Friday, November 1, 2013

Wilson Creek Backpacking Trip

I'm sure at one time or another every Scoutmaster has been questioned as to why their Troop goes backpacking. Over the years I've used a number of reasons but the best one I can possibly give us the connection that children need with nature. For that matter the connection we all need with nature and how it enhances our playfulness. On a recent trip onto Wilson Creek Wilderness Area I was reminded of the shear joy kids get playing outside. Richard Louv in his 2005 book "Last Child in the Woods", addressed the need for children to have time to explore the outdoors.  So when I saw a post on Facebook about kids having phones and tablets and social networking but we had the outside I started thinking about how a Scout outing could help nurture the bond between boys and nature. 

Fall of 2012 I proposed a backpacking trip to the Troop. While I have a reputation for cramming a lot into a trip this one would be different. Total mileage for the weekend was only about 6 miles. The boys questioned me asking what would they do with the rest of the day?  My response was "I'm sure we'll find something to do".

The big weekend rolled around and temperatures were a little cool but I felt they would be warm enough for what I had planned. We drove up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and headed south toward Linville, NC. At Roseboro Road we descended down off the mountain ridge to a campsite next to a stream. In the dark we set up tents and crawled in for the night. 
The next morning the boys took their time with breakfast. For some reason making pancakes takes them forever but then we were only hiking 3 miles today. Finally we got on the trail fording a couple of streams and of course getting wet. Just before lunch we walked out on a rock surface with a cascading stream forming three good size swimming holes. 
The other leaders and I set safety boundaries for the boys but for the most part they were allowed to just have fun and play in the water. 
It didn't take long for their creativity to kick in. They found the wet rocks slick enough to slide down. It was one big natural water slide. The other adults and I watched as they experienced fun that came from just being in nature. For the better part of the day iPods, cell phones and Gameboys disappeared from their memories as they splashed in a clear mountain stream and laughed as they hit the cold water. 
After a late lunch we set out to find a campsite. A couple fords later we came across a suitable spot. But instead of stopping I asked the boys to hike a little farther up the trail. A couple just wanted to set up their tents but came along anyway. About a quarter mile later we turned the corner to discover a waterfall with two large swimming holes. There were smiles all around as they jumped in for another swim. 

It reminded me of the days when I was a kid and spent time in the summer in a farmer's irrigation pond or an old sand pit. The only thing missing was a fresh picked watermelon out of Bradley Forest's field. 

When this seasons schedule was being put together it was decided early on that the Wilson Creek trip was to be repeated. The number of boys participating this year was almost double. 

The outdoors never goes out of style.