Are We Still Around?

If you’re judging our activity by our website, you might be a little disappointed.  I’ll admit, when it comes to all the things that vie for my time, maintaining a media presence is not my first choice.  So I understand, you might be wondering if Trail Life USA is still around.

YES!  We’re still here, and we’re busy.

We’ve been busy this summer.  Several campouts, family camp, caving, cooking contests, and more.  We’ve done some things this summer that we’ll hopefully find time to brag about online over the next few weeks.

YES!  We’re still here, and we’re growing.

At last count, Trail Life USA had 583 troops in 46 states.  Our own troop is expecting growth this year too – I’ve had parents of 9 boys contact me in the last few weeks, and we’ve made no effort to recruit so far.  This year seems to promise adventure for a growing number of boys.

In the next few weeks, some of the boys will write articles about we did this summer, I will be writing some articles directed toward families interested in joining our endeavor, and we’ll be celebrating the start of our new program year on September 14th.

Thanks for sticking with us – our future is bright, and we want you to be part of it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Monthly Hike

During our end-of-year leader meeting we set the goal to offer an optional activity one weekend each month throughout the year.  We had tried this at the start of last year, but stopped because of lack of participation.  We decided a restart was in order, and had several goals:

  • It should usually involve physical activity – we’re a fairly sedentary culture, and getting families off the couch and on the trail is one of our goals.
  • It should usually be something that is readily available to most Trailmen – As a Troop that has Trailmen as young as 5 years old, we want to make sure we’re offering a physical activity that is achievable by even out youngest Trailman.
  • It should be something appealing to our older Trailmen – Our Navigators and Adventurers don’t want to be bogged down at a kiddy park, and they don’t want to hike on Kiddy Trails. We need to offer something that is at worst acceptable to them, and at best offers them a challenge every now and then.
  • It should be available to families – First, these are not a drop-and-run event. We understand that sometimes a Trailman (especially a younger, Woodlands Trail Trailman), may have problems on the Trail.  For these optional hikes, we want the family to be able to help their young Trailman out).   Secondly, we want the families, and especially the dads, to be involved with their sons out on the trail.  Parents, Siblings, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, etc., are all invited to attend.

As you can imagine, it’s sometimes difficult to find an activity that meets all of these requirements.

Trailman and their families pose for a picture on one of the bridges on Butler Creek Trail

Trailman and their families pose for a picture on one of the bridges on Butler Creek Trail

In January, we hiked nearly 3 miles round-trip from Linneman Station, along the Springwater Corridor Trail, and up the Butler Creek Trail to Butler Creek Park.  The Butler Creek Trail is a mostly unpaved trail through the woods that divide two neighborhoods.  Even with houses so close, you really feel like you’re in the woods.  There is a creek that runs alongside the trail, and there are several bridges to cross in a couple places.

Nearly half the Troop showed up, and along with siblings and parents we had quite a crew.  Butler Creek Park has a playground, so we took 20 minutes to have a snack and the kids played on the equipment, before heading back down the hill.  Okay – I called it a hill, but there was really only 194 feet in total elevation change in the entire walk, so it was a really easy introductory hike for many of the boys.

Some of the Navigators taking a snack break and bouldering near Multnomah Falls Creek, above Multnomah Falls.

Some of the Navigators taking a snack break and bouldering near Multnomah Falls Creek, above Multnomah Falls.

In February we decided to try one of the trails in the Columbia River Gorge.  We started with a short (but steep) hike to the top of Multnomah Falls.  If you haven’t done this hike, you should.  It’s only 2.17 miles round-trip, but does involve 907 total feet in elevation change, so be prepared.  Our goal was for our Woodlands Trail Trailmen to do this shorter hike, and then we’d split up and the older Trailmen would continue on, loop around the top of Wahkeena Falls, and then hike back on the trail to Multnomah Falls.

We took a couple deviations from our plan.  First, at the top of the Wahkeena falls trail we took a short trail to reach a Wahkeena Springs, which feeds Wahkeena falls.  This is a great place for the boys to drink clean water that comes right out of the ground.

The trail between Wahkeena Falls and Multnomah Falls was closed for maintenance, so after ensuring it was safe to do so, we hiked alongside the railroad tracks which run alongside Historic Highway 30.  Total revised hike, about 5 miles round-trip.

