Saturday, October 18, 2014

Hiking Merit Badge Earned; Now Let's Go Backpacking!

by Brian Schwarz

I'm ready to move on from the Hiking Merit Badge requirements and begin with Backpacking. The fact is that even though I didn't do the 20-mile hike as prescribed in the Boy Scout Requirements for the Hiking Merit Badge, I have more than earned it. Besides the fact that I've planned and executed several hundred hikes, including more than 60 during which I led groups), I also have to consider the level of difficulty of the hikes I've done.
Boy Scouts of America Hiking Merit Badge
The average 20 miler executed by a Boy Scout is along fairly level terrain. According to the Sierra Club hike rating system, this means one of these typical hikes could be rated as low as 20 if there is no significant elevation change (1 point equals 1 mile). Every 400 feet of elevation gain and/or loss is also equal to one point.

Case in point, in June of 2012 I planned and executed a hike to the South Summit of Sandia Mountain in New Mexico. This hike was 10 miles out and back, but with 3,000 feet of elevation gain and 3,000 feet of elevation loss, the hike would be rated at 25 - higher than what would be required by the 20 mile hike done on relatively flat terrain. And this was not even my most strenuous hike. Later I hiked the South Summit from a different route - a 12 miler with 4,000 feet elevation gain and 4,000 feet loss - which would have been rated as a 32 on the Sierra Club hike rating scale.

So with that, I am ready to move on. I consider the Hiking Merit Badge requirements to be complete and am excitedly moving on to Backpacking. Stay tuned as I ramp up to tackle this beast of a badge!

PS - I'm not giving up on doing a 20 miler or even completing the three-day 30 mile challenge I set for myself in a previous post. I simply realized that those two things were not necessary for me to consider this Hiking Merit Badge challenge complete for myself based on all that I have accomplished in hiking over the course of recent years. I'm just ready for this new challenge to begin and am setting my sights firmly on completing it. Next weekend I complete training to become an official member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's Trail Patrol and in November I train to become a Sierra Club outdoor leader. I've also taken a job where I'll be exposed to all the best outdoor gear, so it is time for me to give my full focus to this and other new challenges.

Brian Schwarz is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. Way to old to be an actual Boy Scout, Brian has set a goal to complete the requirements of Eagle Scout by his 50th birthday in August of 2021. While some slight modifications are made to the requirements along the way, the spirit of the Boy Scouts guide all efforts Brian has on his journey, living life as a Man of Merit.

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