My first backpacking trip - Trip Report - 3/14/1969 - 3/16/1969

7:26 a.m. on September 11, 2007 (EDT)
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Blackbeard is taking his first backpacking trip tomorrow - his thread got me thinking that a "first trip" trip report from some of us who've been backpacking for a lot of years might be intersting, so here goes.

Trip plan: My Boy Scout troop is taking a two day, 15 mile hike on the Horseshoe Trail in Pennsylvania. At the time I was 11 years old, it was my first trip. In anticipation I'd assembled the following equipment (I have no idea what this stuff really weighed, but I believe that when I weighed the pack it was around 40 pounds, I weighed about 125)

BSA Yucca Pack (basic, no outside pockets, canvas pack)
BSA "Camper" Pack frame (unpadded canvas shoulder straps, no waist strap)
BSA Cook kit
BSA 1 QT Canteen
BSA rectangular sleeping bag (cotton outter shell, flannel liner, some sort of synthetic batting)- in a plastic trash bag, lashed to the top of my pack)
BSA Poncho (coated nylon)
BSA Pocket Knife (one item I persist in carrying)
3 pr. socks (wool)
2 pr. underwear (cotton)
1 set long johns (cotton)
1 extra shirt (LL Bean "chamois cloth")
1 pr. extra pangs (jeans)
BSA "Miner" tent (canvas 2 man pyramid tent - the other kid carried the pole and stakes - it didn't need any rope)
plastic ground cloth
BSA air mattress (full length, rubberized cotton)
my share of the patrol food (consisted of fresh food and canned food, I'd be willing to bet that it included pop-tarts)
Hand axe (hey, I'd earned my tote'n chip card)
BSA First aid kit
BSA "mending" kit (small sewing kit)
BSA Fork/Knife/Spoon combination
Griddle (my portion of the patrol cook kit)
"lost" whistle (just in case)
BSA Flashlight

Day 1 (Friday):

6PM - wearing my uniform and sears work boots (well broken in) we load my pack into the Country Squire and head to the church to meet up with other scouts. I get assigned to Mr. Bermans vehicle for the ride up to the trial head - he had a VW bus - rode up with Jeff, Mark, Rich, John and Dave - Dave is a big guy (I think he was 13 at the time) - Mr. Bermans car was neat 'cause you could stand up in it and yo-yo while he was driving.

7PM - point of no return - exit the car - get my gear - unpack everything to get to the tent - set up the tent and help get wood for a campfire - tell ghost stores around the fire until really late (probably 9:30?) - blow up air mattress (waiting until AFTER you've eaten smo'res is NOT a good idea, I discover!) - throw up (made it out of the tent!) - roll out sleeping bag and go to sleep.

3/15/1969 - 6AM - wake up - help build a fire - Jeff cooks breakfast (pancakes and bacon + koolaid) - we eat - wash up - douse the fire and start to pack. Everything is bigger when you pack it in the field. Tent ends up half stuffed into the pack and half lashed to the outside. For some reason the older scouts are kinda chuckling at us as we don our packs. Only ten miles to go - only five until lunch!

8AM - off we go

9AM - why did mom make me pack the extra clothes?

10AM - we take a break - I'm pretty far back - as soon as Jeff and I arrive the rest of 'em put their packs on and take off - so Jeff and I (both tenderfoot scouts) don't really GET a break.

Noon - LUNCH BREAK - take off pack - feel like I'm walking on the surface of the moon - eat lunch (sardines on rolls, cookies and more koolaid)

1PM - pack back on - head towards camp

1:30 PM - we wait while scoutmaster walks back to lunch stop area - he lost his cigarette lighter -

2:15PM - scoutmaster returns - we take off for camp (well rested, some of us having learned how to take a dump in the woods!)

