Monday 6pm – We all met at the Scout House to pack the vans. They are full and we don’t yet have the people in them. PJ, Ryan and John from NC arrived and added their stuff to the pile. Sent everyone off to get a good night’s sleep.
Tuesday – Today was a heavy driving day – Thurmont to Indianapolis. Everyone was excited to get this show on the road. The vans were really stuffed. Seat negotiations were hot and heavy. Within 20 minutes all of the kids were snoozing! They slept most of the way. We stopped at a rest area in Ohio for lunch. For our first effort, a pretty good stop. The view along the way was mostly corn and soy bean fields as we traveled through Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio and into Indiana. We stayed at St Bernadette’s Catholic Church Retreat Center. A very nice place with all the comforts of home – hot showers, air conditioning and real beds! Girls slept in one dorm, boys in the other. Dinner was at Golden Corral, which filled everyone up. We had an older gentleman join us for about 20 minutes of (you guessed it!) Scouting conversation; he was happy to hear we were heading to Philmont. As we were leaving the restaurant, an impromptu gathering of Eagles occurred. I can now say with authority that it takes 7 Eagles to open a locked car door, as we stopped to help a young family with their dilemma. The kid’s used the basketball court at St. Bernadette’s to run off some extra energy (since they slept all day). We adults just showered and went to bed. The kid’s highlight of the day was rest stop leg stretching!
Wednesday – Indianapolis, IN to Springfield, MO to Hannibal, MO – What an early wakeup call for folks on vacation! We said goodbye to St Bernadette around 6am and headed off to meet Mr. Lincoln. We toured the Lincoln home and historic Springfield downtown area and then had lunch in the parking lot. After lunch, we spent about 3 hours in the Lincoln Museum and Library; a very interesting place with LOTS of things to learn. The kids were all very impressed. We met 3 new Scouts and Scouters as we toured. It is amazing how approachable one becomes when wearing this uniform. From there, it was off to Injun Joe’s Campground just outside of Hannibal. We set up camp and were able to get in about 45 minutes at the pool before dinner. Everyone enjoyed a very active round of Marco Polo. Dinner was again at Golden Corral with the buffet barely managing to fill all the teenage bellies (wow, do boys eat!). Again, the kids were up late and the adults were not. Today’s highlight was the Lincoln Library hands down. Ask them about ‘The Ghosts in the Library’. Many of them saw it more than once.
Thursday – Hannibal, MO to Sioux Falls, SD – Another early start! There is so much to see and so far to drive that we have to get going in the mornings. We toured Hannibal, climbed up to the lighthouse at the top of the bluff, climbed all the way back down to the Mighty Mississippi, played in the fountain (yes, with class A’s on) and smashed our own pennies on the railroad tracks; all this before 9am. That’s when the Mark Twain Museum opened! What a fabulous place; by far the most hands on museum I’ve seen in a long time. We saw Tom Sawyer’s painted fence, Becky Thatcher’s front porch and Huck Finn’s house; and learned a lot about Samuel Clemens too. From there we were on the road for a loooooooong stretch. Lunch was roadside again as we kept moving towards South Dakota. Eventually we left behind the corn and got into the grasslands. What an amazing difference 6 hours makes. Saw our first oil well pumping away in the middle of a field of sunflowers. Dinner was a fun time at Ruby Tuesday’s. Our huge group sat next to a birthday group, so we met Dave (a long ago Life Scout who wished he’d gotten his Eagle). He was so impressed that we were travelling with 7 Eagles that he asked for a picture of himself with all of them. After pictures and a round of Happy Birthday for Dave’s brother, we checked into the Sioux Falls KOA. The place was full to capacity with travelers on the move; mostly folks on their way to the Sturgis Bike Rally. We also found a group of girls that thought we had raised a good crop of Boy Scouts! The hands down favorite for today’s highlight were the two trains that smashed our pennies. We were not more than 6 feet from the slow moving trains as they rolled through the town of Hannibal.
