On Friday afternoon, seven scouts from our troop joined Troop 777 at Delmont Scout Reservation near Green Lane, PA. Our plan was to camb in a large cabin called “Castle Rock” for the night and then head over to Valley Forge National Park to participate in a history hike.
Upon arrival, we cleaned the cabin’s fireplace of ashes, swept out the main living/sleeping area and spruced up the kitchen. Teams of scouts gathered fire wood and got a fire going. Other scouts toured the immediate area of woods, boulder fields and trails.
Dinner by patrol was followed by working on various merit badge requirements, and Scoutmaster Vigario helped a group of scouts on Citizenship in the Community. Mr. Bosch led a devotional before everyone turned in for the night.
Overnight, the skies dumped rain in a steady beat on the roof of the cabin, but not enough to drown out the snoring of a certain, un-named scoutmaster (hey, its not like I try to snore – it just happens!)
In the morning, patrols quickly prepared breakfast and got gear loaded into vehicles. Clean up details were handled efficiently by patrols and we arrived at Valley Forge by 9:15 AM. Everyone managed to get to the first showing of the movie about George Washington and General Von Stueben, and the first team departed on the trail by 10 AM sharp.
The history hike program at Valley Forge centers around a booklet used by the scouts to find their way through a set course. For instance, the booklet will lead the team to a specific monument, discuss the relevant history of that marker’s location, and then direct the team to take a compass bearing and walk a set distance from the marker in that direction. This forces the team to understand how to use a compass and measure distance by counting their strides. As long as they know the length of their stride over smooth ground and uneven ground, they should end up at the right location.
By following the directions in the booklet, they travel from historical place to place, learning about the troops who spent the winter there, why this site was chosen to protect the troops from the British (who were encamped in the Nation’s Capitol, Philadelphia) and much more.
At various points, the scouts were challenged to discover specific information about their current location and record it in the booklet. This could be a specific compass bearing, lists of names of Generals who served under Washington, or other details about the encampment.
Our team had covered about a third of the trail by noon and we stopped for lunch on top of Mount Joy. After that break, we pressed on to find the two representative huts of the New Jersey Brigade (not all teams managed to do this). Next, we found Washington’s headquarters and headed south along the creek through the valley formed between Mount Joy and Mount Misery. Part of this trail is the Horseshoe Trail — a connector to the Appalachian Trail (125 miles to our West). Along the way we discovered the remains of the upper and lower forges which gave the name to this area (Valley Forge) and were destroyed by the British military to restrict our ability to make war materials.
The other teams caught up to us by the time we reached the covered bridge and we took a break to share stories about our experiences along the trail up to that point.
Next we explored Knox’s Headquarters and crossed busy route 252. At this point, we decided to break up into our original teams again and everyone went their own way. After analyzing the next check point in the booklet and finding it on the map, we decided to go “cross country” instead of sticking to the winding trail (which was also uphill). Our gamble worked! Not only did we end up where we needed to be, we also found a rest stop (bathroom and ice water supply) along the way!
Another team from Troop 777 joined us for the remainder of the trail and we checked off stops at Gen. Von Stueben’s monument and Washington’s Memorial Chapel before heading back to the Visitor’s Center and our cars.
I know that the scouts had a good day based on: the fact they didn’t bring home any food, they had a high level of engagement during the trail hike and most everyone took naps on the ride home.
Additional photos from the trip have been posted at our troop’s photo share site, and an email with the link was sent out to all troop families this morning.