Posts Tagged ‘Troop 15’

Troop 15 Backpacking Skills Camp, McGee Creek NSRA, OK

13 May 2014

Boy Scout Troop 15 had a great weekend at McGee Creek National Scenic Recreation Area (NSRA), Oklahoma 09-11 May 2014.

Hike Summary: Around 12 miles around a beautiful and pretty much unpopulated hilly area. Good training ground.

I posted photos from this camp on my Google+ site.

This is my second visit to the NSRA. The GSOK-West HAT had Intermediate Backpacking at the NSRA back in October; it was a great experience. I recommended the NSRA for our backpacking skills camp.

Our objective was to introduce the Scouts to some essential skills. We ate 100% trail-type food. First breakfast was oatmeal and applesauce, lunch was PB&J with trail bars, and dinner was dehydrated meals. Second breakfast was Pop Tarts.

The other skills were how to potty in the backcountry using catholes, and water treatment. The first was accomplished using AP carried by the boys, and a number of trowels, and the second using a couple varieties of water filter pumps. I also wanted to work on topo map reading skills with the boys.

And of course we needed to hike.

We got to camp around 2200 Friday and got set up in the wall tents the boys are used to, pretty standard. The next morning we got up and had our backpackers style breakfast of oatmeal and applesauce, packed up our daypacks, and headed out.

We started on the South Rim trail and had a nice walk with a little uphill. We took a break on the Bugaboo Canyon Overlook, and made it to the junction with the North Rim trail easily. We had lunch at the Wildcat Canyon junction. After lunch and a rest, we headed down. Most of the boys were short of water (as they should have been), so we stopped at Wildcat Creek and had them pump water.

We resumed hiking, and kept going generally west-southwest. We found another place to pump water, and noticed a lake to our left. This was great, except there wasn’t supposed to be a lake to our left. We hiked to a trail junction, and spurred a bit north, realized we didn’t need to be there, and headed back south/SSW. We knew we were, if not lost, a bit off our desired trail location. After some map and topo work, we realized we needed to go back NNE, and we bushwhacked our way to trail we recognized.

We got back to where we recognized Wildcat Canyon, headed up to a flat area, went a little back, and then struck off SSE. It took about 20 minutes of hiking through the wilds, but we ran into a trail. We were pretty sure we needed to head ESE on this trail, and a scouting (literally!) party was dispatched, finding the right trail in about 10 minutes. We had a short rest at this trail junction, then headed on south, pumping water one more time, before getting to camp around 1815.

Now, all this annoyed me greatly. There were several things I should have done. First, when I printed the paper maps of the proposed hike route, I took all the other trails off the topo map. I should not have done that; maybe the proposed trail should have been in a different color, but the rest of the trails should be left on the map.

I carried my GPS, but I didn’t download the map of the proposed route into the unit. I could have easily noted we were off-route, and navigated back to the route easily.

I checked the GPS battery before we started, and thought I had enough battery to complete the hike. With the extra time on the trail, this was a bad assumption. I *had* spare batteries in my bag, in camp. No one else had AA-powered devices, like flashlights. So the GPS died when we were backtracking, and I ended up leading a bushwhack by dead reckoning. It worked, the skill is there, but it didn’t have to happen.

We totally missed a trail junction. I’m talking 20 people here. I don’t know if there is a sign, or if the trail is faded, but I should have realized that we needed to be going SSE instead of N, NW, W, or WSW.

The trail we were on was pretty obviously new. It had rock cairns (the only place I’ve seen those in the NRSA).

So we were never in any danger, but we were way behind schedule. We were thinking we would be back in camp around 1600, and got back at 1815.

We went ahead and took the boys to the beach at McGee Creek State Park, and they had a great time swimming. When we got back to camp at 2115, the boys elected to switch the dry and fast breakfast with the rehydrated and slightly slower dinner.

Everybody slept really well! The next morning everyone had various trail dinners, including Chili Mac. We packed up and got out quickly.

The basic hike I had proposed was about 7.5 miles, and with side hikes on the Whiskey Flats spur and the Overlook Loop, it would have clocked in at 10.1 miles. The actual distance was around 12.5-13.5 miles.

