Senior girls hike 22 icy miles

 

My Girl Scout Troop 20950 is always on an adventure.

I am always amazed and proud of the effort that my Senior Girl Scout Troop 20950 puts into the activities we plan. On January 15-16, we went backpacking in Big South Fork. The plan was to start at Leatherwood Ford and take the Angel Falls trail to Burke’s Cabin. Spend the night in this very rustic cabin and then head back the next day. This 22 mile hike varies in difficulty.

When we hiked this trail two years ago in the winter, the temperature was 27 degrees. Everything was frozen which gave us good solid ground to walk on. This past summer the trail was muddy but the many stream crossings were refreshing. Let me add that a backpacking trip needs hardships. Without something going wrong, it’s just…well…it’s just okay. We will always remember, talk about and laugh at the tough times.

So what did we run into this time, you ask? Well the trip started off as usual. On this trip we had Natalie Boring, first time backpacker, Nola Bronson, second trip for her, Sarah Buice, expert at four trips, Lyling Spoone, co-leader and myself. Everyone meets at my house and packs their food before we head out. Our backpacks weigh about 30lbs. We always stop at the same “last taste of civilization” to get our back country permit, candy, and bathroom break. After parking at Leatherwood Ford we put on our backpacks, adjust the straps and start hiking. My golden retriever, Nacho, joins us on these trips.

The trail was beautiful. About 4 inches of fresh, untouched snow covered the trail. The temperature was in the mid 30s. We warmed up as we hiked and had to stop to peel off a few layers. We passed by a rock wall of huge icicles. Each of the girls claimed one.

It’s two miles to Angel Falls. In the next mile after that we start hitting hills and streams. With the snow and the warming temperatures, the stream was flowing with the melted snow, but at the same time still had areas of ice. We crossed the two-foot wide streams with ease. Then it happens…our first “oh no.” One of the streams was about 15 feet wide and didn’t have enough rocks for us to cross over. We walked upstream and down. The five of us moved a long tree trunk but couldn’t quite get it far enough. We all brainstormed solutions. We decided to take off our shoes and socks and just wade through. The ice would probably break while we crossed and since that could possibly cut us, we scrapped that idea. So we formed a line and passed enough rocks to build our own walkway. We made it across but lost about an hour in travel time.

We ate our lunch on a snow covered bank and then started hiking again. You can’t stop too long because you get cold and have to start over again with the layering of clothes. The next five miles was hard. There were more streams, mud, rocks, and ice. Sarah’s shoes got wet, and she had to change. In one place the trail has totally eroded, and we had to cross on a narrow section of rocks and roots. We used a lot of teamwork.

We hit Station Camp, 8 miles in, just before dark. We stopped for a snack and refilled our water bottles. The next three miles we hiked in the dark. We just wanted to make it to the cabin and be done for the night. It was 9 p.m. when we finally crossed over the threshold to the much anticipated end of the first day.

Even though we were exhausted, excitement was in the room as the fire roared to life, and we prepared our dinner. The frozen pasta meals, carrots, and hot chocolate tasted so good. We hung up our wet clothes and snuggled down into our sleeping bags. Day one, 11 miles in 11 hours.

While we cleaned up and ate our breakfast, we talked strategy for the hike back. There was determination in everyone’s attitude. We were going to make it back before dark. Using Lyling’s watch, I was able to tell the girls what pace we were walking. It was averaging 30 minutes per mile. The best part is the stream crossings already had been improved by us the day before. We had another goal, too: french fries. We needed to get back so we could have large curly fries. “Fwench Fwies” became our chant.

So we hiked, talked, laughed, and chanted. We ate our trail mix and helped each other. And we made it; four hours faster and just as the sun was setting.

Written by:
Kathy Smith

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