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  1. #1

    Default Damscus-North Dates for Boy Scouts

    I have reconnoitered a 50 Mile Hike for our Boy Scout Troop (Damascus to Dickey Gap). We have had it on the schedule for sometime to be June 6-11, 2009). Now some feel that it should be rescheduled for April 11-16.

    My concern is that we would be more likely to experience inclement weather (cold) in mid April than in early June, especially at Thomas Knob.

    Our Scouts do have some backpacking experience but strictly on flat land (we are on the coast on North Carolina).

    I want this trip to be a positive memorable experience for them and feel that this may not happen if we do this in mid-April.

    Comments?
    Enough is OK, too much is just right.

  2. #2
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    You should be prepared for winter conditions in that area in mid April.

    It might be quite nice -- it was 50 degrees up there yesterday; great hiking weather. But I've had blizzard conditions on the last weekend in March, and ice and snow in mid-April in that same spot. It gets *very* windy on the ridgelines, as well. I would work under the assumption that it'll be cold and windy, and possibly wet and/or snowy.

    June is a great time to hike. You'll have rhododendron blooms in the high country, and it'll be cooler than back home. One suggestion: if it were me, I would *start* at Dickey Gap and hike southbound to Damascus. It's somewhat easier in that direction, I think, and you have the added incentive of walking to a great trail town. Pizza, ice cream, etc.
    Ken B
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    Our Long Trail journal

  3. #3
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    June: http://tinyurl.com/cwf9oo (rhododendron)

    April: http://tinyurl.com/ahsh84 (spring beauties), and http://tinyurl.com/bl5lga (note it's still winter up there.)

    I was just looking over some April hike journals. The weather can be very nice during the day, but it gets down to or below freezing at night pretty regularly. And some days it just doesn't warm up at all...
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  4. #4

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    I take the scouts tent camping in CT in December and January. April we will be backpacking some of the AT in CT. We will look south and wave.

  5. #5
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    An old Scout here.
    Does the time you listed include travel from your location to the AT and drop-off/pickups? And how many miles do you expect to make each day? I'm guessing you have already figured these into miles your boys can do on the trail. And do you have a couple of extra days at the end as backup in case things go slower than expected? These probably would not be issues in a June hike.

    I should be leaving Damascus around the 3rd or 4th week of March doing the VA section to Harper's Ferry. I expect to encounter cold weather (including snow, rain and/or ice in Mt Rogers area) off and on until at least 3rd week of April. Be Prepared! I should have journal entries you can check before you leave. www.trailjournals.com/rockdawg69


    Yours In Scouting
    ASM Trp 165
    Rockdawg69

    Caution: Falling and Rolling Rocks have the Right-of-Way!!!!

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    June would be an easier trip no doubt.
    April would be more demanding and memorable -definitely windy.
    SOBO is a good idea.
    I based out of Scales two nights last April, 65 first day, flurries the next, pretty typical.
    But more than a few inches of snow is unlikely.
    It would be a good lesson in preparation, if they have some cold weather experience to start with.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by rockdawg69 View Post
    An old Scout here.
    Does the time you listed include travel from your location to the AT and drop-off/pickups? And how many miles do you expect to make each day? I'm guessing you have already figured these into miles your boys can do on the trail. And do you have a couple of extra days at the end as backup in case things go slower than expected? These probably would not be issues in a June hike.

    I should be leaving Damascus around the 3rd or 4th week of March doing the VA section to Harper's Ferry. I expect to encounter cold weather (including snow, rain and/or ice in Mt Rogers area) off and on until at least 3rd week of April. Be Prepared! I should have journal entries you can check before you leave. www.trailjournals.com/rockdawg69


    Yours In Scouting
    ASM Trp 165
    This does not include travel time. I plan for them to hike from shelter-shelter which basically means 10 mile days on average. I think one is an 8 mile day and another about 12.
    We WILL NOT stay in the shelters but nearby, hopefully far enough away so as not to bother those staying in/near the shelters. The privy amenity is the main reason to stay near a shelter
    I plan to have 1/2 the group hike NOBO and half to hike SOBO to minimize our impact (noise mostly) on the trail.
    I am trying to get two adult volunteers to serve as SAG-Wagon drivers in the event someone needs to drop. They will also shuttle vehicles back to Damascus for safe keeping. They would be able to enjoy the Va. Creeper Trail, etc while we are on the trail.
    The Troop has actually shortened the trip to 30 miles but I may still take a few for the 50, we'll see.
    Enough is OK, too much is just right.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by OutdoorsMan View Post
    This does not include travel time. I plan for them to hike from shelter-shelter which basically means 10 mile days on average. I think one is an 8 mile day and another about 12.
    We WILL NOT stay in the shelters but nearby, hopefully far enough away so as not to bother those staying in/near the shelters. The privy amenity is the main reason to stay near a shelter
    I plan to have 1/2 the group hike NOBO and half to hike SOBO to minimize our impact (noise mostly) on the trail.
    I am trying to get two adult volunteers to serve as SAG-Wagon drivers in the event someone needs to drop. They will also shuttle vehicles back to Damascus for safe keeping. They would be able to enjoy the Va. Creeper Trail, etc while we are on the trail.
    The Troop has actually shortened the trip to 30 miles but I may still take a few for the 50, we'll see.
    10 mile days are big for scouts. how old and how much weight will they carry?

