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Second Week - Shotgun THURSDAY
Last night and today were a massive logistics scramble as the boys prepared for their field treks in two groups. They’ll be backpacking for the next three days, a total of about 30 miles along the Laurel Highlands Trail between Seven Springs ski area and Ohiopyle. Group 1, led by Jason and Dawa, will start from Seven Springs at the end of today’s adventure and emerge conveniently at the Wilderness Voyageurs shower house in Ohiopyle (note the strategic adult planning to avoid any auto transport of boys after 3 days of backpacking). Group 2, led by Nima and Jack, are starting tomorrow morning in Ohiopyle on the reverse course. No word yet if there will be a ceremony when they cross on the trail.
So the boys evening and morning involved repackaging food for backpacking (it’s just amazing how much packaging garbage you need to shed for modern foodstuffs), tearing down camp and packing up backpacks, re-packing backpacks to get things right when Bob prods and pokes them, etc. Eventually packs get loaded and the Steinl van leads the way to Seven Springs, where we take a chairlift to the summit then hike back to the Sporting Clays facility for a late morning meet-up with our instructors.
Now for those who are not familiar with shooting sports, Sporting Clays are the wild and crazy version of trap or skeet shooting, where you try to track a small 4-inch clay Frisbee through the air and hit it mid-flight with a shotgun round – or sometimes two clay pigeons at once from different directions. In Sporting Clays, however, the clay pigeon throwers are set up to do the darndest things – fly toward you, bounce along the ground, take big looping arcs in the air, you name it! Seven Springs has been a great friend of the program, providing some superb instructors and rounds at cost for the boys, so it’s always a fun time.
The two outstanding shots of the day were Jack Wallace and Patrick Wellman, both of whom bagged 30 out of 50 gyrating clay birds. They even topped Scouter “Bill” Dunbar at 29 (who to be fair was flirting with the female instructor and getting harder stations). Patrick is an old hand who has improved significantly, but Jack was in his first shotgun outing and really proved to be a natural. Quite a few other boys logged great scores – Kyle Tokarz at 26, Nima and Dawa at 22 and 23, Drew at 25. Each of the boys seemed to have “favorite” stations that they got good at. We had quite a few first-time shooters in the group, all of whom bagged at least one bird despite the difficulty of the course, and everyone had a great time.
After a late lunch, the boys settled into the lodge to plan out their hiking plans for backpacking. This is an exercise the troop calls “TCPs” for “Time Control Plans” and essentially involves building a hiking plan that includes route, distance, elevation change, and resulting estimates of hiking time to determine when they need to leave and arrive each day, and when the rest of the troop should “freak out” and assume they need assistance. It’s quite an exercise and takes a few hours for boys who are building navigation and map-reading skills to work through, but they slogged through it. Actually, some of the slogging may have been due to the women’s beach volleyball and women’s whitewater kayak slalom Olympic events showing up on the large-screen TVs at the shooting sports lodge. Nah, the boys would never be distracted by such things.
Plans (mostly) in hand, the crowd took the Alpine Slide down to the bottom of the hill (“Wheee…”). Kind of lame this year because they put in some plastic track sections to slow people down (it was so much more fun when Mr. Fretz used to become airborne). Then, armed with backpacks Group 1 set off on their adventure. Eric reports from the field that they made their first campsite in fine time, and are well on their way. Group 2 departs tomorrow morning and is busy tonight getting things all set. After nearly two weeks, things in camp are almost calm.