Fall is a great time of year for hiking. The leaves are turning, and cool northerly breezes make temperatures just right for a walk outdoors.
As you plan your patrol hike, remember that it doesn’t have to be long or strenuous. It’s what you do on the hike that makes the walking worthwhile.
Here are some ideas from The Patrol Leader Handbook (BSA No. 32502A).
Orienteering hikes. Draw a route on a topographical map and use a compass to follow it to your destination. Pick out five or six landmarks—hilltops, lakes, buildings, and others—to serve as guideposts on the map so that you stay on course.
High-tech (GPS) hikes. Ask your senior patrol leader or Scoutmaster to stash a bag of hard candies someplace. Then have that person use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to record the exact route from a trailhead to that spot. When your patrol receives the GPS unit, see if you can follow the electronic trail to the candy’s exact location.
Exploration hikes. Hike in an area that is new to everyone. It could be in a forest, along an ocean shore, or through a grassland prairie.
Nature hikes. Lots of choices here—tree identification, wildlife viewing, star study, or examining creatures in lakes, ponds, and tidal pools. Ask a merit badge counselor or some other expert to go with you to provide more information.
Tracking hikes. Following the tracks of deer, raccoons, and foxes can reveal fascinating stories about their activities. Scouts may want to photograph tracks or make plaster casts of them.
Parent-son hikes. Invite parents or guardians on a hike. Teach them a few Scouting skills and wind up with a campfire program of skits and songs.
Patrol leader responsibilities: The degree of difficulty for any hike should match the experience and maturity level of your patrol members. Emphasize safety on every outing and have a plan of action in case an emergency arises.
Dress for expected weather conditions and wear shoes or boots that are comfortable and sturdy. When walking on the road cannot be avoided, stay on the left side, facing oncoming traffic.
And don’t ever allow hitchhiking. It may be dangerous, and it spoils the spirit of a Scout adventure.
Troop program ideas and methods for improving patrol teamwork, adapted from material by the late William (Green Bar Bill) Hillcourt or from other sources, appear periodically in this column.