Friday – Sioux Falls, SD to Rapid City, SD –You guessed it – another early start! We went through the Badlands today. What an amazing, awe inspiring desolate place. No wonder the Indians named it ‘land bad’ and the early settlers avoided it. The kids were all impressed. I can say that with no exaggeration. Had we not already had plans to see Crazy Horse monument, they would have stayed the day. It was hot and windy. We got out and walked around a number of the areas and the guys climbed through the bluffs and ravines. The ground is dry and crumbly, although the mineral color layers in the bluffs were beautiful. Did I mention it was windy? At lunch, the meat of someone’s sandwich blew off! We saw Bighorn Sheep (without the big horns) and shared table crumbs with the ground squirrels. Other than a few birds, that was it for wildlife. The drive out of the Badlands towards Rapid City was strenuous. The wind was moving at a steady 35-40 mph and pushed the vans all over the road. Watching the motorcycles battle it was scary! Once we hit Rapid City and got checked in at the YMCA that was hosting us for the night, we headed off to Crazy Horse. That took us up into the gorgeous Black Hills area. I could learn to live in the pine covered hills of South Dakota. The Crazy Horse monument is huge. Awesome, amazing, huge. I sure hope they get to finish it. We spent 2 hours at the site, which is also an Indian cultural center. They have an amazing collection of cultural items from the many tribes that cover the area. The temperatures in the mountains were about 40 degrees lower than the Badlands. What a change! Dinner was again Golden Corral as it fills the hollow legs we are travelling with up and is willing to work with my needs. Today’s favorite thing (I didn’t even need to take a vote) was the Badlands. They are already planning a trip back just to be able to stay and see all of it.
Saturday – Custer State Park, Wind Cave NP, Jewel Cave NP and Mt Rushmore NP (all in the Black Hills above Rapid City, SD) – We got up early, vacated the YMCA and headed up to Custer State Park before sunrise. This morning was so worth that early start. We were met by a very friendly buffalo stationed just inside the park. He and six of his closest deer friends welcomed us to the park and gave us great directions to the perfect breakfast spot. After cereal beside a wide spot in the mountain stream, we moved on through the park. We saw another buffalo and then about 300 more spread over several herds. Amazing! We saw turkeys, deer and antelope (almost too close to the front bumper!) and ooooodles of prairie dogs. There is one less prairie dog (his friends called him Kenny) in the park as we got to see a coyote have a little lunch right before us; and he didn’t even seem to care that we were all watching. We also came up on a buffalo relaxing along the side of the road. He snoozed while we took lots of pictures. We headed to Wind Cave and Jewel Cave next, looking for wildlife all along the way. The caves were cool and we got to see a number of formations we hadn’t seen before. We had lunch between cave tours. The group got a quick hike (3.5 miles) in as well. Then we were off to MT Rushmore. Another awe inspiring carving in the rock. What these guys did in the ‘30s with dynamite and basic jackhammers is just amazing. Dinner was Golden Corral with the biker crowd. The consensus on the best for today is the buffalo. All of them in general and the one right on the side of the road more specifically.
Sunday – Rapid City, SD to La Junta, CO – This was a long van day. We saw South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado. Breakfast was in Lusk, Wyoming at a really interesting rest area. They use solar and geothermal technologies. The kids can tell you that there is nothing but scrub brush from Custer, SD to Denver, CO. The scenery is beautiful but there is just so much of it. We ran into the first real traffic since we left as we came through Denver. Who knew 1pm on a Sunday would be rush hour. Lunch was another scenic affair. We stopped at Garden of the Gods and were awed by the huge red sandstone formations. The temperature was in the high 90’s but the humidity was so low – definitely different for us Easterners. Our overnight accommodations were at the Koshare Kiva in La Junta (. The building is beautiful and the museum was very interesting. The dance team is out on tour so we did not get to see the show. We slept on the dance floor in the kiva, though, and that was very cool. They even kept the trading post open last for us. We had dinner at the Village Inn. Just a diner style place but the food was good and filling. The kids hit the pie case pretty hard! Today’s best was hands down the dessert options.
