On June 10, 1989, I had the extraordinary opportunity to lead a group of Girl Scouts on a backpacking trip. Our challenge was to hike the entire 70 miles of the Laurel Highlands Trail in Pennsylvania. The group had done weekend excursions and lots of miles on local walking trails in preparation for this adventure. “Were we really prepared?” was the question on most minds as we left Ohio that first morning.
There is no way to describe everything that the next nine days would hold for this group. Thanks to the pre-trip conditioning, most days were like leisure hikes in the woods. Time was spent watching the whitewater rafters far below, playing games to get better acquainted, writing songs that told about our adventure, and truly taking the time to enjoy the unspoiled wilderness that was around us.
The group got closer and the challenges were more easily overcome. On the third day the rain started and didn’t stop again until day eight. Five days were spent wearing ponchos walking in a steady downpour. This co
uld easily have dampened everyone’s spirits but the group just marched on while singing some of their favorite rain-related songs. When the rain finally stopped, we traded raindrops for caterpillars. We found ourselves in an area that was infested with gypsy moth caterpillars and they were literally falling out of the trees on to us. Thankfully, we were able to hike through that area and reach a beautiful overlook that took in the Youghiogheny River valley.
We were doing such a good job that even the park rangers, Sam and Joe, were impressed. They checked on us at the camping areas and shared pictures of animals they had seen in the area. On our last night, Sam treated us to homemade apple fruit bars as a reward for how easily we had completed the entire trail. Believe me, that was a treat after eating backpacking food for eight days.
Nine days and 70 miles later, the Highlands Bunch accomplished their goal. Everyone was proud that they had enough guts to go for it, enough strength to do it, and were just crazy enough that they weren’t talked out of trying. Numerous songs came out of the adventure, but the group’s theme song was set to the tune of The Brady Bunch.