As scoutmaster, I get to have fun with the boys in the wilds. To help them out with their back packing, hiking, and camping merit badges, we decided that our Florida boys needed to see what it is like to camp and hike in the mountains rather than the sandy plains of Florida. Do I look ready for a five day adventure?
My assistant scoutmaster, who has been an avid backpacker since his childhood in the Sierra Nevadas of California, was in charge of getting a good location not too far from home. He found Savage Gulf Wilderness Area in Tennessee just outside of Chattanooga. It was just established about 30 years ago so isn't on many maps. But the backpacker magazines rank it as one of the best places for backpacking in the USA. When we were there, the locals explained that it is a mountain if it rises at least 500 feet in the air and a gulf if it goes down 500 feet. You can see in the picture that this is definitely a gulf--not quite the Grand Canyon but about 1000 feet deep.
Here are the 9 boys in their two patrols and the fearless leaders loaded up with 25 lbs of food and gear for the five days before descending into the gulf.
We slept in tents, cooked on small backpacking stoves and ate interesting combinations of freeze dried and dehydrated "instant" foods that only needed a cup or less of boiling water, and drank filtered water from the streams.
We started the day with the scout oath and law and saluting this American flag.
Then we hiked over rocks and along streams from waterfall to waterfall.
There were some bridges, but once we had to be creative to cross over to see an interesting waterfall that disappears into a sinkhole rather than flowing downstream in a river.
Of course, with all of this water pooling at the bottom of waterfalls, we had cool feet and smelled sweet after a couple of swims every day.
Here are the survivors of the 5 days of backpacking. The adults declaired a tie in the beard growing contest (though Caroly said she couldn't see mine too well--too grey, she said, or maybe the light just wasn't right.) Only one of the scouts can shave so the champion was easy to determine.
For the day after we left, 60 had preregistered for a marathon that would cover our 5 day hike in about 4 hours. I think they must have mountain goat blood in them since it often took us 3 to 4 hours to cover one or two miles!