High Adventure Explorer Post
Sixth in a series [left to right] Christopher, William, Jeremy, Teipei, Cactus, Scott, [Jessica is sitting between Scott and Jennifer], Jennifer, Lee, and that's me behind the camera.
Big Hill Pond State Park
Fifth in a series. In this image Jessica, Cactus and Jennifer are taking a break before entering Dismal Swamp.
It's important to structure your backpack team. For each hike [or for each day of an expedition] I would assign a first guide and second guide for the team. The first guide was the navigator and set the pace for the entire team. No one hiked in front of the first guide. The second guide always brought up the rear. No one hiked behind the second guide. Cactus was always our second guide, not because he was a slow hiker [he could out-hike any one on the team] but because he had a great amount of hiking knowledge and he always carried the trail first aid. Each member carried their own small first aid kit, but Cactus' kit included things like braces, big bandages, aspirin, snake bite tools, and plenty of moleskiin [for blister repair]. Cactus always wanted to know exactly where the team was, and if he was the second guide, then he knew no one had fallen too far behind.
As adviser my responsibility was to ensure that the hike was going well, the pace was good for everyone [although it was not unusual for there to be as much as an eighth of a mile between the first guide and the second guide] and lend assistance to anyone who might having difficulties along the trail [pack repair, boot repair, minor trail first aid, advise and instruction]. I would start the hike at the front to check the pace set by the first guide, slow my pace until I was at the back with the second guide, checking on each hiker along the way, quicken my pace until I caught up with the first guide.... and then do it all over again.
To ensure that we stayed together as a team, we scheduled a 5-10 minute break once every hour [10 minutes for the leaders, 5 minutes for the slower hikers]. The first guide would also stop at every major trail junction until the entire team was there, so no one would take a wrong turn. We studied the trail maps before embarking, but young hikers don't always pay close enough attention to the details of the map... we learned from past experiences.
Big Hill Pond State Park
Fourth in a series This was taken on a shake-down backpack trip to Big Hill Pond, in preparation for a week-long, 80-mile expedition on the Appalachian Trail during the summer.
Scott, Lee and Williams are taking a break to check the trail map and get their bearings. Three trail essentials on a backpack trip:  a current, well-oriented trail map;  a compass; and  a whistle, just in case you get lost.
Third in a series. In this image are Teipei [tee-pay], Lee and William, all members of our High Adventure Explorer Post in the late 80s and 90s. Notice that they all have on external frame packs. In the early years of our post we all had external frame packs, but after hundreds of miles of backpacking, in all kinds of weather, all types of terrain, we began to research pack types and hip suspension systems [the adjustable padded belts on backpacks] and as a team we collectively decided that internal frame packs were better. In external frame packs, the heavier weight is placed near the top of the pack. This placement is better for the wearer's back but it tends to cause hot spots on the hips, as well as instability when traversing rocky or other extremely unlevel terrain. Internal frame packs hold the load closer to the wearer's body, with the heavier weight being packed in the center of the pack, close to the back. The hip suspension systems on internal packs fit more snug and secure and tend to be far more comfortable with less movement. The only downside with internal frame packs is the tendency of the wearer to perspire more because the pack fits so snug against the back.
I used a Jansport K-2 external frame pack from the 70s until the late 80s and thought I would never find a pack I liked better. Then I got a Mountainsmith Frostfire internal frame pack in the late 80s. I'm still using it today. I know there are probably packs out there there that I would love to own, but my Mountainsmith still works great for me. It's seen a lot of miles...well over 5,000.
Big Hill Pond State Park
Second in a series. William and Scott [a new member of the High Adventure Explorer Post] enjoy a game of chess following an intense wide-area game of Capture the Flag.
This image is from a weekend shake-down backpacking trip, during which we talked about the gear the team members brought on the trip [or didn't bring] and then discussed what gear was absolutely necessary on up-coming long backpack trips and what gear could be substituted or eliminated. For instance, in this image there are at least three items that could be eliminated or substituted.  The old-style lantern sitting on the ledge in the background would definitely not be part of a long trip [4 days or more]. The lantern could be eliminated all together. A small Maglite lightweight flashlight [or something similar] can provide all the light you need, without you having to deal with a fuel-consuming, heavy, space-needy lantern.  Even though a full-size chess set is awesome to have, it is not very practical on a backpacking trip. The board is big and awkward to pack. If you absolutely cannot be without your chess set, find or make a cloth board that can be rolled or folded and stored easily in your backpack, without adding a lot of weight. Bring small, lightweight chess pieces stored in a heavy duty ziplock bag or a small, clear, plastic container.  Blue jeans are not the best choice for hiking and camping. When they get wet [during a rain or when fording a stream] cotton stays wet and heavy for a long time. Choose lightweight, quick-drying clothing for all your hikes.
Always take size, weight and practicality into consideration when planning for a long backpacker.
For several years I was the adviser for a Co-ed High Adventure Explorer Post. My backpacking buddy, Cactus, was the assistant adviser. The main interests of the post were: backpacking first, then activities like rock climbing, rappelling, scrambling, spelunking, canoeing, whitewater rafting, orienteering, wilderness survival, trail first aid and disaster preparedness. The pre-requisite for being a member of our post was that the members had to also be members [and leaders] of a scout troop until they turned 18. Cactus and I figured if they were leaders in a scout troop then they already knew the basics of camping and hiking.... things like fire-building, camp set-up, cooking, care and maintenance of equipment like tents, backpacks, stoves, boots.... you get the idea.
Anyway, one of our favorite places to backpack and camp was Big Hill Pond. I still go there once or twice a year. Whenever we were preparing for a one or two-week expedition in the Smokies, we would go to Big Hill Pond to fine-tune our equipment, shake-down our packs [determine what gear we would actually use on a longer trip and what gear we could leave home], test drive new boots or a new backpack stove.... those kinds of things. We learned a lot of useful things about packing light during our shake-down trips. For instance, if you saw half the handle off of your toothbrush, that saves an ounce of backpack weight. If you remove your food from the containers it came in from the store, put it in heavy duty freezer ziplocks and label each bag with its contents and which meal it is intended to be used, you can save a pound or so from your pack weight [based on a week-long expedition]. The food thing also saves you a lot of time spent searching in your backpack for the right food at the right meal. Organization means everything on a long trip!
Cactus and I had an outstanding post. The young men and women in our post knew what they were doing. We limited membership to no more than 15 members. As the members graduated high school and went on to college, new members were added. In the image above [and for the next few postings to follow] we had a couple of new members. This was their first backpacking trip with us. And like almost every backpack trip we went on, it rained off and on. It was great to have a shelter on this trip, instead of tents. That's Christopher [a newbie] hanging off the top bunk of the Grassy Point Shelter.