During their week-long trek through and around the Monongahela National Forest, Boy Scout Troop 365, of Worthington, Ohio, experienced the beauty and wonder of the forest and this picturesque view of the High Falls. Photo courtesy of Richard Fortner

Richard Fortner
Contributing Writer

From July 28 to August 4, Boy Scouts from BSA Troop 365 of Worthington, Ohio, and BSA Troop 51 of Manlius, New York, undertook an epic reunion trek of a 50 mile backpacking adventure through the Spruce Knob, Shavers Fork and Middle Mountain areas of the Monongahela National Forest.

Affectionately known as the “Mon,” the Monongahela National Forest was established 99 years ago by the federal government to manage the waste land of the cut forests of the Middle Mountain and Cheat Mountain areas where all the usable timber had been logged leaving the slash of limbs and tree tops to dry out in place and create a massive fire hazard as well as major flood risks. National forests in the east were primarily established to implement flood control as healthy forests are outstanding sponges.

Under the mantra of “Caring for the land and serving people,” the US Forest Service has led the recovery of these wonderful forests to make them the green jewels we enjoy today. The BSA is proud to partner with the Greenbrier Ranger District to provide volunteer service and educational opportunities about the ecological and geological importance of these forest lands.

Our trek was demanding but hugely successful. Per one hiker’s fitbit, he took 167,321 steps.

Assuming 10 hikers with two feet each, that is about 3.3 million footprints. That is all we left in the Magnificent Mon. We took photos and made memories that will last many lifetimes. We also improved the Gaudineer Scenic Trail and Overlook under our policy of public service. We are the “Good Turn Daily” guys.

We could not do this without the help and kindness of many people. Jonathon Wheeler, Recreational Specialist, Tony Longbucco, Fire Specialist, Joseph Rose and Joseph Whalen (interns) taught us the safe and proper use of the Pulaski and other forestry tools. We learned how to properly grade trail tread so that water does not erode the surface, and we did this without disturbing larger rocks to protect the habitat of the endangered Cheat Mountain Salamander. Hats off to the Greenbrier Ranger district staff who answered many phone calls and provided advice while we planned our expedition. Thanks, folks.

We also experienced the kindness of strangers. After suffering a flat tire some 17 miles into the Wildell area on a van that had no spare from the factory and placing our faith in a can of sealant and a 12 volt pump, we limped back to Durbin and Bartow where we happened to run into Jon Wheeler who had just finished his work for the day. Jon helped explain our predicament of non-working cellphones to the night manager of the gas station who then let us use her landline to call for a wrecker as the tire was now permanently flat. He also stayed with us until we had confirmation that a tow truck was on the way. When Mike Murphy, a man I know, showed up I knew we were in good hands. Meanwhile the night manager saw that we were somewhat disabled, and she pitched in to help transfer all our gear from the broken down van to the surviving van. Lots of stuff there was. I, too, was helped by a kind stranger. After circling in Durbin three to four times looking for FS Road 44, I was stopped at the Healing Waters Church taking a picture when she drove by. I flagged her down to ask directions. She started to explain, but then said, “Just follow me, I will take you there.”

She did just that. FS Road 44 is certainly well hidden in the Town of Durbin.

Special thanks to Suzanne Stewart and Jaynell Graham of The Pocahontas Times for the excellent, extensive and error free coverage of our trek in the paper. The photos were a real plus. The lads were duly impressed by the coverage of our event
We are also grateful for our corporate sponsor Cover My Meds who helped defray a portion of the costs of the expedition.

Finally, we owe a great deal of our success to our SAG (Support and Gear) Driver Judy Williams, who faithfully met us at strategic points along the way. The blisters, the sprains, the headaches, the soaking rains and the hail are but distant memories now.

What is the best thing about West Virginia?

Its people.

Thanks to all.
Richard D. Fortner, ASM Emeritus, BSA Troop 365
Oak Island, North Carolina

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