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2012 EXTRAVAGANZA 6 - VA Creeper Trail/Mount Rodgers

From Mr. Damon (Wednesday, May 23, 2012)
This is one of the most exciting events of the Troop 2860 calendar, the annual EXTRAVAGANZA (number 6) which is a four day, three night excursion featuring various activities.  This year we will be swimming, cycling and hiking, details of each adventure are shown below.
The most important thing for parents to know is that we are in need of people to drive the scouts to and from the camp.  Given that the Seabase trip will take a number of the regular leadership off the roster of available drivers I expect that there may be a shortage of seats.  If you are able to get away from work on Thursday and Friday, June 21 and 22 and are willing to drive a bunch of eager boys to one of the best events of the year please sign up tonight.  We are also in need of both trailers and people who can tow them, if you have a trailer for bikes that the Troop can borrow please see me.  At four days this is a great opportunity for first year scouts to get a taste of what being away from home at camp is all about.
If we do not get enough drivers we will have take scouts on a first come first served basis (except those scouts who have a parent who is driving).
Camp fee is $35 per camper.  That includes your pool fee at Damascus, three nights camping, and all camp food.  Patrols are reimbursed by the troop for camp food.  You will need some traveling cash for lunch on the way home.
We'll be visiting one of the best outdoor areas in VA.  The VA Creeper Trail is famous nation wide as one of the most beautiful bike rides available anywhere!  As if that's not enough, we're looking at bagging (that's hiker talk for summiting a peak) Mount Rodgers, the highest peak in VA.  This hike is noted as the best in VA.  We'll start at Grayson Highlands State Park, hit the trial through the Rhododendrons in full bloom, watch for the wild ponies on our route, and take the Appalachian Trial, the most famous hiking trail on the East Coast, up to Mount Rodgers.  Not bad for an 8 mile day hike!  Now that is some serious Boy Scouting!!  Get those bicycles tuned up and your boots broken in!  Much more info to follow.
Let’s start with one of the most famous mountain balds in Virginia- think 360 degree views of the mountains from the approach on Wilburn Ridge.  If you read any trail log you will see a complete overuse of the word “panoramic”.  Now add a herd of wild ponies that roam free on the ridge.  Oh, did I mention that the majority of the walk is on the most famous trail in the country- the Appalachian Trail?  Walk in the steps of those completing the 2,000 mile walk from Georgia to Maine and maybe you will feel a little inspiration to tackle more or even complete the trail itself.
And then, and this is the really cool part, you get to claim your first “peak”.  Our hike will take us to the highest point in Virginia- I will encourage all of our scouts to log the day and time, and would love to start a tradition among the Troop of reaching the highest point in all 50 states!  This is a lifetime “project” for many people and it can start for you right here!  If nothing else- it will give you something special to write in your “what I did on my summer vacation” papers in September!
We are planning on everyone participating in the 8 mile round trip hike.  We have all day, and will take our time (and LOTS of pictures).  This is one you will be talking about when you are my age (and that is OLD!).
What to bring:
-   a water bottle (two one liter bottles are recommended)
-   rain coat- well, I am coming so you know what that means!
-   sunscreen, hat and sunglasses
-   good walking shoes
-   a day pack to hold your water bottles, miscellaneous “stuff” and a lunch we will prepare before departure for the hike (provided by the Troop).
-   A great attitude!!!
And just to wet your appetite:
Lets talk about the bike ride for a moment. 
Your bike needs to be in good condition.  This is not a short ride (17 miles) and the trail is not perfectly smooth.  Your bicycle tires need to be in good shape.  Your brakes must be fully functioning.  Don’t forget your helmet.  No helmet, no ride.  The trail is packed dirt and gravel.  For the most part it's pretty good, mostly smooth and easy to ride.  But there's the occasional root, rut, hole and rock to give you a challenge now and then. 
You'll need to carry water.  A small day pack with a water bottle is great.  A camelback works fine or use a water bottle mount on your bike.  Bring water, not soda or anything with sugar or caffeine, both of which work against your hydration effort.  You should have a lightweight rain layer tucked into your day pack with your small med kit.  Whitetop Station is at a higher elevation and can be quite chilly at our start in the morning.  If you're not wearing your swim trunks for the day, then swim in what you have on or bring something to swim in and a small towel if desired.  My personal philosophy about swimming is get in the water, never mind what you have on, it will dry.  We plan to end our ride at the Damascus public pool located near the trail.  Our plan is to have the bike trailers there and load them while you are enjoying a swim at the end of your day.  Your entry fee will be paid by the troop, however, snack purchasing, if desired, is up to you. 
Lunch will be provided by the troop somewhere mid trail.  We'll make sure you can find the lunch set up.  You must sign in at our lunch stop.
We may be offering a special breakout group of "Long Riders".  This is for older scouts who are up to the challenge of 50 miles.  You will launch from Damascus, ride to Whitetop Station, return to Damascus, then make the last leg to Abington where the Long Riders extraction team will meet you.  You must be in good physical condition and your bike should be in tip top shape.  Most importantly, you must have the determination to complete the long haul.  Extraction on this wilderness trail is next to impossible if you conk out mid journey.  So is you a Long Rider or isn't you?   
For the rest of us, we are starting our bicycle journey from Whitetop Station.  We'll enjoy a nice 17 mile ride under shading hardwoods meandering along a trout stream crossing almost 50 small bridges of varying length.  We'll have a nice lunch and there's a place to get a snack along the trail.  Bring a little folding money just in case.  You are to stay with your team and know where your adult is throughout the ride.  You must sign in at the T860 lunch wagon as a safety precaution.  You are to have a troop riding buddy with you at all times. 
Safe riding and trail manners are very important.  There will be many other riders on the trail.  You must be aware of what is around you and operate yourself in a safe manner by not riding too fast or blundering around in front of others.  Always move to the right when being passed or meeting others on the trail.  There are a couple of gates on the trail that are to be kept shut after you enter.  This keeps the Brahma Bulls from escaping.  If one of these bulls starts chasing you, ride faster.  <<...>>
Gathering of the bikes.  We'll load bikes beginning on trailers Wednesday at a location to be determined.  Please do not wait and bring your bike on the 21st and expect us to have room or be able to take your bike when we are preparing to leave.  Bring it  before we leave so we can load and secure it carefully for the long ride to camp.  If you can carry your bike on your vehicle, great!
On trail bike and scout rescue.  All adults and senior scout officers attending should have some basic tools including tire changing tools, a tire pump, and some tire tubes of different sizes with them.  Please also have some large band aids and a med kit.  If you have short range walkies, please bring them.  Cell service is spotty at best on the trail. 
ASM Mitch Damong