Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two hikes with the Boy Scouts

In National Walking Day, I promised to post a response to the prompts for yesterday (tell about a memorable camping trip) and today (tell about a favorite hike) in today's entry. I'll do that by delivering a two-for-one describing two backpacking trips, both of which I took when I was a Boy Scout in southern California during the early 1970s and vignettes from both of which I tell my students.

The first took place in 1972, when my troop got a permit to hike to Mt. Whitney. The hike up took two half-days, the first half day an afternoon hike up to base camp, the second half a morning hike from base camp up to the summit. The hike up took the afternoon of the same day we hiked up, and the next morning we returned to our cars. The parts I remember most clearly were the exhausting tedium of going up the switchbacks, passing my father at the top of the switchbacks (the first time I remember beating him at anything), the feeling of accomplishment of reaching the top, and the literally foot-blistering hike down the mountain, which was lot faster than going up.

The part of that I tell my students is about the hike up and the fact that I did it when I was 12. As for the educational purpose, I use Mt. Whitney as an example of a glaciated terrain, with the spires to the south of the main peak as examples of arĂȘtes.

I don't have any photos of my experience, but I found this video of a group of people who call themselves the Outdoor Pros documenting their climb last June, about the same time of year I went up 40 years earlier.

This video showcases our 2012 hike of Mt Whitney on the weekend of June 24th. It includes video from the portal to the summit and everything in between like Lone Pine Lake, Trailside Meadows, Trail Camp, 99 Switchbacks and the Summit.
The video shows the landscape as even more desolately beautiful than I remember it. It also makes me feel even more impressed with my outing with the Scouts more than 40 years ago, as these fully grown self-styled Outdoor Pros took one more day to climb the mountain than 12-year-old me and my fellow tweens and teens did.*

The second trip was a week-long hike of the Three Sisters Wilderness in Oregon that the troop took in 1973. That was quite an experience backpacking more than 50 miles through some spectacular volcanic scenery. The most memorable part was traveling 20 miles in one day on foot. The adult leaders of my patrol, my father and his buddy, got so fed up with the rest of the troop that we went ahead to the next day's camp instead of staying with everyone else. We didn't stop until after nightfall. I remember hiking the last mile by moonlight. And I did it when I was 13.

The part of that that my students hear about is that it was the only time I've ever sung all the verses of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." Yes, we scouts were that bored. As for why I tell my students that story, there's a lab that, if done realistically, would take just that long, so we simplify it to make it take half-an-hour instead of all afternoon, as the realistic version would be just as tedious as a full renditon of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

Again, I don't have photos, but I did find a video documenting a hike through the Three Sisters.

This video shows the scenery very much as I remember it from 40 years ago. In fact, I hiked through every single scene shown. The place hasn't changed a bit in 40 years. I wish I could say the same about more wild areas.

*That video has been taken down, so I'm posting Peakbagging's Mt. Whitney Solo Hike August, 2012 so that my readers can see the scenery.

Due to a last minute back injury, my brother could not make the planned trip with me. Awaiting 2 years to win permits and fully trained, I decided to attempt it solo.
My fellow Scouts and I completed this hike in the same amount of time he did, but didn't spend two days acclimating first, either.  However, we didn't start hiking at three in the morning.  That would have been too risky.  Then again, we didn't have to worry about lightning in June.


  1. In his youth, Narb used to camp often in the Eastern Sierras. Narb is pleased to be able to say that in recent trips, the finest areas are unchanged from the 1960's and 1970's. Something about closing all the roads until snowmelt keeps these sacred places the same, year after year.