by Lou Murray
Photo Credit: Pat Bolz
Andy Murray hiked 2500 miles in the Smokies before he ever got the opportunity to backpack with his Boy Scout troop from Powell, TN. Andy was an experienced hiker but right now he had a lot of other activities that seemed to interfere every time the troop had a hike or backpack going.
Finally in the spring of 1997, 16 year old Andy was free to participate in the troop's annual three day backpack on the Appalachian Trail. He eagerly showed up at the meeting point with frame pack, below zero sleeping bag, backpacking tent, and all the rest of his gear which had been well-tested in the Smokies.
Little did he know that Scout leader Dan, the father of one of the other boys, had his own ideas about what constituted proper Scout backpacking gear!
First Andy found himself in trouble at weigh-in time. The boys were limited to 35 pounds each, and somehow Andy's load totaled 45.
"Aw shucks, I guess I don't really need this six-pack of Surge!" Andy said, and jettisoned the soft drinks right off the bat.
Scout leader Dan wasn't satisfied with that sacrifice. "Here, don't take your own tent that you know how to put up blindfolded. Take one of the troop tents instead, it weighs a few ounces less."
"What're you carrying that trowel for?"
"Sanitation, Dan, you know?"
"Bullfeathers! Just do what the bears do. What's this thing here?"
"My folding bowsaw in case we need to cut up firewood or want to be good Scouts and remove a blowdown or two from the trail."
"Never heard of such nonsense! And here, take this sleeping bag instead, it weighs a pound less than your belowzero bag."
Andy repacked his load to please Scout leader Dan, whereupon the troop took off for the trailhead.
The first night's bivouac was at a trail shelter, which happened to be a quarter of a mile from the nearest water source. Some of the boys grumbled about the necessity of making several trips for water.
Andy whipped out his compact Campmor water bag. "Anybody want to use this? It holds a gallon and a half or so, but Dan told me not to bring it."
"Hey, that's neat, we can do it in one trip!" the other boys exclaimed.
Then there was a branch or two across the trail. "I wish we could get this out of the way," the boys said.
"I could take that out in two minutes with my folding bowsaw," Andy said, "but Dan told me not to bring it."
"Gee, there's a lot of trash around here," one of the other boys commented. "We ought to pick it up or something, but what would we put it in?"
Andy produced his 55 gallon trash bag. "You can use this. Just don't tell Dan, 'cause he told me not to bring it."
The second night was time for tent camping. Andy unpacked the tent Dan had given him.
"What's your problem Andy?" the scoutmaster asked, seeing that he wasn't getting his tent up.
"No tent pegs with this sorry thing! I had a perfectly good backpacking tent, but Dan told me not to bring it."
"Everyone knows better than to listen to Dan."
Andy scrounged substitutes and managed to get his tent up.
The next morning, for the last day's hike, Andy decided to stretch his legs a bit on the last few miles. Nobody could keep up with him. When the second boy finally arrived at the trailhead, he said, "Andy, you need some extra weight to slow you down!"
To which Andy replied, "I had some but Dan told me not to bring it."
Happy hiking to everybody!