Some north Georgia Boy Scouts completed quite a feat with their feet in June: They hiked 100 miles in just five days on the rugged Bartram Trail. The 11 young men from Troop 467 discovered that blisters were more of a problem than bears. And that motto, “Be Prepared,” was critical to their success.
“I live in Atlanta, so I’m used to awful heat, but I’ve never sweat as much as I did on this trip,” says scout Matt Goldman. “It was so important to have a comfortable sleeping bag,” says Goldman, who was also glad he had chosen lightweight gear.
The scouts were all in great physical shape. Many, like Goldman, are rowers at their high schools; some are track stars. Adult leader Tom Mallory, whose son Daniel also made the trip, said he prepared for almost a year. “The bottom of your feet have to turn into leather,” Mallory says. “And you need to train carrying all your gear.”
The hike started at the Georgia-South Carolina border, on the Chattooga River near Clayton, Ga. It ended at the Nantahala Gorge in North Carolina. The trail has dramatic changes in elevation, a few areas that are not well marked, and no convenience stores to restock supplies.
Each hiker required about a gallon and a half of water daily. They couldn’t carry that much, so they had to find it every day, and use pumps and purifying tablets. Most days the scouts hiked twelve hours or more.
Aaron Kala, who just finished his first year of college, was the other adult on the trip. He’s been involved in scouting since elementary school. “For the most part everyone was ready,” he says. “They were all focused enough to handle it.”
“It was a fun adventure -- fun in a painful way!” says 16-year-old Reade Midyette. “I was surprised at how many blisters I had. Mostly it was a good adventure for everybody. We knew we could do it,” he says.
Scouts are all about leaving nature undisturbed, and even cleaner than they found it. What does that mean on the trail? Removing other people’s trash. No washing dishes. ”You clean out your bowl with water, drink up and then lick your bowl clean,” Mallory says.
“Even if it doesn’t attract bears, dumping leftovers looks terrible on the trail,” he says.
Swallow, don’t spit out, your toothpaste. No peeing within 200 yards of a water source. Completely bury your own waste, preferably without using toilet paper.
“We were even careful about how we set our tents up, to disturb the ground the least amount,” Mallory says.
The scouts tackled one of the steepest portions of their journey after dark, hiking 12 miles. Nobody could see much besides the heels of the hiker in front of him. “It kind of plays with your mind,” says Midyette. “We just kept going and going and all of a sudden, ‘Is this the top?’”
The 100 miles set a troop record, and also coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts.
So what did they do when they got home?
“I went to Smoothie King and got an extra large smoothie with extra fruit,” says Kala.
“I stayed in the shower for 30 minutes!” says Goldman.