The area was beautiful, the weather perfect. The Scouts were cheerful and looked after each other. This is a GREAT place for a hike. There are at least two trails that need to be marked (the other was a trail running along the bottom of Bugaboo Canyon that we noticed last time).

Couple Notes

There was good water at both Big and Little Bugaboo Creeks, Wildcat Canyon Creek, the lake, and Bog Spring Creek. We had a couple ticks, but no bug issues.

We and an RV were the only campers at the trailhead area. I wish the management would institute a site reservation for those who call and get a permit. There seems to be only about five campsites there, and I would hate to roll up at 2100 with 20 Scouts and find no campsite.


10-Mile Hike at Lake Arcadia Today

22 September 2013

Had a great 10-mile hike at Lake Arcadia today with some of our Troop 15 Scouts. The weather was perfect.

The photos are here on Google+.

We saw a number of critters, and were able to ford Spring Creek this time. We started at Spring Creek Park at the east end of 15th street, parked at the beach there, and then wound our way through the disc golf course to find the trailhead. We went northwest until we hit the crossing, then went north and east until we hit 5 miles, at which point we turned around. When we had a trail choice, we took the one we had not already taken. We also walked along the shore some.

I tracked the hike with my GPS60 and my S3 with Runkeeper. The GPS reported 10.3 miles on the odometer, while the downloaded gpx track showed 10.1 on Garmin Mapsource. The Runkeeper app showed 9.78 miles. The discrepancy is annoying. I will look into it at some point soon.

Backpacking Greenleaf State Park, OK

31 March 2011

This past weekend, the Ghost Patrol of Boy Scout Troop 15 took a backpacking trip to Greenleaf State Park, OK. Greenleaf is in eastern Oklahoma, east of Muskogee; the nearest town is Braggs. We took five boys and three adults, and had a great time.

Summary: Two days, 17.8 miles of trail, 200+ft of altitude change. Wonderful time!

We left Oklahoma City around 1800 and got to the park around 2100. Tents went up quickly, and everyone was in them for the night around 2200. At some point around 0100, we had a couple good thunderstorms come through that dumped a bunch of rain. One thing I was impressed by: the campground was full of people. I think there were several hundred people camped there, including two other Tulsa Scout Troops.

We shook everyone out around 0730. Breakfast was heated up bacon and oatmeal.

We got the boys to fill their water, and we got out of camp just before 1000. Now the fun began!

The crew posed for photos (we told them it was for SAR…), both front and backpack sides.

We walked through the camp area (which was called Trailhead Camp), and found the road that leads down to Cabin on the Lake. At some point, we saw this:

We headed up it about 100 ft and found the actual Greenleaf Trail! Turns out the actual trailhead was on the road that leads out of the park area (you can see it on the GPS track towards the end of the post). We walked south along the trail. It was classic Oklahoma Ozarks terrain.

The trail runs above the lake, and eventually gets to the Greenleaf earth dam and heads west. Above on the north is the Gobbler Ridge part of the park. When I was a kid, it was a tent camping area with a couple shelters that the YMCA used as a day camp. Now, it’s RV pull-throughs. There are some outcroppings that got a lot of climbing on back then.

After walking along Greenleaf Creek, and then over it on the Highway 10 bridge, we eventually made our way to the Greenleaf Spillway. There was a fair amount of water coming over this WPA project, probably from the rain the night before running off into the lake. I did a lot playing around in the spillway, and the rocks that used to be exposed below it, when I was a kid.

We left the spillway area and started following the south end of the lake. The terrain was beautiful, the trail well marked. We ran across a number of other groups of hikers, including a couple Scout troops.

There was a pretty neat outcropping that made a small cave along the trail.

There was one part of the trail along here where you wanted to watch your footing, lest you slide down into the lake.

Along the south shore is a swinging bridge. It’s nice and loose and bendy! It saves probably a half mile of walking.

This is a view of the earth dam from the end of the bridge. There was a bass fishing tournament going on while we were there, and the two guys in the boat were some of the contestants.

