Greg Duckworth | Kings Mountain Shakedown
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05 Apr Kings Mountain Shakedown

Did you know that Greg Duckworth is taking another BSA Venturing Crew to Philmont Scout Ranch this summer? In preparation for the trip, the Crew visited Kings Mountain earlier this year. The North Myrtle Beach Times published a really interesting article that Greg wrote about the trip. The article also includes some beautiful photographs!

Kings Mountain ShakedownThe campground at Lake Crawford was the jumping off point for our 16-mile hiking adventure this past weekend at Kings Mountain State Park and National Military Park. Since learning last year that Troop 888 had been selected for another Philmont expedition, the Crew has been busy preparing for this year’s upcoming trek. This includes electing their Crew Leader, Chaplain’s Aide, and a Wilderness Pledge Guia, and then planning several training or shakedown hikes. Philmont Scout Ranch, located in Cimarron, NM, offers a once-in-lifetime, high adventure opportunity for eligible Scouts. Aside from attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, Philmont is considered by many to be the pinnacle experience in a boy’s Scouting career and it’s an opportunity for our Troop to share a unique summit experience. This spring, the crew has already hiked in the Uwharrie National Forest and has another trip planned to Table Rock State Park.

As the rain continued to pour, we rolled into camp well after dark on Friday night and, as luck would have it, we were in our tents just as the next heavy rain band passed through camp. Up not quite so early the next morning, we broke camp, packed our soggy tents, and registered at the trading post for our loop hike on the Kings Mountain National Recreation Trail. Constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1934, Kings Mountain State Park is one of sixteen South Carolina State Parks built by the CCC during the early 1930’s and 1940’s. It’s a popular destination for Scouts preparing for Philmont because the trail length closely simulates two average days of hiking out West – without the thin air and high elevations of the Rockies, of course! Still this trail has challenging terrain and is a great way to begin getting your backpacking legs under you again. Mother nature made sure we were on our game too – along with the rains, we were met with wet, muddy trails and steamy temperatures in the 80’s.

Even so, our troop is no stranger to this hike and for the third consecutive trip to Kings Mountain, we’ve continued to out hike each of our prior performances, in terms of time and distance! As a Scout leader, that’s a good feeling because we see our Scout’s leadership and outdoor skills getting stronger – there will be at least four Eagle Scouts on this year’s Philmont trek and one more of our Eagles will be at Philmont for the entire summer serving on their staff as a Ranger! Watching the boys, now they’re actually becoming young men, grow up in Scouting has been a rewarding opportunity and one of those choices in life that I would never trade. For one of these days, I am pretty sure they’ll be having Scouting experiences with families of their own. Along with the rain and the mud, mother nature was in full bloom making our tour through the forest canopy an ever-changing kaleidoscope of wondrous colors, sounds, and smells – maybe some of the smells weren’t so wondrous! The trail system here at Kings Mountain is pretty well set up with most of the deeper stream crossings provided by bridge – not the case in the Uwharrie National Forest where most required removing your footwear and fording the streams!

Lunch on the first day of our hike was streamside along a scenic section of the trail. The food for our shakedown hikes is the actual food we’re going to be eating while we’re on the trail this summer – as much reality as we can put into our hikes, we do. The Philmont Trail Meals are pre-packed in bags for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – each packet is designed to feed two crewmembers per meal. Breakfasts and lunches and typically meals you can eat on-the-go, although Saturday’s breakfast this weekend was freeze-dried scrambled eggs, not too bad. And our breakfast dessert (yes, dessert for breakfast) was birthday cake for Brandon, our resident Philmont Staffer – Happy 18th Birthday Brandon!

Either the miles on day one were deceivingly short or we were flying through the trails, but before we knew it, we’d achieved our primary campsite goal by mid-afternoon and still had plenty of daylight to burn, so we happily pressed-on to our distant campsite goal with time to spare. While preparing a lovely, hot pasta primavera freeze-dried dinner, we air-dried our tents and filtered some fresh drinking water from a nearby stream before a pop-up thunderstorm had us all ready and willing for another night’s slumber to the sound of rain pelting our tents. There’s really not a better night’s sleeping than one under the stars or stormy skies as it were this weekend – fresh air and a brisk hike under full pack will do that for you.

Our final morning left our crew with soggy tents again and just six miles remaining, so as we were rounding the halfway point of day two, we opted for a side-hike to Browns Mountain Lookout – elevation 1,045 feet, to enjoy an aerial view of the surrounding countryside. On our approach to the Kings Mountain National Military Park we were met with a sign on the trail that said, “Prescribed Fire Program – Trail Closed Ahead!” So, our last few miles into the National Park Visitor Center were by way of the park road. Thomas Jefferson called the site of Kings Mountain National Military Park “the turn of the tide of success.” At the Visitor’s Center we were reminded that the battle of Kings Mountain, fought in 1780, was an important American victory during the Revolutionary War.

Because of the prescribed burn trail closure, our hike became a four-mile run for two crew members as we retrieved vehicles from the campground. Finally back at camp, we enjoyed one more Philmont trail lunch while our tents were drying in the warm sun. As we set our sights for the coast, the crew reflected on our weekend adventure, dreaming, certainly, of the challenges and successes that await this summer in the Rockies.

As you read this story, the Troop is readying the bus for another excursion to Kill Devil Hills to experience the Wright Brothers National Memorial and the thrill of first flight. Troop 888 is a boy-led Troop that meets on Thursday evenings, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in North Myrtle Beach. We are advocates of the traditional Scout pioneering and outdoor skill methods. The Troop is very active, not only in membership but also in activities. We go on monthly camping trips and other high adventure outings, participate in a weeklong summer camp, spring and fall Camporees, as well as community service projects. The Scouts plan the places and activities in advance. For more information, please visit our website at: www.troop888nmb.org

By: Gregory Duckworth, Crew Advisor

To view a full size PDF of this article, please click the image at the top or this link.