4:30PM - arrive in camp - set up tents - start to gather firewood - I feel like someone has been digging into my shoulders with knives from those darned canvas straps - negotiate with Jeff so tomorrow HE can carry the tent and I'll take the poles and stakes. We build a cooking fire for our patrol and make dinner around 6:30 or so - then put out our fire and head over to the troop campfire - it's a good one - one leader recites the "cremation of sam mcgee" - pretty neat. Then we all go out on a snipe hunt for an hour or so - then go to bed. Something in my pack put a hole in the air mattress so it won't hold air - there's a pointed rock or tree root under my hip - still sleep like a log.

3/16/1969 - 6AM - someone is blowing the bugle so I wake up - help build a fire and cook breakfast. We tear down camp and jam everything into our backpacks - Mark eats a lot of pop tarts and eats swiss miss without adding water - doesn't seem like a smart idea to me.

7:30 AM - about 15 minutes into our hike Mark starts barfing up pop tarts and swiss miss - pretty funny.

10:30 AM - we arrive at the end of our hike - it's a place where you can take horseback rides - we each get about 20 minutes on a horse - riding around some trails - pretty neat - while we're doing this the one dad who'd shuttled his car to HERE drives the other dads back to their cars so they can come pick us up.

1PM - load up the buggies - homeward bound we go

Hit the church around 2:30 - hang the tents out to dry in the basement - head home.

"My God you're filthy" (moms first words upon seeing me) - I had a GREAT time!

8:05 a.m. on September 11, 2007 (EDT)
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Nice report Fred.

one question. As an 11 year old, why were you more concerned about spending time writing a trip report than you were at throwing apples at your 12 year old next door neighbor?

We obviously lived on opposite sides of PA :)

8:25 a.m. on September 11, 2007 (EDT)
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I wrote that trip report from memory - some events are just burned into your mind. When I was reading Blackbeards bit about heading out for his first trip, the entire weekend just flashed back before my eyes - much like the look on my scoutmasters face when, at Philmont, on our last day on the trail (we camped at the tooth of time) he saw me free-soloing a detached flake about 150' off the deck and stemming over to a crack system on the face ..... images and memories like that just never fade.
Oh - we didn't throw apples - horse chestnuts (with the spines) were a lot more fun (hand grenades during our BB gun wars)

1:06 p.m. on September 11, 2007 (EDT)
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yea, we had horse chestnuts too and "monkey balls".

My only memory of boy scout camping is when Michael O'Dowd poured his baked beans (he didn't like) on a log. A few of us then pee'd on the beans. Scout master came along, got mad at Michael O'Dowd for wasting his beans and made him eat them. Pee and all

These Scout masters were from St. Valentine's elementary school.

Catholic scout masters. go figure.

1:18 p.m. on September 11, 2007 (EDT)
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Man, Fred, you have a far better memory than I. But, I was wondering about that climb on the Tooth. Any climbing on the Tooth has been strictly forbidden for quite a few years now (officially, that is - certain people have been known to do a route or two around the time of the annual Climbing Directors Conference).

I remember the Yucca pack. I had one that I got to go to the 1953 Jamboree (the one at Irvine - bet most people who live in Irvine and go to UC Irvine don't know why it's named "Jamboree Boulevard"). I used to hang it on a Sears aluminum pack frame that I had for a few years before I could afford to buy a real Kelty.

My first backpack was actually a horse-pack, according to what my parents told me (and I found in my father's diaries, plus the photos - one of which is on my website). I was about 6 months old at the time. So I have no recollection of it, other than what I was told, read from Dad's diary, and see in the ancient B&W photos.

First backpack I remember was also in Scouts, at 12 years old (the minimum age when I joined, with the minimum being changed to 11 that same year). That must have been in 1952. I lived in Phoenix, so we went out to Paradise Valley, far, far out in the desert (it's now the site of one of the world's largest shopping centers, even with its own REI!). I don't remember very many details beyond a few gear items and that my best buddies Eddie and Roger were also on it. My sleeping bag was a rectangular duck down bag that weighed a ton. But it had its own canopy (actually the outer cover that wrapped around the bag when you rolled it up, but could be pitched as a hood over the head end). Not that it would have done a lot of good if it had rained - the bag wasn't waterproof. I also had a very heavy air mattress that was frequently flat because of all the cactus thorns we had in the deserts.

