Hiking Merit Badge has a few talky requirements about first aid and such, but the core of the beast is five ten-mile hikes and one twenty-miler. Ouch. I knew that we would face two big hurdles today: first, we are all out of shape; second, if you're only used to five-mile hikes (like these guys), you're going to have a bummer moment when you've done about that much and you're ready for the hike to end -- and it doesn't.
It was crisp and a bit moist when we started out, but not brutally cold. We drove to McCormick's Creek State Park and hiked from Canyon Inn down to the mouth of the creek where it enters White River. Then we hiked up onto the main ridge north of the creek until we came to Deer Run Shelter. There, we schlepped up Trail # 9 until it reaches the edge of the park, and we tip-toed down a utility line trail and over the park boundary.
After that, it was all road hiking. We stopped for lunch at a cool old cemetery. Shortly after stumping through Stinesville, we reached Red Hill Rd., and The Question was asked. The Answer came as a heavy burden: four and a half miles to go. But we mustered our courage and sucked it up and tromped off down the road. A light rain began almost immediately thereafter. The rain never got too bad: just enough to test our preparedness and our character.
T.J. was on the alert for signs of wildlife all day. He has to identify ten animals in the wild by sight or sign or call for Second Class. I think he got nine of them today: Gray Squirrel, Deer hoofprint, Bluejay call, Vulture nest, (Domesticated) Bison in a field, Canada Geese; I forget the others.
We made it back to the church just short of 3:30 p.m. -- almost exactly six hours after starting out at the park. That's quite a pace for anybody, and I'm proud of the guys. The next one should be easier, now that they're beginning to get an idea of what it takes to hike ten miles. They all went off, talking of hot showers and naps and such. Me, I went home and took my second Celebrex for the day.
Pictures are behind the cut. Click on any pic to enlarge.