Monday – La Junta,CO to Philmont Scout Ranch (PSR) just outside Cimarron, NM – Check in day had arrived! Matt and Christine met us at camp. The kids were eager to get started, which was good as they had a ton to do. I think they added 5 miles to their trek today just moving from place to place getting everything ready. First was crew check-in to get ranger and trail bound tent assignments. Ask about finding 10 tents in a sea of green canvas! Next it was off to Logistics where Kelsey and Jared got all the trail information for each crew. From there it was Med Check. We really loved the scale there as it took about 20 lbs. OFF each of us (OK – so the adults loved it more than the kids!). Next stop was to pick up food, tents and bear bags. The pile of food for each crew for just three days was crazy! It filled up all those half empty packs the kids left home with, that’s for sure. After the gear was collected, the rangers ran each crew through the packing checklist. It was funny to see each person holding up an item before stuffing it back in their pack but it sure made for an efficient process. We shared lunch, dinner and a religious service with our crews and about 500 other trekkers. Philmont certainly knows how to move folks around with efficiency. The exhausting day ended about 9pm as the crews went to their tents and the now much smaller road crew of 6 headed back to Cimarron for our last shared night. We filled the “Cowboy Cabin” at The Cimarron Inn, but we all had beds! Ice cream at the trading post won as today’s favorite!
Tuesday – PSR – Up again before the crack of dawn to see off the crews. Packs now weighed 40-55 lbs. There was more stuff lashed to the outside than ever! After a “few” more pictures, Jared and company boarded their assigned 8 am bus headed for the outback. Kelsey and crew followed on the 10 am bus. Both buses were full to bursting with trekkers from multiple crews, all singing along with the crazy rangers. They were off and only one of us left behind cried. We gathered up all of the laundry left behind from the car trip and headed for the laundry. Three and half hours later, 20 peoples worth of clothes smelled much better. Cooper and Max’s moms get the award for most stuff marked with names! Ben and John packed and repacked the vans so we could get everything inside (including the cartop carriers!). We stopped in Cimarron to have ice cream, which we earned slaving over the laundry, and then the three vehicles each headed in a different direction. Be sure to ask John and Beth, Carie and Devin, and Julie and Ben about their travels over the next 12 days. Each group traveled between 1,200 and 1,500 miles and saw some awesome country! No kid favorite for today as it was too early when they left but I vote for all the smiles they gave us as they boarded the buses.
Here the narrative belongs to the trekkers – there are so many stories for them to tell!! As a reminder, the camps and highlights for each day are listed below. 806-I1 is Jared and company and 806-I2 is Kelsey and crew. Be sure to ask about red roof inns, mini bears, dirt naps, tabasco donkeys and corn nuts
- Left Base Camp – hiked back to Ponil for root beer, cattle roping, horseshoes, shoe and hat branding and the evening program by the staff – arrived Sioux Camp
- Left Sioux Camp – through Ponil to pick up the burros (a story all unto itself!), spar pole climbing, logger ball, railroad tie making and “the company meeting” – arrived Pueblano Camp
- Left Pueblano Camp – through Head Of Dean camp, dropped off the burros at Miranda pens, tomahawk throwing at Miranda Camp – arrived Ute Meadows
- Left Ute Meadows – hiked Baldy, conservation project, commissary at Baldytown for food pickup – arrived Ute Meadows
- Left Ute Meadows – teamwork challenge courses (ask Cooper about the 58 second time!) at Head of Dean – arrived Santa Clause
- Left Santa Clause – lots of hiking, a creek bath, baseball with a stick and a tennis ball (806-I1 only)– arrived Martinez Springs