What else? Lessee - Official Boy Scout knife, Official Boy Scout mess kit (the round one with the fry pan, dish, and hinged handle with a wing nut that had to be replaced often, since it got lost on almost every trip), some kind of army surplus pack (soon replaced by the Yucca pack), Army surplus quart canteen in its snap canvas cover that hooked into an army surplus belt (the kind with lots of little holes to hook things in), a hand ax (cover hooked into the army belt), a folding shovel (cover hooked into the army belt). I don't remember what else.

I also don't remember much about the trip itself, except that at some very late hour, Eddie, Roger, and I were awake looking at the stars (which were always very spectacular many miles out in the Arizona desert - one of the reasons I became a professional astronomer later in life). The adults were still sitting around the campfire 40 or 50 feet away. Roger or Eddie (don't remember which) whispered "is that whiskey they are drinking?" (next morning we found an empty whiskey bottle, so yeah, I guess they were). And they were all smoking cigars! Even in those days, before BSA put a lot of restrictions on what adult leaders were permitted to do within sight of the youth, that seemed very un-scoutly to us. During my years as a young scout, I saw that a lot, but seeing that on my first scout backpack was the one thing that sticks with me.

But yeah, my packs in those days were way too heavy with way too many things that were unused. I will say, though, that those whiskey-drinking, cigar smoking (some pipes) adults taught us a lot about living and traveling in the desert and in the mountains of northern Arizona as well. Some of them were Native Americans whose ancestors had lived in the area for a thousand years. We learned that you didn't really need any of that stuff - Mother Earth and Father Sky provided it all. You just had to know how to recognize it.

My mother wasn't concerned about the dirt. After all, my family was into the outdoors all my life, so we were used to the dirt from backpack and horsepacking trips. Goes with the territory, as they say.

3:08 p.m. on September 11, 2007 (EDT)
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Bill - I doubt that I was 'supposed' to be on the tooth - but growing up climbing in either crumbling quarries or some of the wonderful, rotten natural cliffs back east it was a temptation that I just could not ignore. That beautiful clean rock, no "porta-holds", no glass in the cracks or on the holds, nobody at the top lobbing M-80's down at me - pure joy! I was wearing surplus "jungle boots" - that would have been in 1972 - for reference, Nixon signed my Eagle Scout papers .... my scoutmaster still get a bit pale when he talks about that incident.

From a safety perspective they were more worried about lightning strikes - I understand they lost a scout that year on tooth ridge when a storm rolled through.

One of our scoutmasters used to wander off and inhale mother nature to clam his nerves - great guy - he actually thought we were dumb enough to not know what he was doing ...

My parents weren't outdoors folks - not sure where or why I got the bug, but I'm forever grateful to whomever gave me the initial infection!

1:45 p.m. on September 28, 2007 (EDT)
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I really liked the story, Fred.

The only thing I can remember about my really first overnighter was that it must have been about 1963 and that a lot of that BSA stuff was with me also. The Yucca pack, in particular, stays with me. My parents were not camping oriented, and we mostly packed our own packs without a lot of the older troop members. This was almost like car camping as the BS troop was dropped off and we hiked about 100 yards and set up camp. The pack brings back such a vivid memory because I packed it with quite a few cans of food. Guess my appetite then and now are about the same. When I proceeded to put my pack on, it was so heavy that I just rolled over as it dragged me along, flip-flopping and somersaulting to the ground.

A little embarrassing, but that was just the beginning of a long love of the outdoors and living in tents. I just never seemed to backpack, though, always car camp after the scouts.


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