Once we all crossed the bridge, we ran into another Scout Troop from Tulsa that was backpacking as well. We also learned some trail lore here. The Greenleaf Trail is a pair of linked loops. The first, or south loop, is from the swinging bridge to Mary’s Cove on the lake. The second loop runs from Mary’s Cove north to the primitive camp.

Each loop is characterized as a having a low side (that runs along the lake) and a high side (which runs along the ridges of the mountains on the east side of the lake).

At the swinging bridge, the Tulsa Troop took the right turn up the high side to start out, and our guys took the left turn for the low side. I thought we might run into them at the primitive camp, but never saw them again, so I presume they camped trailside somewhere.

A note here about water. I was worried about water, not wanting to carry more than we had to, obviously. I had called the Greenleaf Ranger station and asked about water on the trail, and was told there wasn’t any. I also emailed a guy who had hiked the trail in February, and said that there was plenty of water. Greenleaf is kind of unusual in that it is not surrounded by agriculture. The lake water is very clear. We found numerous places along the low trail where there were creeks feeding the lake that were perfect water sources. We also hiked half of the high trail, and the only water we saw were a couple places were rain had pooled in rocks.

We used a filter pump for some of our water, chemical purification (Aqua Mira), and boiling. We got water at Mary’s Cove (from the lake, outbound, and from a creek at the main campground, inbound), from a creek south of Mary’s Cove, and also from the lake at the primitive campground. The lake water tasted good!

The low trail towards Mary’s Cove was really nice.

The trail did a lot of popping up and going back down. We were never more than 50 or so feet high, I think. The cumulative changes started to get to the Scouts a little bit, but never enough to stop them.

At one point, we had passed the main Greenleaf State Park area on the west side of the lake, and I saw this:

There used to be a Group Camp area on the north end of Gobbler Ridge. I have heard that it is used by the National Guard now. Our High School class used this area for our Senior Class Picnic in May 1978. I have never seen it from this perspective until now.

There were occasional Dogwood trees in the area. They are beautiful.

We had lunch at Mary’s Cove, along the shore. Everybody had tuna salad, using a neat kit that was pretty inexpensive. It was 3.0oz of tuna, some mayo, and some relish, with crackers. I took this idea from Traci of the Girl Scout HAT, and thanks to her!

Mary’s Cove had a largish camp area, and west of there were some other camp areas that looked very nice. One of the camp areas was near what looked like a beaver den, with other evidence around.

The weather was not the best for the trip. The forecast for the area had been going downhill all week. When I first looked on Monday, the weekend was 50s/70s. Midweek, it was 40s/60s. The actual weather was 30s/40s. We actually got sleeted on twice on Sunday. Not much, but there was clearly a cold layer close above us. I took a sweatshirt and a long sleeve shirt that got a lot of use. I wore my shorts, but didn’t bring sweatpants. I ended up using my vinyl rainsuit a lot during this trip. It was not so cold as to be debilitating, but it was close. One of our Scouts brought a fleece sleeping bag liner, which was probably not quite enough to keep warm.

North of Mary’s Cove, the walk got a little more up-and-down. There were a lot more outcroppings, and we occasionally climbed to over a hundred feet over the lake.

There were a lot of wildflowers, and some other plants I didn’t recognize.

We got into the primitive camp around 1600. There was one other guy there. Everyone got tents up quickly and relaxed. Dinner was backpackers beef stew and mac and cheese.

We were right on the lake shore for camp. You can see that the campsite area is very tight. There are a lot of trees and short grass. It makes LNT kind of hard to implement.

We got everyone up around 0830 and left camp around 1000 again. Breakfast was more oatmeal. Since we taken the low road in, we started out on the high road. We had a couple steep climbs, but the views were magnificent!

This is looking back toward where we camped Saturday night; it’s on the right, and around the “corner”. We are two mountains away at this point.

Glen noticed this tree growing around a rock.

At this point we had a problem. Most of the Scouts had not in fact filled their water bottles up. They were getting dry, and we were not even halfway back yet. We decided to take the low road back as we knew there was water there. We took the connector trail down to Mary’s Cove. It was beautiful, with deep ravines.