- Left Martinez Springs – shotgun reloading and shooting at Harlan, water pickup at Ute Springs (806-I2 only), commissary stop at Ute Gulch, big thunderstorm through the night – arrived Lower Sawmill
- Left Lower Sawmill -30.06 shooting and reloading at Sawmill, cave mining tour, – blacksmithing, gold panning, Stomp (806-I1 only) – arrived Cypher’s Mine
- Left Cypher’s Mine – black powder rifle shooting, blacksmithing, baseball with the staff (806-I1) – arrived Black Mountain
- Left Black Mountain– Mr. Snyder almost died climbing Schaefer’s Pass, climbed Tooth of Time (806-I1 only) – arrived Tooth Ridge Camp
- Left Tooth Ridge Camp – climbed Tooth of Time (806-I2 only) to see sunrise, Tooth Ridge Trail “of tears– arrived Base Camp
Friday – PSR – The pickup crew arrived at base camp before dawn to meet the incoming trekkers. 806-I1 arrived at the gate @ 7:30am and immediately gave Mrs. Stafford a group stinky hug. 806-I2 arrived at the gate @ 10:30am after climbing the Tooth! All enjoyed Snickers and Twix at the gate and ice cream at the post immediately following, then EVERYONE went for a shower because they were offending even themselves. The trail laundry was exchanged for all the nice clean clothes and 16 washers were started again. That had to have been the most offensive laundry ever encountered – the clothes were close to climbing in all by themselves! Equipment was returned, paperwork completed and homebound tents found. Dinner was hot, gooey, yummy pizza in Cimarron!! The vans returned to camp for final packing in preparation for departure the next day. The paragraph looks small but it was another packed day! Can you guess what the favorite was for today?
Saturday – PSR to Amarillo, TX – Josh, Cooper, Michael, Matt and Christine waved goodbye and jumped on the bus with Troop 727, heading off into the sunrise (sort of) for the Denver airport. The vans (now affectionately trail named Moby and Dick) found themselves pointed east at last. We had lunch in the great state of Texas at an amazing Visitor’s Center. Like most everything in Texas, it was huge! We knew we had reached the South as “y’all” and “bless your hearts” were heard regularly. Palo Duro Canyon was the next stop. The canyon is really cool geologically and really hot otherwise. The temperature at the bottom was 112 in the sun, dropping to a mere 100 when the clouds rolled over. We spent about an hour hunting for geodes. Mr. Snyder, Jared, Mr. Krontz, Max and Patrick each found one. Dinner was our last time through Golden Corral. We chose it so we could get done in a hurry as we found out last minute that the Kwahadi Dancers were performing and we didn’t want to be late. The dancers are from the kiva where we spent the night. The kiva was nice; the show was amazing. The dance teams are open to Boy or Girl Scout, ages 14-21. We were blown away by their skill. Check out their website sometime. After the show and a quick sweep of the kiva floor, we showered, rolled out the bags and said goodnight! The dance show was definitely the top for today- those kids were amazing.
Sunday – Amarillo, TX to Sallisaw, OK – Cereal by headlamp was a good start for today. We made tracks for Oklahoma City to see the Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The Cowboy Museum was really interesting. It covered everything from early Plains Indians and western cowboys to the current rodeo craze. Two hours was not enough to see everything they had on display in detail, and they told us that was only tern percent of the total stuff they have. Yikes! From there, we went to the Oklahoma City Memorial. The kids were very moved by this event that occurred before most of them were even born. They spent a lot of time listening to survivor stories and almost didn’t see the memorial itself. It was a quiet and reflective ride to the KOA in Sallisaw. Once there, the kids spent time in the pool and then we went to Mazzio’s for pizza. Boy did they order a lot of pizza. We brought leftovers back! You think cowboys and Indians would have been the favorite but it was the Memorial – they were really interested in learning about what happened.
