The Final Hike

Five 10 mile hikes, and one 20 mile hike. That’s what’s required to earn the hiking merit badge for scouts, and is one of the many that’s required to earn the rank of Eagle. Each has to be done within a day, not part one day, part the next. The 10 mile hikes were pretty easy, but that 20 mile was a booger. My son had already had all but one 10 mile under his belt and wanted to finish it off this past weekend.

I smell a CAMPOUT!!!!

We decided on this a week ago and made plans. Only problem was, he didn’t realize he would be working with a friend all week on various welding jobs. The good ol’ manual labor kind of jobs. They were out in the sun, the rain, and the wind all week long. I think he put in more hours than I did last week, and all without the luxury of an air conditioner. I’m sure I still worked harder though. 🙂 So when Saturday got here, I was getting out of work at 4pm, ready to go, but he called and said they’re still working. It will be another hour or so. The waiting game has begun.

He finally got home at 5:30, showered real fast, and we headed out. Our original destination was Abilene State Park. Nope, closed due to flooding. Let’s try Brownwood State Park. Nope, closed due to flooding. San Angelo State Park it is then. Don’t get me wrong, we love our park, but we’ve already done two of the 10 mile hikes here, and wanted a change of scenery.

We knew it would be muddy and figured we would try doing half on the good trails and half on the roads. There’s definitely plenty of both in our park. The southside was busy and the camping spots we wanted were already taken. We were looking at options when the Gatekeeper, a very nice Volunteer, mentioned she thought the North Concho camping area was pretty empty. She looked at her computer, and said, “yes sir, if you want to camp there, it’ll just be you and the park host.”  Sold!


This was a hiking trip, with camping involved. Not the other way around like last time. So we chose the same great spot we were in back in April, since we knew the area very well. We set up camp quickly and got our gear ready for the hike in the morning.

I’m not one to sit around too long when i’m out like this, so I decided on scouting a few spots to work on some timelapse projects for after the sun goes down.

I knew after 6-8 inches of rain in the last few weeks, the place was going to be a bit more “brushy” than normal. I wasn’t too far off that. Everything that was waist high a month ago was now head high. Out came the snake gaiters.


I found a spot I wanted to try, and made a note of the location and our self made trail to it. It all changes after dark, and made sure to mark a few waypoints on the trusty GPS.

Here was one of the spots I liked during the initial hike.


And here is a shot from the timelapse sequence I was shooting around midnight in that area.


After we got back from walking around, we collected some firewood and started getting food together. It was around 8:30pm. The wood was still wet, and gave us some problems, but Nicholas was on fire duty and took care of everything. It wasn’t too long before we had a nice bed of coals to cook over.


Fortunately we also had a break in the weather. The storms had been battering us for weeks with very thankful amounts of rain. The forecast didn’t say any were headed towards us, but we could see some fun in the distance. The wind hit us with 30mph gusts for about 20 minutes, and it was done. Hardly a breeze after that the rest of the night.


Once the wind died down, it was back to the food. Far be it from me to just do something boring. We needed good food for a long hike the next day. Freeze dried junk wasn’t on the menu. No, this night was a redo from last trip of Chicken and Sausage Gumbo with the sausage grilled over the fire, then sliced and thrown in the pot. It was a meal worthy of seconds…and thirds.



The rest of the night was spent talking and relaxing around the campfire. We were stuffed from supper, and I think the week’s worth of hard work was finally settling in on Nicholas. He dozed off a few times in the chair when there was more than a minute or so between conversations. I told him to relax for a while, and i’ll go get all my photo gear that was set up about a quarter mile away. It was getting late, around midnight, and I knew I had a tough hike there and back. Cross the river, bushwack through head high brush, grab the gear, turn around and go back.  All with only a headlamp. Sometimes I believe the headlamp is brighter than I am. 🙂


As I got my snake gaiters on, he got up and he decided to go with me. He strapped his gaiters on, grabbed his trusty kukri, and off we went.


We slowly made our way down the steep muddy bank, and the dew was so thick, our clothes were getting soaked as we walked through the brush. This isn’t a small bank, it’s roughly 25 feet to the bottom. He made it a little quicker than I did by slipping and falling twice down the side. He refused any assistance. We finally got to my gear, grabbed it all, and after one more fall on the way back, we were done with the night. We crawled in our tents and hoped for a restful night’s sleep.

The Hike

We got up early. Well, early as we could. It was already warmer than we hoped. We loaded up our packs and got to walking. Is was fast going at first. We walked the road from our camp to the trail head, a distance of .90 miles. The trail was muddy and overgrown in places, which was expected, and a lot of the time you couldn’t really see where you were stepping. We averaged 3.4 mph the first 3.5 miles. We found a good turn around spot and headed back when the mud started getting a little too think to keep the speed up. We got back to the picnic area for a rest and discussed how the next 3 miles would be taken care of.


We decided to head across the river and up to the Bald Eagle Campground. The bridge that once crossed this section is no longer there and as we looked for a suitable crossing area we watched about 6 bass, all in the 1 to 2 pound range swim by so close I could smell what they had for lunch. Once on the other side, it was a smoother path. The next 3 miles would be on pavement.


We made it back to camp and flopped down in our chairs. The sun had beaten us down, and now all the miles were starting to be felt. But it’s finished. We’re done. No more required hiking. From now on, whatever hiking is done will be of our own discretion. We love to hike, but sometimes it can feel like a grind when you’re trying to reach a certain goal. Next step is all the trip reports and paperwork to finalize the process. He had five 10 mile hikes…1 in the Guadalupe Mts, 1 in Los Maples, 3 in San Angelo State Park, and the big 20 mile in Seminole Canyon State Park. I was hiking with him in all but two, Los Maples and one in our park, those were with the troop.

I can truly say, each time was fun and rewarding. It could be tough at times, but we always tried to make it an event. Not just show up, hike, go home. We made them camp outs or a part of a bigger trip. These times mean the absolute world to me. I’ll keep doing whatever I can to be a part of their journeys through life, even if it means barely being able to get out of bed the next day…and the next day…and half of the third day after. 🙂

As stated, this is just one of many, many merit badge requirements on the road to Eagle Scout. They aren’t given out, they are definitely earned. And some are a lot tougher than others. This one was one of the tougher ones. Well, for me anyway.

Now, on to the next adventure!


Thanks for coming along,








Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman

Scott Gartman is a photographer and filmmaker. He is also an avid fisherman, kayaker, backpacker, and overall outdoorsman. His accolades are too many to list, as with the many streets and towns named after him. He's a legend in his own mind. Check out his home page at

4 thoughts on “The Final Hike

  • June 8, 2016 at 9:47 pm

    Great read buddy. I really enjoyed you taking me along.

  • February 12, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    What a fine lad being raised the right way by a great dad. I earned my Eagle rank about 1960 in Troop 1, San Angelo. Our scout house sat right on the south bank of the Concho River by the Navy Reserve building. I love reading about you and that good boy on your adventures together.


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