As part of a scout trip (as a backpacking merit badge counselor), I had a chance to try a loop in the Ellicot Rock wilderness. The scouts have to make three trips of two nights and at least 15 miles (as well as a five day trip of 30 miles), and this was the first for this lot. It gave me a chance to try some gear.
I was particularly interested in trying out some innov8 trail shoes and gaiters as well as using my Mountain Laurel Designs trail star tarp and quilt. Three of us (my son, the troop’s scoutmaster and me) had just been to Philmont and were lending our expertise to a group of (mostly) 8th grade scouts on their (mostly) second trip.
We drove up Friday night to Burrell’s ford campground (no reservations, first come first serve), so our first day’s trip was the quarter mile or so from the parking lot to the camp. Saturday was intended to be about 13 miles (by the maps and usually reliable guidebooks) followed by an easy 3-4 miles back to the cars. HA!. In one of my first posts, I described the inaccuracies of the maps in this area, and they came back to haunt us. In fairness the distances estimated by Google Earth are closer to the guide book. The profile in the trail map shows the 16 miles we did on Saturday. The distances weren’t the only problem, on some sections of the trail there was a downed tree about every 200 metres or so (maybe to keep the rif-raf out).
Anyway we trekked up the foothills trail, then down the fork mountain trail, and back the chatouga river trail to the car park. There was a well-mannered 2 foot or so copperhead about half-way up the foothills trail which was a great addition to the scouts’ list of critters for those working on first class. We camped in North Carolina, just north of Ellicot’s rock and the commissioners stone that mark the boundary. Troop 543 was camping at the campsite at the junction of the river trail and the fork mountain trail, and fortunately the site was big enough for us as well. (They’d come to fish – which for some reason isn’t interesting to our scouts). Graciously they shared with us and Sunday led us to the rocks (which you will miss unless you know where to look).
The innov8 shoes worked very well, the gaiters broke in the first seven miles, and the tarp and quilt performed flawlessly. The scouts thought the trail star tarp was cool. It certainly fit my son and me with room for two more in a pinch.