Local Scouts Have The Best Summer Vacation
• Local Scout troop takes on tallest mountain in Caliornia.
Troop 276, also known as the “Mountain Men”, trekked through the Sierra Nevada Mountains on a nine-day backpacking trip, July 31 to August 8.
The annual trip was a chance for the Scouts to unplug, enjoy nature and learn valuable skills while surrounded with friends.
There were 13 Scouts on in the trip, ages 13 to17, and each one of them was successful in reaching the 14,505 foot summit of Mt. Whitney. This was no small feat, and their journey on that particular day began at 3 a.m. and lasted until about 4 p.m.
During this time, they traveled 8.75 miles both up and down the mountain. Along with the 13 Scouts, eight adults made it to the top alongside them, one being the troop’s Scoutmaster, Dan Kerker.
Though there were adults there, the Scouts were incredibly independent, taking charge and mainly interacting with the adults to figure out times to begin their hikes each day.
Other than timing that, the boys were on their own, their campsites were separate and their success depended on their skills alone. Kerker hopes the boys gained confidence from this trip, as the excursion was more challenging than the shorter backpacking trips taken by the troop.
“We did some hard things on this trip and they did them very well,” Kerker said. “A couple of adults struggled, but the kids were able to see them persevere as well. [I hope a big takeaway from the experience was] realizing the skills they learned could be put to work in a challenging environment to [help them] prosper.”
As the trip was nine days in total, there was much more land to cover other than the miles on the day they peaked Mt. Whitney.
During the first few days, the boys split up into two groups, divided largely based on experience. Group A, which consisted of more experienced, and, by default, older hikers, traveled off-trail, which took them cross-country over the boulder fields of the Miter Basin and Crabtree Pass and along many unnamed cerulean lakes.
They hiked on what is called a “used trail”, the name due to the fact that it is used by rangers and other backpackers but is not well-traveled. Because of this, they had to find their way through the passes on a trail that was not fully marked.
One of the Scouts, 17-year-old Mark Landisman, was part of this group, and he enjoyed going on the path less-traveled.
“On days three and four, we were backpacking off-trail, so we had a destination but no official trail,” Landisman said. “We had to use our knowledge of what path would be the best and easiest path to follow, hoping we chose [correctly]. We ended up bouldering and having to backtrack a few times, but it was a ton of fun.”
The other group was Group B, and they took the more well-traveled trail, often on parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail.
This was challenging in its own right, with crossings at New Army Pass, 12,350 feet high, and up across the switchbacks of Forgotten Canyon.
One Scout, Jacob Hevener, was part of this group, and he found aspects of this route to be especially difficult.
“The altitude was very challenging, and the dry and hot climate added to the challenge,” Hevener said. “The trails were very rocky, gravelly and often sandy, which is not the best hiking soil.”
Still, the trip was incredibly rewarding for the Scouts, as reaching the top of a 14,505 foot summit is quite the accomplishment.
This trip was especially special for Hevener, as it was his first Long Term trip with the troop. Troop 276 goes on many backpacking excursions throughout the year, a typical year consisting of 10 or 11 shorter trips, but the Long Term trip is an annual event, with peaking Mt. Whitney something that is only done approximately every four to five years.
That being said, this trip is a very special and unique experience for all involved. Hevener expressed his amazement and sense of accomplishment upon reaching the summit.
“It was a spiritual experience in a way because I was rising up all the way to the top,” Hevener said. “Once I reached the top, I got to pat myself on the back knowing I did something I would remember for years.”
Following this strenuous day of hiking, the troop took the next day to rest and celebrate before embarking on the three-day journey back as a single group.
By the time they concluded the trip, they had traveled more than 65 miles on foot, with all the food and supplies in their packs. These packs were heavy, each being around 40 pounds. In addition, the boys were placed in groups of three to five, each in charge of carrying a bear canister to protect their food from bears and other animals. Their packs contained the necessities, which included items like sleeping bags and tarps.
The troop did not pitch tents to sleep in, only putting up tarps for cover in case of rain. On this trip in particular, there was one night of rain, in which the boys were prepared to create cover with the tarps.
Otherwise, they were able to simply put out their sleeping bags and sleep under the stars, becoming even more in touch with the nature around them.
“Being out in nature and enjoying all the beauty around them without devices is such a valuable experience,” Baldomero Fernandez, another adult that accompanied the Scouts on the trip, said. “They were able to have good fun without having to depend on anything other than their wits and their friends,” and, Fernandez said, they took away from the experience how to watch out for each other.
The boys in the troop agree with Fernandez’s sentiments, grateful for the opportunity to form bonds with each other and appreciate nature in the most raw and unfiltered way.
Both the skills and memories gained from this experience are incredibly valuable, creating an incredibly fulfilling experience for everyone involved.
“I loved getting to spend time with my friends on this trip,” Landisman said. I built such amazing connections through scouting. “Being able to [reach the top] and share the experience with friends was just awesome,” he said