Winter Backpacking Along the Appalachian Trail

Green Trail to Camp Durland

November can be a tricky month to plan an outing. The two weekends around Thanksgiving are likely “forbidden”; hunting season begins in our neck of the woods and the temperature fluctuation can be substantial. Following last year’s successful hike through Fahnestock State Park along the Appalachian Trail (AT) to the highly-sought site #40 at Durland Scout Reservation, our scouts wanted to repeat the mini-trek, but take a different trail into scout camp. This year, the hike plan called for a slightly shorter journey, departing the AT after only a mile or so. Instead of heading Southeast at the trail head to Hidden Lake and the Old Mine Railroad path, our scouts headed Southwest and followed the White Trail up across the top of Bushy Ridge (about 1200 feet above sea level) where one could witness beautiful, sweeping vistas both to the East and to the West. As the White Trail descends a few hundred feet and intersects the Blue Trail, we came across the clearly visible foundations and stone walls of the historic mining town of Odletown. A short distance later and the troop had arrived mid-afternoon at our destination: site #37 at Durland Scout Reservation.

The weather outlook for that weekend was for clear skies–unlike the prior weekend (our originally scheduled camping date) which witnessed a torrential downpour all day and night. The only weather element to battle was the chilly fall air. Instead of a typical range of 30–45 degrees, we had 15–25 degrees, with 10 mph winds and gusts up to 30 mph! It was more than just “crisp”–it was really cold!! The boys were prepared and had lots of winter clothing and extra blankets and sleeping bags to keep them warm. Besides, the scouts were so busy running around trying to build bigger & bigger fires that very few suggested they were cold. There were a few scouts and scouters that opted to depart for a warmer environment after a tasty dinner and entertainment around the bonfire in the Old Goat Patrol’s campsite. After a crystal clear night, perfect for star gazing, the boys awoke to their frozen world–literally. It was so cold, that food items left in food boxes outdoors had frozen solid as had dishwashing tubs from the night before. Likewise, the propane stoves did not all function properly. So scouts learned a valuable lesson about winter camping: keep ample firewood about as cooking and cleaning definitely take longer. Perhaps bringing prepared meals that only need warming would have been the best solution of all! Following a brief Interfaith Prayer service and prior to departing Sunday morning, a crew of hearty campers eagerly embraced the opportunity to complete one hour of service project work near the Campmaster’s cabin, entitling the scouts to earn the special “Outdoorsman” patch. For look at some truly memorable photos, click here.

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