Trey weasels his way into the shot.|
|At a rest stop, Tim shows a lanyard he has been weaving to Stephen, Chris, and Trey.||Clinton, Mr. Vissers, Chris, Patrick, and Dave all seem to enjoy dinner at McDonald's during the trip home.|