  9. #9
    Registered User rpenczek's Avatar
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    Default My boys hiked this area last year

    We hiked from Hurricane campground to Beartree camground last year a total of 38 miles. With this route (North to South) you get a bit easier trip and the added bonus of a swimming hole at the end of the Trip at Beartree (about 5 miles by road from Damascus).

    Our route was as follows:

    Hurricane Campground to Fox Creek. You can either camp at the Horse Camp (outhouses) and 200 yards from the trail or right along the trail (cross the road southbound a bit) you will still be close to the outhouses. Water from the creek.

    Fox Creek to tons of good camp sites just before you get to Wise Shelter. Water from the creek.

    Wise Shelter to Elk Garden. You can get water at deep gab about 2 miles from Elk Garden, but we did not find water at Elk Garden. There are tons of camp sites just south of the trail head. You could have your support van drop water and the rest of your food here. This is the longest mile day of the trip and most senic, plan on enjoying the cool views, ponys and hike.

    Elk Garden to Lost Mountain Shelter. Water from a spring.

    Lost Mountain to Bear Treee. Great swimming and nice campsites (would be a good base camp for you support van).

    Kind regards,

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tin Man View Post
    10 mile days are big for scouts. how old and how much weight will they carry?
    I agree that 10 mile days are big days for Scouts. We have our pack weights at about 20-22lbs before food/water.

    Here's my map study (I am on the 30 mile trip now); Damascus to Saunders Shelter 9.5 miles (uphill, switchbacks as I recall), Saunders Shelter to Lost Mountain Shelter (6.5 miles), Lost Mountain - Thomas Knob 12.5 miles (all uphill). That is a big day!

    Walk back down to Massie Gap to finish. You all are right, it will be much easier (not easy) going SOBO. Maybe that's what we will do with the entire group (about 20) . It will be awfully tough fitting us all in at Thomas Knob - not much tenting room there.

    I don't want the support van resupplying us as I want them to get the satisfaction of being self-supporting. Besides, I could not get a cell signal anywhere when I did this trip last spring.

    I may go to Trail Days and recon the route one more time afterwards.

    Thanks for all of your input, it helps. keep it coming.
    Enough is OK, too much is just right.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpenczek View Post
    We hiked from Hurricane campground to Beartree camground last year a total of 38 miles. With this route (North to South) you get a bit easier trip and the added bonus of a swimming hole at the end of the Trip at Beartree (about 5 miles by road from Damascus).

    Our route was as follows:

    Hurricane Campground to Fox Creek. You can either camp at the Horse Camp (outhouses) and 200 yards from the trail or right along the trail (cross the road southbound a bit) you will still be close to the outhouses. Water from the creek.

    Fox Creek to tons of good camp sites just before you get to Wise Shelter. Water from the creek.

    Wise Shelter to Elk Garden. You can get water at deep gab about 2 miles from Elk Garden, but we did not find water at Elk Garden. There are tons of camp sites just south of the trail head. You could have your support van drop water and the rest of your food here. This is the longest mile day of the trip and most senic, plan on enjoying the cool views, ponys and hike.

    Elk Garden to Lost Mountain Shelter. Water from a spring.

    Lost Mountain to Bear Treee. Great swimming and nice campsites (would be a good base camp for you support van).

    Kind regards,
    I thought that there was no tent camping at Wise Shelter? Or do I have it confused with another shelter?
    Enough is OK, too much is just right.

  12. #12
    Registered User rpenczek's Avatar
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    Just North of Wise (outside of Grayson) are tons of tent sites.