We got to Mary’s Cove, filled bottles using the pump, and some we chemically treated. Lunch was a cup of peanut butter, choice of grape or strawberry jam, and Ritz crackers.

We headed back south towards the trailhead. We got a new perspective on some of the streams and other features we had passed yesterday.

We got back to the spillway area, and most of the Scouts were bushed. Glen and another Scout and I power hiked from that area back to the main part of the State Park. We saw our guys in the spillway from across Greenleaf Creek.

We got to the main part of the Park, coming out at the actual Greenleaf Trail trailhead. We then drove back around to pick up the rest of the crew along Highway 10.

There were some crashed Scouts on the way back. I had been concerned that the almost-10-mile length of each days hiking would be too much for the boys, but they handled it just fine.

This is a GPS track for the trip.

This is the GPS track overlayed on Google Maps.

And finally, this is the altitude plot of the trip.

Random Comments

Some of the boys managed to get to camp largely without some basic gear. They needed to have personal water bottles, cups or mugs, a bowl (or use a cup or mug), and utensil(s). Stuff like this is in the Boy Scout Handbook. I think it is because they are used to being able to get stuff out of the patrol box during regular camping. Before the trip, I worked with the Patrol Leader on a message about the camp, and he and I decided to not include a full equipment list in that message, under my assumption that the boys would know about basic equipment. It worked out more-or-less in the end by me having more than one utensil, so they could share, and re-using some of the lunch stuff for eating oatmeal.

We probably should have had another medium pot for boiling water. We had two, but another would have made dinner go a bit faster.

It took a while to get out of camp both Saturday and Sunday morning. I expected it Saturday, since it was the first day of the camp and the boys had stayed up late talking as usual, and then we had a couple thunderstorms.

Our overall forward speed was somewhat less than I had predicted. I had though that two miles an hour was reasonable, but we ended up making 1.5. This included the stop for lunch, and the rest stops we made.

Water on the Greenleaf Trail bears another mention. If you are on the low trails, you will have plenty of water from the lake and the streams that flow into the lake. If you are on the high trail, at least the north segment, there will be none.

I had read some comments on the web prior to the trip about the condition of the trail being overgrown and impossible to find. That was not the case, ever. The trail is well marked by blazes, and of course the trail itself was worn down a bit. A couple times, our point guys walked past a blaze into and off-trail, but someone else always caught it and got us redirected. The only place I totally missed a blaze was when we took a shortcut along a road coming out of camp – the road crosses the low trail twice, and I never saw the second crossing. We were taking the high trail, so that didn’t matter anyway. We had GPS with the area topo map loaded into it, and that verified that we thought where we were. BTW, if you have a Garmin GPS, I can heartily recommend getting open source topo maps from GPS File Depot.

The low trail had a couple campsites along the south segment, but the trees and brush are denser, kind of like it was at the primitive camp. The high trail had a lot more camping options, since the trees were spaced farther apart, and there was a lot less dense brush. The views up there are better, also, and you can probably find a place with semi-flat places to pitch tents near rock outcroppings that would make good cooking/sitting/eating areas.

This trip was important to me as a shakedown. I am planning a 24-mile 2.5-day trip in California over the summer, and knew this one would be close to 20. The altitude change there will be much greater, but the raw distance is comparable, so I am confident that I will make the summer trip without too much problem.

Overall, this was a fantastic trip. I love the terrain of eastern Oklahoma, and while the weather was a bit chilly it beat 100F and 100% humidity!

We saw no (zero) mammals. There were a fair number of birds, to include a couple woodpeckers, but that was it. Only one reptile – a small frog. There were a lot of tracks of coyote and deer at various points.

This trail is recommended. It might be a better hike for beginner backpackers to take the first loop for a starter trip. That would be roughly ten miles round trip.

Labor Day Weekend Biking on the Katy Trail in Missouri

8 September 2010

September was designated as patrol camping month for Troop 15, and Ian’s patrol decided to have their patrol camp by riding part of the Katy Trail in Missouri.

