For Paul Swinney, an upcoming freshman at Cartersville High School, completing the 104-mile trek at was not only a physically challenging, but mentally challenging adventure. He said, however, through the challenges he learned about what he is capable of doing and had a great time along the way.
“The thing is, you always have that inner thought of ‘What if I’m not prepared?’ and ‘What if something happens?’ and I have Type I diabetes, so that was a little worse for me because I thought ‘What if something happens and I can’t take care of myself?’ ... and the last thing I wanted was to be taken off the trail,” Swinney said. “Now I feel like I can do anything. It feels like there are no limits now because [the trip] was so amazing.”
He added, “It was a life-changing experience.”
Swinney said his favorite aspect of the trip was viewing the sunrise at the top of Baldy Mountain, which rises to 12,000 feet in elevation.
While the original route the troops planned for was thwarted due to a wildfire, the troop did not miss out on much. From ziplining to mountain biking and whitewater rafting, the troop had plenty of fun on the trip, said Assistant Scoutmaster David Matherne. However, the troop also saw the only preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex footprint in the world and engaged in a conservation project.
“We learned a lot about forestry and the way foresters maintain and conserve,” Matherne said.
While no troops were injured on the trip, there was some minor dehydration, Matherne said. Swinney said one aspect of the trip highly motivated him to stay hydrated.
“It was a little bit scary every time we came across some [animal] bones ... and every time I saw a set of bones I thought now might be a good time to drink some water,” Swinney laughed.
Beginning at age 6 as a Tiger Cub, Swinney said he was encouraged by his father to stick with Scouting and said the organization has helped him grow as an individual.
“These Scouts hiked up the mountain as boys and came back as young men. I’m very proud of them,” Matherne said. “They faced adversity like they never had before.”
He added this included having to bushwhack throughout the area as well as hone their navigation skills.
Matherne said the route taken by the troop was the most difficult at the ranch.