  13. #13
    Section Hiker - 339.8 miles - I'm gettin' there! papa john's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OutdoorsMan View Post
    I thought that there was no tent camping at Wise Shelter? Or do I have it confused with another shelter?
    You are correct, there is no camping in the shelter vicinity. Not sure how far away from the shelter is "in the vicinity" though.
    Papa John


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    Looks like your plans are taking shape very well. Agree with splitting troop into two groups since you appear to have good vehicle support. Plus, 10 in a group is max recommended for the AT - LNT principles, etc.
    Suggest you send older/larger boys NOBO, as first 2 days in that direction could be harder on younger/smaller Scouts ue to climb out for Mt Rogers. Your pack weights look okay - just don't let the "moms" add in all the extra stuff they think is needed. Shake down, shake down, shake down. We try and keep our boys to about 25% body weight, especially for the smaller boys, with everything except water.
    I've done a 40-miler with Scouts from Stecoah Gap to Winding Stair Gap NC with climb out of Natahala Gorge after 1500 on the thrid day. They left me in the dust. We had a couple of small boys on that trip. The first day was a struggle but after that, they were fine. They can do a lot more than most folks think. They have younger muscles and rebound a lot faster overnight than the leaders.
    Rockdawg69

    Caution: Falling and Rolling Rocks have the Right-of-Way!!!!

  15. #15
    Registered User mtnkngxt's Avatar
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    The sign about no camping around the shelter is about 15 yards from the actual shelter on the path up. When we were there for the Winter Hangout the Ranger didnt seem to really care where I was going or staying. Depending on how your coming in if you go to the shelter and stand facing it, there is a trail to your right. Go down that trail and when you see the sign about no camping around the shelter head straight or down and to the left. You should find some decent spots to pitch a tent.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by OutdoorsMan View Post
    I agree that 10 mile days are big days for Scouts. We have our pack weights at about 20-22lbs before food/water.

    Here's my map study (I am on the 30 mile trip now); Damascus to Saunders Shelter 9.5 miles (uphill, switchbacks as I recall), Saunders Shelter to Lost Mountain Shelter (6.5 miles), Lost Mountain - Thomas Knob 12.5 miles (all uphill). That is a big day!

    Walk back down to Massie Gap to finish. You all are right, it will be much easier (not easy) going SOBO. Maybe that's what we will do with the entire group (about 20) . It will be awfully tough fitting us all in at Thomas Knob - not much tenting room there.

    I don't want the support van resupplying us as I want them to get the satisfaction of being self-supporting. Besides, I could not get a cell signal anywhere when I did this trip last spring.

    I may go to Trail Days and recon the route one more time afterwards.

    Thanks for all of your input, it helps. keep it coming.
    30 miles is much more reasonable for a first time trip like this. I agree with keeping the 20 together. If you camp/stealth 'lightly' and do the usual boy scout sweep after you break camp, your impact will be minimal.

    If you haven't considered it already, spread the pack weight by age/size of kid with the older ones carrying more. Hopefully, you will have no persistent whiners who make life miserable for the rest. You may consider taking a close look at each boy planning to come and weed out those who have complained on easier trips - this trip will magnify the whining x fold.

  17. #17
    Registered User TinyBoy's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info. This should help dad (outdoorsguy) out with his trip some. The guys in our troop are pretty good at hiking but some may have some challenges. Hi Dad. Maybe dad can spend less time on the computer now too! :-)

  18. #18

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    My I suggest doing this trek from north to south; that is, from Dickey Gap to Damascus. I did this trek with a group of scouts in 2006, the youngest of which was 12. We did it in June, starting and ending on Saturdays. We had a "zero" day on which we did some work for Grayson Highlands State Park. In return, we were allowed to camp in the park and get showers. Great variety, from "green tunnel" to high country vistas to cool swimming holes in the river.

    The advantages of the north-to-south direction are 1) the trip is net downhill, and 2) Damascus has lots of good food at the end of the trail (The best burger I have ever tasted!).

    If the group is prepared, packs light, and is determined, it is a wonderful trip. Good luck.
    The necessities of life weigh less than 20 pounds. Everything else is a luxury.

  19. #19
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Around Thomas Knob shelter there is no camping. Also no fires. However, there are plenty of great campsites about a half mile north (trail north) from the shelter. Between TK and Rhododendron Gap is a popular and well-used set of camp sites. There is a spring at the shelter, and also a spring along the horse trail downhill from all the campsites. Both springs are inside fenced enclosures, so they are easy to find. There is a good privy at TK Shelter.
    Ken B
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  20. #20
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    From having organized about 20 High Adventure Trips

    - Group size should be no more than 8 youth and 2 adults (1 over 21). This is Scouting policy. There are good reasons for it, many of which are mentioned above.

    - 30 miles is possibly too aggressive for a "first trip" backpacking experience. You should have a "shakedown" qualifier (weekend) before any long (week) trip to make sure everyone has the skills necessary.

    - Scout groups should avoid shelter areas during "thru" season. Boisterous kids having fun can rub tired thrus the wrong way.

    - "The privy opportunity" is a bad reason to tent near shelters. Scouts who don't know how to use cat holes (or packing out) should be taught.

    - April is a lousy time for a long trip for Scouts, since weather issues (and fairly tough terrain) can make it a miserable trip if even one or two in a Crew have trouble. And the scenery is more enjoyable for Scouts in June.

    YIS -

    The Weasel,
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