We took the crew on a day hike to Cheesequake State Park on Saturday. We had a few errors with the map that resulted in us going the wrong way on the green trail. We realized the error when we reached the dock road. To head to the docks we should have made a left turn to head north. Instead it was a right turn. Since we didn’t have to be at a specific location, other than return to the parking lot, the mistake was a small one.
When we reached Dock road, the boys crossed the road and kept going on the green trail. Now we specifically wanted to head down to the docks. So Frank and I stopped at the intersection to wait for the boys to come back. After 5 minutes none of them returned. So we decided to wait them out. The rule in hiking is that if you get separated, after 5 minutes you should send a party back down the trail to reconnect. If after about 10 minutes the whole crew should retrace the trails to reconnect. The cardinal rule that should never ever be violated is to hike solo. Everyone should always be buddied up.
Well, after about 10 minutes a single scout came back down the trail. Oh no! So right there, on the spot, Frank & I decided that we need to have a safety lesson! We discussed with the lone scout the importance of staying with a buddy. The area of the country we’re heading to in June has the largest concentration of mountain lions and grizzly bears. There is always safety in numbers. After talking to the lone scout, we placed him on Dock road about 200 yards away, out of sight. Frank went down the green trail, found the crew and had them come back. At first they didn’t. The second time Frank went to get them, they finally came back to the intersection. As we sat there and discussed the trail and making a wrong turn, we did a head count and surprise, surprise, came up with one short!! For the first few minutes you could see shock on their faces. The shock turned into serious concern when they realized the scout missing was the one that went alone back down the trail.
So began our exercise in forming search parties and conducting a search. The crew formed three parties, each to head down a different trail for approximately 200 yards to see if they can find the “lost” scout. As we conducted the search, the crew realized Frank & I were just to calm about having a “lost” scout and they came to the conclusion that we were up to something. The one party that went down Dock Road found our “lost” scout. When the crew regrouped at the intersection we had a good discussion about the buddy system, about the rules of hiking and retracing your steps if the crew gets separated. From the time we initially came to the Dock Road intersection until the search was over took about 45 minutes. We lost a lot of time and ultimately shorten the total distance of the day hike, but the crew gained an invaluable lesson.
About 2 hours later the trail intersected a road and made a sharp bend. The trail was clearly marked and Frank & I were about 50 feet behind the crew. At the sharp bend I turned to Frank and said “not sure which way they went” – even though at that point we could still see the last scout in the line. So Frank & I waited. About 5 minutes 2 scouts came back. Good! They’re following the rules so far. We made the 2 scouts wait with us. About 5 minutes later the entire crew came back. Yes! The lesson is sinking in! For the remainder of the hike, the crew kept grumbling about the search and how they knew we had set it up. Yes! Let the lesson sink in real deep!!
So we ended up with a hike of about 4 or 5 miles. It was about 2 miles shorter than we had wanted, but it was so worth the time and lost distance. Our next hike is an overnight hike in Harriman State Park, NY. I can hardly wait to see what adventures await us!!