This trip to Gettysburg in October 2019 was the most ambitious as well as one of the most memorable trips our pack has done in my tenure with Pack 802. For the last several years our pack has followed a strategy to offer a somewhat easy/accessible camping option in September to cater to our new families followed by a larger premier event in October. This trip easily qualified as our premier trip both on the expense required by the pack and the sheer amount of programming included in a short period of time. We scheduled this trip over a three day weekend in October to allow an extra day to complete our hike segments. This also left Sunday open for scouts to continue exploring Gettysburg, including other elements of the Heritage trail program, after breaking camp.
By design this trip was intended to cover a lot of activities in a short period of time and did not leave a lot of room for free time. One of the ways we “created” extra time over the weekend was by reducing the amount of time required at camp to prepare meals by planning ahead and using a crockpot to heat part of dinner while we were out hiking. Additionally, we had a few adult leaders return to camp early so they could finish dinner preparation before the scouts arrived. I am a huge advocate for involving scouts in camp chores but that was traded off for this event to make our schedule more efficient.
The primary focus of this trip was to enable scouts an opportunity to visit Gettysburg and learn about the the historic events that happened here during the Civil War while also working on completing the first two of five required elements of the Gettysburg Heritage Trail Guide. The first requirement of this Historic trails program requires scouts to visit the Gettysburg Visitor’s Center and National Cemetery and discuss about a dozen questions located within the handbook. The second requirement of the Historic Trail requires scouts to hike the approximate 10 mile battlefield hike known as the Billy Yank trail. The historic trail guide does not offer a map but rather requires scouts to navigate by following the step-by-step directions provide within the trail guide. To make this hike accessible for Cub aged scouts I chose to divide the hike into two approximately 5 mile segments and performed a majority of the navigation to keep the scouts on track. The Webelos scouts that attended the trip took turns helping with navigation using a map I created ahead of time and facilitating the group discussion by reading the several passages located in the book. If you are interested in learning more about this Heritage Trails program, please refer to the additional posts on the site that cover each requirement in significantly greater detail.
The secondary programming for this trip was intended to take advantage of as much of the campground’s halloween themed activities as possible. The campground scheduled trick-or-treating very early in the afternoon on Saturday, which was the prime time available for our hike so we opted to skip the treats and made up for it by conducting our own trick-or-treating on Saturday evening. A few of the RV campers in our area still had some leftover candy and the pack purchased enough candy so that each family in our group could also pass out candy. Our schedule did permit us to take advantage of the campground’s hayride and the haunted fort after dinner and before we completed the flag retirement ceremony. Additionally, we planned to have a light continental style breakfast on Sunday morning to allow us to pre-pack most of our pack equipment into the trailer on Saturday evening. Families that were interested in having a hot breakfast were able to take advantage of the free pancake breakfast offered by the campground.
Finally, we took advantage of our location and incorporated a flag retirement ceremony as a way to close out the long and eventful weekend. While the ceremony went better than expected, it possibly could have been improved by deconflicting it from the haunted fort. Since our campsite was within earshot of the haunted fort we could hear other guests laughing and screaming during our otherwise solemn ceremony.
One of the best parts about a place like Gettysburg is there is so much to see and do that it is possible to make return trips without having to repeat the same activities. This trip plan could be modified to incorporate more in camp activities or alternative requirements from the Heritage Trail guide. I try not to camp at the same location two years in a row but think this is a good candidate for a return visit perhaps every 2nd or 3rd year so that an interested scout has the opportunity to complete the entire Heritage Trail program over the course of his or her Cub Scout tenure. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that this trip was by far the most expensive camping trip we have had in recent years. Between the higher than average cost per person for camping at a full-service campground, the cost of admission to the visitor center, and the cost of patches for scouts that completed segments of the Heritage trail it really adds up. I strongly recommend packs plan events like this well enough in advance so that it can be properly budgeted for with fundraising.