You may not know this but there is a Boy Scout Merit Badge for hiking. It's also an Eagle Required badge along with swimming or biking. So, to make Eagle Scout you have to have one of those three. Sadly most boys don't choose hiking and go for one of the easier ones. In addition to a ton of first aid and paperwork requirements a boy has to do five ten miles hikes and one twenty mile hike to earn his hiking badge. Getting boys fired up to do this much hiking (and leadership willing to take them) is tough and those who get it are usually older - 15, 16, etc. My own son earned his last June when he was still 12, but a lot of people expected that.
I've been taking the troop out pretty regularly for over a year and I had two boys who only needed their 20 miler to finish. One of them had actually tried it in Sept, but ran out of gas early. This time I planned a new route to make it a little easier, but still not free. (My son got his by hiking Cloud's Rest from Happy Isles)
So in addition to another leader, my son and our two hopefulls, we got two other boys who still need some more ten milers, but wanted to knock out the 20 on this "easy" hike.
The route I set up was the PCT north from highway 74 to the Splitter Peak trail and then exit to it's trail head. The Splitter Peak trail is somewhat new and doesn't show on many maps. Depending on where you look the distance shows anywhere from 20-24 miles. It turned out to be nearly 23.
The seven of us left Wildomar at 0545 (another record) and headed to the Splitter Peak TH to drop the co-leaders truck. Temp was about 27 degrees as we all squeezed into my 6 passenger crew cab to the 15 minute drive to the PCT TH.
After getting everyone's gear sorted out and saying a quick prayer we headed out. The profile from the TOPO program showed the route starting flat and then climbing 2000 feet slowly over 8 or 9 miles before dropping straight down on our exit trail. We got moving before 0730 (still another record) so I was hopefull we wouldn't have too much night hiking.
Our first 3 miles went by quickly, but then a few of the video game specialists started slowing down. I had discussed bagging one of the peaks we would be passing with the other leader, but there was some concern about the timeline. (he actually had a 0700 flight for work Sun morning) We passed by Lion Peak just before lunch and I decided to skip the scramble to the top. A couple of our boys were barely holding 1.7 MPH as it was. Soon after lunch we hit the 7000 foot mark and I thought we were done climbing for the day. Somehow I thought the Pacific CREST Trail would stay near the crest.
As we came up towards Pyramid Peak I saw an easy use trail to the top. 18 months ago another leader had taken us up to the peak from the north - a nasty bush whack to the top that left us cut and bleeding. I was with our youngest scout about 10 minutes ahead of the group. We decided to go rogue and get us a peak. 1/2 the way up we saw the group approaching and another boy scrambling up. I knew this would cost us time, but the boys were loving it. We spent less than a minute at the peak getting pics and then the three rebels headed down to rejoin the group. The map showed the PCT passing within 200 feet of Splitter so we thought we could get the group up there before we made the left turn to head down.
Soon after we got a surprise. The trail lost 1000 feet of elevation in less than 2 miles. The boys loved the easy cruise downhill until I did the math for them - Splitter is at 7400 feet and the PCT strolls by at 7200 feet. We were resting at 6000 feet. The left turn was less than 3 miles away. The pace up the switchbacks past Splitter was very slow. We past it in the dark and it started getting chilly out. At the trail junction we regrouped and checked headlamps. Only my son and I had any night hiking experience so I took the lead with him in the middle and the other leader in the rear. Luckily we had hiked this section of trail before when I took them to Apache Peak/s. We went slow and safely and 13 hours after our start time we had 2 more merit badge qualified boys. The other two will be able to knock out some more ten milers and finish up. Sadly the rest of the troop is more interested in activitys involving sitting and resting. I can't change the world, but I can help shape a few lives.