The quiet drive with Roland went by just as I hoped. It could only be described as that quintessential scene in a movie where its just a man and his dog silent enjoying the simply things together. Rolling down the road together, epitomizing the bond between a man and his dog, neither belonging to each other but bound by some mystical unseen force. The miles went by as I scratched his ears, petted his head, and enjoyed the simple comforts of a bench seat.
We arrived around one am and set out to stretch and get the gear together. It has been quite some time since I’ve set up camp in the dark of night, with a red light and minimal noise to not wake the scouts. Quietly and ever so carefully I picked a spot and set out our gear, tying Roland to the pack as I laid out the tent. Within a few minutes our tent was ready and we were getting cozy inside.
After just a few short hours we awoke and broke camp with the rest of the scout troop. We would have along day today so I made sure we both had a hardy breakfast. The scouts ate, talked and did the normal things to kill time, talked of video games, picked on each other and some even got ready for the hike. The scouts were divided into two different groups, the fast one and the inexperienced ones. I was given the option to hike with either.
Each group had its ups and downs, the fast ones would do the most miles and with the least interruptions. The younger ones would need instruction and help, I figured the best place would be to help the younger ones get a good start. Scout Master D gave the scouts guidelines, jobs and responsibilities for our hike before we set off. Through all the waiting, Roland lay ready, pack on, eager to hit the trail.
The scouts over the next two days would ask many times why he did that, why he lay there when we stopped and or rested for a moment. In his younger years he would have paced, yipping and barking, telling em to get the lead out. After many years of doing this he had learned to rest when he had the chance. So rest he did, unlike the scouts he knew what today would bring and how hard it would be.
The youngest scout, Lion would be our navigator as we hiked. The trail immediately got rocky and went upwards fast and steep. It made no difference to the adults and the dog but you could see the younger scouts might have bitten off more they could chew. Tough little buggers they are, one foot in front of the other they hiked on.
Lion’s gear weighing too much, his lack of experience, his very young age all added up to him not being able to carry his pack with out walking slower than glass. I wouldn’t use the word molasses because it moves fairly quick compared to glass. If you’ve ever seen a pane of glass that is a hundred years or so old, you’ll notice one thing. They are thicker at the bottom then the top. That is because glass is an amorphous solid, It will flow over time as gravity pulls on it. I quickly took up his pack, strapped it to mine and off we went again. Ill carry his weight, he’d do the same for me.
We had hiked about a mile or so before we passed another scout troop, this is when we learned we had set out in the wrong direction. Wonderful, just fricken wonderful, a mile straight up hill, all wasted. After a quick meeting we set off in the right direction and cruised down the hill side. The adult leaders all agreed we needed to reassess the scouts when we got back to Caledonia State Park.
Back on track, repacked, and fueled up we set out again, this time in the right direction. You have got to be kidding me, this was another just as steep incline we’d have to summit as well. Just a few hundred yards up this goat trail another scout fell out, this time it was our scout master. Over the next few hundred yards we stopped, moved, stopped, rested, checked in, and waited. It was then we had our third casualty, David, now we had three extra packs to carry. I had Lions, Andrew had Mr. D’s and Mr. Lord had David’s.
This uphill climb was killing some of us with more than seventy pounds of weight. Quite a few of us knew then that some of the scouts would never make the nine miles to the site. Over the rest of climb we stopped and rested numerous times while we waited for the scouts to catch up. As the ground leveled out the pace quickened, Roland forever trudging on like nothing could bother him. It was then that we had our second meeting about the scouts. Could they finish it? Could Mr. D?
As each adult gave their opinion on what they wanted to do we listened. Unfortunately some of us were willing to hike on and others did not want too. Even some of the scouts who we knew could not finish wanted to continue. What a conundrum, to go forward or to go back, what were we to do? I checked the map and saw we were about one mile away from the next shelter and suggested we go there and figure it out over lunch.