GUEST COLUMN: Boy Scout reflects on an epic hike

Ten scouts and six adult chaperones from Marblehead’s Scout Troop 11 are back from a two-week hiking trip to Antelope Canyon and the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks over the summer. The Scouts, ages 14 to 18, faced 110 degree temperatures and water shortages. They also braved challenging conditions on the trails, but they persevered and had the trip of a lifetime.

Marblehead Scout Troop 11 hiking through Antelope Canyon in Arizona. COURTESY PHOTO

Thirst aid

The central adventure for the trip was backpacking at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The Scouts split into two groups. The older Scouts descended to the bottom of the Canyon and the younger scouts hiked along the edge of the north rim, gaining some great views into the canyon.

The older crew backpacked 30 miles over four days along the North Kaibab Trail down to the Colorado River and then back up to the north rim. Heading down the canyon, the group was hit by a freak cold snap on the first morning. In one day, conditions ranged from hypothermia to near heat stroke temperatures. But they were greeted with the most gorgeous sunrise they had ever seen.

Later, the hikers sometimes felt like they were trekking across a frying pan with temperatures getting as hot as 110 degrees. Salt pills and electrolytes became their daily fare. Pacing themselves by hiking only from pre-dawn to midmorning, the Scouts were rewarded with stunning canyon views. The younger Scouts backpacked 15 miles over two days in a remote section of park along the north rim itself. The end point of the hike was Tiyo Point which offered spectacular 270-degree views down into the canyon making the journey well worth the effort.

There are no reliable water sources in this section of the park, so the crew needed to carry all the water for the hike with them from the start, giving them very heavy backpacks. Getting to the trailhead in this extremely remote section of the park was an incredible challenge, and the crew was thrilled they overcame it. They stayed a third day to enjoy the pristine wilderness before returning to the north rim campground.

Getting soaked and loving it

From the Grand Canyon, Troop 11 traveled to Zion National Park, where they hiked the famous Zion Narrows, a series of slot canyons that wind along the Virgin River. The Narrows was a wet hike, with water levels often getting up to the hikers’ shoulders and at times even over their heads. To prepare for this the scouts were equipped with waterproof gear. They also had to be careful not to slip on the rocks, but getting dunked in the river was a welcome relief from the heat that soared to over 100 degrees every day of the trip.

Among the ‘hoodoos’

The final stop on the trip was Bryce Canyon, where the scouts hiked the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail. This trail takes hikers past some of Bryce Canyon’s most famous “hoodoos,” rock spires created over millions of years by erosion. The scouts and chaperones were awed by their epic excursion. They learned about teamwork, perseverance and desert survival, most importantly never to waste water again. Troop 11 is already planning its next backpacking adventure for summer 2024 and is actively seeking new Scouts to sign up and join them.

Clive Connolly, a Marblehead High School junior, is a member of Troop 11.

Clive Connolly
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