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Tradition And A Mountain

May 22, 2017

How often do y’all do your planning meetings?

We pretty much have a rolling 12 month calendar. We do the same activity every month. This month was Baldy.

I’m not sure how many years this scout troop has been doing this particular hike. My neighbor used to be the scoutmaster. We’ve had three different scoutmasters since him. He started the Baldy hike probably at least ten years ago.

Our scout troop is sponsered by a church congregation. That means the boys who went on the first Baldy hike years ago are now finishing college. The hike has become a rite of passage for young men in our neighborhood. It’s not an easy hike. If the boys get to summit Baldy, the route is 12 miles from Grove Creek trailhead to the Battle Creek trailhead. The net change in elevation is about 3500 feet. With the up and down trail, it’s even more.

I say “if” the boys summit because that’s not always a given. Utah in May can be unpredictable. We go on the hike rain or shine. The last two years have been more shiny than rainy. The three years before that were rainy and one year even had 6″ of new snow the night of the campout.

This is often the first campout our new scouts go on. And it’s certainly the hardest hike any of them have done to that point. Not just the hardest scout hike. It’s often the hardest hike these 12 year old boys have ever done in their lives. The thing about hiking through Utah’s mountains is that once we leave the trailhead there’s only two ways to go: forward or back. And going back really isn’t an option.

The beginning portion of the hike is pretty steep. We have boys that are as small as 70 or 80 lbs. A general rule of backpacking is that your backpack should be less than 1/3 of your body weight. An empty backpack weighs 7-8 lbs. Throw in a sleeping bag, shared portion of a tent, clothes, sleeping pad, food and water and a “light” backpack might be 25-30 lbs. As an adult, my pack was 44 lbs.

About the second mile, the boys start to really feel the weight of their packs. Water weighs 8 lbs/gallon. The boys carry as much water as they can stand. We make one stop at a spring for dinner and fill up water enough for the rest of the hike.

Going up the mountian, we encourage the boys to carry extra water. Coming off the mountain we encourage the boys to only bring what they need to get them to back to the trailhead.

It’s amazing to watch these boys do hard things. We had eight boys hike with us over the weekend. The youngest was 11 the oldest was 13. And every one of them hiked the entire trail and summitted the Baldy. Some of the older boys might never again make a hike or even campout. But for the rest of their lives they can look to the East in our valley and see a mountain and be able to say, “I stood on top of that mountain.”

As leaders we will continue to make this hike every May, rain or shine, keeping the tradition alive.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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