Hiking on the Great Western Trail

The members of our troop have just one more requirement to finish to earn our Great Western Trail award (which is sponsored by our OA Lodge), writing a 150+ word report on our experience. In the interest of setting a good example, here's mine:

In June this year, we backpacked 20 miles on the Great Western Trail over three days. The preparation actually started in April. I contacted the Ranger District about doing service on the trail, we started doing shorter 'prep hikes', and I pre-hiked the trail with my son. While the hike was great, and working on the trail as a service project was great, I think the work before the hike made a bigger impact on me.

I feel like I let the boys down a bit because I did most of the coordination work with the Rangers. I really should have stepped back and helped Jonathan, our Senior Patrol Leader, take the lead on this. Facilitating a boy led troop is something I want to focus on during the next year.

The prep hikes were great. Hiking Rock canyon and two segments of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail helped the boys get ready for the backpacking trek physically and mentally, but also gave them additional experiences with hiking/biking trails in the area and let them try out some of the trail food that we were considering for the trek. I'm hoping we'll continue the practice of getting out as a troop to hike on a regular basis.

Pre-hiking the trail with my son was a great experience. We went several weeks before the real hike and hit more snow, sooner. On our pre-hike, we only crossed one other hiker. He was scouting the trail for an upcoming trail race. That really drove home the value of the service that we would be performing when we hiked the trail as a unit.

For me the hike itself was a step toward fulfilling a life-long dream. I've always wanted to hike on the 4 major North-South trails in the US: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Great Western Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian trail. This was my first experience on any of them. Each time we passed a Great Western Trail marker, I felt my heart beat a little faster knowing that I was really there. I hope all the scouts can start building their own list of dreams, then start accomplishing them.

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