Monday – Sallisaw, OK to Marion, AR – That should really read Oklahoma through Arkansas to Tennessee and back to Arkansas. We headed for Memphis after a great breakfast of cereal, grapes and leftover pizza. The kids slept a lot of the way as they are getting back to their night owl ways. We went straight to the paddleboat launch to get our tickets and then went to lunch. Yummy authentic Memphis BBQ at BB Kings Blues Café. Since the gang had been so frugal on the way out, we had a bigger budget to spend on this meal. Jared can tell you that the fried pickles are terrific but that Uncle Mo’s catfish is still the best. We headed back to the boat with full bellies and enjoyed an hour and a half tour of the Mississippi River and learned a lot of funny tidbits from the guide on board. A fair number of us enjoyed the ride with our eyes at half-mast! The KOA in Arkansas has a nice pool and game room. A good thing since they had saved ALL of the mosquitos for us. Boy, once the sun went down we were all diving for our tents. Everyone was zipped in, although not always asleep, by 8:30pm! Mention Memphis BBQ, watched their eyes glaze over and you’ll know what the favorite for today was.
Tuesday – Marion, AR to Nashville, TN – We were up and out early ( a good thing since the kids spent twenty minutes destroying mosquitos in the vans – it was a war zone!) as we headed to Shiloh National Military Park on the way to Nashville. Unfortunately, Carie and Devin were involved in a car accident that detoured us to Tupelo Medical Center. Everyone but the car walked away with only bumps and bruises. The car will remain with the very nice folks of Walnut, Mississippi. We can sure attest to the fact that Southern hospitality is alive and well as we were offered a place to stay and any support we needed by the people there. Fortunately, we were able to move on and restarted our trip by following the Natchez Trace from Tupelo to Nashville – the entire 444 miles! It’s much like Skyline Drive, only straighter. We saw trees, fields and cows for most of the length and then added deer and turkey at the end. At least until we got the cameras out –then there were none to be seen! The KOA in Nashville was really nice. We played putt-putt before dinner, ate a great meal at Santa Fe Cattle Co and were even able to get a little swim time in before bed. Today’s favorite was a person and not a place or thing – Mrs. Ruppel managed to squeeze the budget to get the play time in! She is loved!
Wednesday – Nashville, TN to Bristol, TN – Up with the dawn and out with the crows saw us off to the Hermitage – Andrew Jackson’s home. It was a nice morning to wander the open grounds and read all the history. We got a tour of the house as well. Like the Lincoln home, we wondered about the taste in wallpaper! From there we moved on to the Adventure Science Center. We had lunch in their parking lot, under the shade of the solar panels. We agreed they make a really nice picnic area! If you are ever in Nashville and have kids to entertain, ages 1-99, be sure to stop here. This was so much fun…climbing through a 4 story representation of the body and it’s working parts, navigating the flight simulator, watching the stars of Ancient Egypt in the planetarium, working on the space station in anti-gravity … the hands on approach made you want to do it all. It took at bit to get everyone gathered up and gone. Dinner was at Davey Crockett’s Truck Stop Buffet just before we arrived at the Bristol KOA in the dark. It’s a toss up – Science Center or Truck Stop?!?!? Both were interesting!
Thursday – Bristol, TN to home – One last morning to get up early, roll up our sleeping bags and tents, enjoy our cereal as the sun came up and get on the road! The tents were soaking wet from the dew as they have been the last several mornings. Low humidity is a good thing – at least for packing tents at dawn! We met PJ’s dad about where 77 and 81 meet and said our farewells to the North Carolina crew. It was fun having them along and we hope they enjoyed our company as well. The rest of the mornings ride was spent figuring out how long to the Sonic Drive-In in Winchester. After a yummy (I guess that’s relative to the eater!) meal there, we headed on home. We arrived at 3:15 and had cleared the vans, turtle tops and Scout House by 4pm. Favorite? Sonic!!!!