Morning came quickly for me, between the near freezing temperatures and how tired I was, I slept very well. I awoke rested, without injury, soreness, and ready for today’s nine mile hike back to the camp and cars. I packed up my gear and tent as the other scouts rose from their slumber and stumbled around. It didn’t take long for them to get in the groove and break camp. without making haste Roland was fed while I got the last of my gear stowed away.
Once breakfast had been eaten we set out to the spring to get a start on filling water for everyone. Filters in hand the scouts pumped away for an hour or so filing every water bottle. they only had two filters so it took quite a bit of pumping to fill all the water bottles. The only form of entertainment we had while we waited, was a cross country team, men’s and women’s running by. Split in two groups, a few of the slower scouts set out ahead of us to take a more relaxed pace back.
With one word, Roland was up and ready to hike, pulling in his harness with vigor. The boys, full of excitement and youth, set a quick pace as we climbed back up the 700 foot elevation. It became quickly apparent that they were in a hurry to get back, back to the car, back to the world, to five guys burgers. They chanted “Five Guys, Five Guys, Five Guys” as we climbed. Crushing out the hill we only stopped to rest when the group became slightly spread out. My nephew was leading the pack and with his long legs, his strides set a fast walk as he cruised over the flat terrain.
This hike was different than the others. We set a good pace and kept it, stopping only to rest and not sight seeing at all. Every rock, tree, hill, foot we hiked I could remember in vivid detail from our hike the previous day. I even stopped to comment to Bill about certain places as we walked. I spent most of the hike with Shawn, hes one of the older scouts and we talked about everything the whole way back. He kept a good eye on where everyone was and had Chase, my nephew, slow and speed up accordingly.
The first 3 miles were done in an hour, it was apparent we were moving very fast this time. I kept a good eye on Roland and at no point in time did he seem to waver. His focus was on the trail, his determination was an inspiration to the others in that he would not stop for anything. when we took shorts rests he pulled to go on ahead. we reached the half way point by another half an hour. We had stopped to take pictures on the way here, with this beautiful mountain view, not this time, we trekked on.
Our first real break was about 6 miles in at the Quarry Gap Shelter, we took in food and water, resting for only ten or so minutes. Roland lay at my feet as I gave him treats and water. There was another couple resting at the shelter and the girl took quick notice of Roland. We struck up a quick conversation and talked about their southbound thru-hike, Roland, and my pending northbound hike in April. It is always nice meeting new people and sharing stories and food when you have the chance.
They departed while the scouts talked excitedly, since if we kept our pace, wed be back in an hour or so. It was all down hill from here. When we left the next hour flew by under our feet, flying over the steps and the uneven terrain. Downhill we went, Roland pulling and dragging me to go faster with every step. It got to the point where I had to tell him to slow down or I would have been dragged down the steep trails we once climbed the other day.
My excitement rose as we came off the last bit of hillside, we were back at the park and that meant food, fun and Five Guys. Hot cocoa was to be had as we were greeted by friendly faces from the other half of the troop, snapping pictures of us as we walked into camp. Roland lay down and drank two bowls of water before taking a much needed nap. Nine miles in just about three hours, what a great hike. I thought to myself about this weekend and how much we had accomplished.
Roland and I had hiked twenty miles at times with more than sixty pounds on our back up and down hill. Not once did he give way, slack, or tire, his devotion to the goal was unwavering. It was very apparent how much he enjoyed this, maybe almost as much as I did. I have a new found sense of content and feeling of security knowing he can and will do this. I have little doubts now that either of us will fall out, fall behind, fail. the only thing we need to do now is to continue to hike and wait till April. April, six months off could not come any sooner.