As expected, we had fewer people on this second hike.  It was not only Valentine’s Day, but we’d also warned people that only Woodlands Trail Trailmen and siblings who were capable of climbing 1,000 feet in elevation over the course of a mile (20% grade) should attempt this hike.  I was very proud of the one young Fox Patrol Trailman who made it to the top.  I’m sure the view at the top of Multnomah Falls was very sweet for him.

Our March hike is this weekend.  This time we’re going to have two back-to-back hikes.  Our first will be a very easy, short (less-than-a-mile) hike over fairly level ground to Bridal Veil Falls.  Then, anyone wanting a little more physical adventure is welcome to join us on hike to Angel’s Rest.  This hike is just over 4.21 miles, and has an elevation gain of 1,305 feet.  For those who went on the Multnomah Falls hike, this will be an easier grade.  There is a cliff, however, so parents will want to be sure their younger children understand the importance of staying on the trail.  We’ll reiterate that point before we go.  That said, my younger daughter did this hike when she was in Kindergarten, so it is doable by most of the younger Trailmen.

We’ve had a good time the past few months taking these optional hikes.  If you’ve been on one, what’s your feedback?  Are you a grade, middle, or high-school aged boy who is ready for Adventure?  Come visit us at one of our meetings to find out how you can enjoy the Trail Life with us.  In the meantime, Walk Worthy!

Posted in Adventure, Adventurers, Hiking, Navigators, Safety, Uncategorized, Woodlands Trail | Leave a comment

Our First Snow (and Rain) Camp

On Saturday, January 17, Troop 1 of Trail Life USA set out snow camping. Mr. Davis, Mr. Billingsley, Chad, Logan, Sam (me), and Ben all came. Illness and other obligations kept the other Trailmen at home.  It was a one night campout because it was our first time snow camping. My eating buddy, Logan, and I had packed sandwiches for lunch, spaghetti for dinner, and oatmeal for breakfast. At first we were going to camp at White River Glacier, but two Boy Scout troops were camping there, so we decided to go to Barlow Pass Road.

When we arrived at the campground, the only thing I didn’t like was there wasn’t that much snow. We unloaded our stuff and chose where to set up. While we were packing down the little snow there was, it started to pour down raining. After we set up, we ate our lunch. The rain was making everyone miserable, so we decided to go on a hike.

It was a very wet hike

It was a very wet hike

We hiked to Pioneer Woman’s Grave. Even though it was pouring the hike went really well and made people not so miserable. We hiked 4.25 miles on top of snow and ice, in the rain, and it made us all tired. One phrase we made up on our hike was, “White is all right, but Gray no way.”  The snow was white, and safe to walk on.  But when you saw gray, that meant the snow had become ice and was really slippery.

When we got back, we ate dinner. Since it was raining so hard, after dinner we went in our tents for more than 13 hours so we didn’t get soaked.  Below is the sound we heard all night long.

In the morning, we packed up and left. Even though it had been pouring all night it wasn’t raining when we woke up. Mr. Davis had told us not to make breakfast because on our way back we were going to stop for Joe’s Donuts. I think I speak for everyone when I say next time we go snow, camping I hope it doesn’t rain.

Troopmaster’s Note:  The above story was submitted by Navigator Trailman Sam.  We waited for a year to have our first snow campout, but sometimes the weather just does not cooperate.  I became a Scout leader in the fall of 2006.  The campout in January 2015 was the worst weather I’ve experienced on a campout in more than 8 years.

That weekend we ran into some old friends up on the mountain who decided to call it quits early, because some of their boys had gotten their gear wet.  This is a group of older and young men whom I admire and respect – they’ve been my mentors, and they definitely are not quitters. I’m sure it was a tough call, but they made the right call their campout early for safety reasons.

I was very proud of the Trailmen, however.  We’d spent the better part of two months preparing for our first winter campout.  One of the most important lessons the boys took away with them was, Stay Dry!  That’s VERY difficult to do on a campout like we experienced in January, but these young men did great and made us proud.  Did we like spending 13 hours in our tents because it was just too wet to even have a campfire?  Nope.  But the Trailmen put their knowledge into practice, and woke up in great spirits, dry and warm, ready to take on the new day.  I hope that next winter the weather is a little more cooperative, and the boys get the opportunity to see what a real winter campout should be like.

If you’re looking for some good, clean, outdoor adventure, and would like to check out Trail Life USA, we’d love for you to stop by one of our meetings.  Check out our calendar on this website.  In the meantime, continue to Walk Worthy!

Posted in Adventure, Adventurers, Backpack, Camping, Navigators, Safety, Winter | Leave a comment