A bit of diversion. When I was a Scout, I think that we had about a 30/70 split of patrol camping to troop camping. The patrols would decide where to go and buy food and find a way out to a camp. Most of the time one or more parents would drop us off, we would do our thing, and then get picked up a couple days later.

Since I have been a Scout leader, there have been NO patrol camps until now. So this was kind of cool, even with the adults doing most of the planning. The long Labor Day weekend was the perfect choice. Out target was the Katy Trail, a “Rails to Trails” project that runs through the majority of north-central Missouri.

We headed out from the church that the Troop meets at around 0900 Saturday. We stopped for lunch at the Glass House McDonald’s near Vinita, and then made a stop at Springfield, MO.

We got to Hohn Scout Reservation about 1600. Hohn is on one of the north sides of an arm of Lake of the Ozarks. The camp is mostly about 100 feet above the lake. We got there, and immediately saw about 15 deer, including four bucks!

The guys got to work getting camp set up. I have to say that I was pretty impressed, the patrol was really good about getting set up, striking camp, and getting ready to leave for the bike ride in the morning.

That’s Ian doing a bit of bike riding.

My Kelty is the second tent from the left. I didn’t put the rain fly up the first night, and got a LOT of condensation on the tent the next morning.

It’s hard to see through the trees, but the lake was below us, and was very pretty.

We were on the west end of the biggest open area in the camp, with the climbing tower and the volleyball court across the way.

Each camp has concrete platforms (for Baker wall tents, I guess), and several shelters for food prep and eating. One thing I thought was cool – each shelter has a fixed patrol box for food storage. Raccoons tried to get into ours. We also saw a muskrat, I think.

After a nice dinner of hamburger and noodle casserole, I stood on the big field for a while and watched the stars. We all talked for a bit, and adjusted bikes, and then racked out. We were all up at 0630, had breakfast, loaded up, and headed out. We got to Boonville, MO, unloaded the bikes, did some last-minute checks, and headed out.

We started out across the big Missouri River bridge, and we were off!

Just to the south of this bridge was an old railroad bridge with a center section that could be raised up. Very cool.

Most of the trail, being former railroad bed, is flat and gravel covered. Most of the gravel is smaller than pea sized, and is on a hardpacked dirt surface, and so it very easy to ride on.

The trail goes over rivers and along bluffs and swamps, and fields of various things.

There is not much shade on the trail. Every once in a while you find it, but there wasn’t much.

The objective for the ride was 50 miles in less than eight hours (this is a requirement of the Cycling Merit Badge). All but two of us made 25 miles. One other Scout and I made it 15.8 miles. He was tired, and I got a very painful thigh muscle cramp – the first muscle cramp I have ever had. He and I met the trailing van at Rocheport, which was our lunch stop. The rest of the crew went on to McBaine, and so racked up 25 miles. Since we had a long drive back to camp (on top of the long drive from camp to the trailhead), and the boys wanted to go swimming, they elected to stop there.

This is the part of the biking trip that I made, overlaid on Google Maps:

This is the altitude plot:

What you see here is a couple trips over the big Missouri River bridge to start, then the rest of the trail is fairly flat (if I pulled the X-axis out it doesn’t look high at all).

A couple observations. These will seem obvious.

Trying to do 50 miles on a bike when you are trained up as a hiker does not work very well. I routinely can do a 2000 ft altitude gain with little strain, but a bike uses several other muscles. My cramp was probably due to lack of exercise of that muscle.

My bike was not able to get into the highest gear. I should have realized that and adjusted for it before the trip.

I drank both of my Nalgene bottles on the trail. Lots of water is important.

Riding east into a moderate wind blowing west is hard!

There were tons of people on the trail! It always makes me proud when I go out and see lots of people walking or biking or what have you.

We headed back to camp and the fire was built quickly and the cooks started in cooking. A couple of the boys and leaders went down to swim. The lake was pretty from the shore.

We had hamburger stew for dinner (Ian was one of the cooks) and it was excellent. I was in the tent by 2130, but awoke to this:

We were up and out of camp by 0830, and made it back to Oklahoma City around 1540. A nice way to spend the long Labor Day weekend. I didn’t get to hike any of the trails at Hohn, but if I am ever back, that will be my priority.