What is a “History Hike”?
It is a hike that requires scouts to learn about the history of the area as they progress along the trail.
Typically, those scouts who complete the entire trail AND complete a short essay about what they’ve learned can purchase a trail medal to wear on their uniform during special occasions like court of honor ceremonies.
Many of these trails are sponsored programs of the local BSA Council (paid for by your “Friends of Scouting” donations), and some are sponsored by historical societies.
Benefits to Scouts
History hikes provide:
- Exercise to build stamina and endurance (…keep myself physically strong…)
- Advancement Opportunities
- Tenderfoot requirement 5; “Explain the rules of safe hiking, both on the highway and cross-country, during the day and at night. Explain what to do if you are lost.”
- Second Class requirement 1a; “Demonstrate how a compass works and how to orient a map. Explain what map symbols mean.”
- Second Class requirement 1b; “Using a compass and a map together, take a 5-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.”
- Second Class requirement 3a; “Since joining, have participated in five separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), two of which included camping overnight”
- First Class requirement 1; “Demonstrate how to find directions during the day and at night without using a compass.”
- First Class requirement 3; “Since joining, have participated in ten separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight.”
- Hiking Merit Badge requirement 2; “Explain and, where possible, show the points of good hiking practices including the principles of Leave No Trace, hiking safety in the daytime and at night, courtesy to others, choice of footwear, and proper care of feet and footwear.”
- Hiking Merit Badge requirement 4; “Make a written plan for a 10-mile hike, including map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch.
- Hiking Merit Badge requirement 5; “Take five hikes, each on a different day, and each of at least ten continuous miles. Prepare a hike plan for each hike.”
- Hiking Merit Badge requirement 7; “After each of the hikes (or during each hike if on one continuous “trek”) in requirements 5 and 6, write a short report of your experience. Give dates and descriptions of routes covered, the weather, and interesting things you saw. Share this report with your merit badge counselor.”
- American Heritage MB requirement 4e; “Visit a historic trail or walk in your area. After your visit, share with your counselor what you have learned. Discuss the importance of this location and explain why you think it might qualify for National Register listing.”
- Scouts can also learn a lot of valuable history in a “hands on” environment.
- It’s very different to read about soldier’s huts that slept 12 men in triple tier bunks than it is to see such a hut and actually lie down in a bunk.
- The history becomes more real and meaningful as each scout experiences it first hand.
Locating History Hike Trails
In addition to searching the web sites (or calling) local BSA Council headquarters, you can find links to trail guides on the internet. Here are some examples:
- http://www.thecarolinatrader.com/collections/american-historical-trail-brochures-patches-and-medals This site provides details about many trails along the East Coast of the USA. These are history trails that include scavenger hunts, essay and trail medal opportunities. Several of the hikes are urban hikes through historical cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and Annapolis, MD (home of the US Naval Academy)
- http://www.glengray.org/trails.html This is an example of a local program at a local park.
- http://newbirthoffreedom.org/gettysburg-heritage-trails-program/ (Gettysburg, PA)
- http://www.nnjbsa.org/openrosters/ViewOrgPageLink.asp?LinkKey=7417&orgkey=945 This is an example of a BSA Council sponsored program.
- http://www.alincolnbsa.org/trails/pdf/Trail%20Order%20Form%20Web.pdf (Springfield, IL BSA Council)
Some local Northern NJ trails include:
- Jockey Hollow (Morristown, NJ – Patriot’s Path Council);
- Battle of Monmouth Scout Trail (Monmouth Council);
- Cannonball Trail (NNJ Council);
- Palisades Historic Trails (NNJ Council).
There are many more trails available within a two hour drive time (i.e. Valley Forge Trail, Washington’s Crossing Trail, Ben Franklin Trail, Colonial Patriot Trail), and that list doubles if you can plan an overnight trip to more distant locations such as Boston, Washington DC, etc.