Once your Patrol starts taking on a life of it’s own your Scouts will want to do more ambitious activities. A field trek is hiking adventure with a purpose, and it’s a great thing to do with your Patrol. Make sure field treks are part of your Patrol operations plan.
The purpose of the trek is only limited by your imagination and initiative, here’s a few ideas:
Pick a place you haven’t visited before and challenge the Patrol to discover every foot of it! As you follow trails across the landscape, give each member of the Patrol a specific kind of detail to observe – one notices the different types of trees and other plants, one looks for animal life, another notes all human structures or improvements, etc. As each Scout collects data, the Scribe assembles it all into a detailed profile of the place. You can all talk together about the different strengths and weaknesses of the area. Would it be a good place to survive off the land? What would be the best way to defend it from a horde of invading orcs?
Wilderness Survival Trek
Practice the wilderness survival skills, shelter building, different ways to build fires, utensiless cooking.
Sometimes it’s even more exciting if you don’t know where you’re going! This is a great trek to do in town or in an area with lots of trails. Choose a starting point, and each time you come to an intersection, flip a coin – if it’s heads go right, if it’s tails go left. Keep track of each turn on a map, but challenge the Patrol to memorize the route and find the way back. Set a time limit and turn back halfway through the time you’ve chosen. This kind of trek is great for developing direction-finding skills.
Treasure Hunt Trek
Prepare for this trek by planning a route and leaving directions or clues along the way. The clues could be notes or trail signs you make that lead to the final location where the treasure (the patrol’s favorite snack, for instance) is hidden. Can your Patrol follow the clues to the destination and find the treasure?
This is a great trek to have soon after it rains, head to a wild area to find, and identify as many animal tracks as you can. You can try casting tracks in plaster. It takes patience – I spent many hours as a Scout practicing this skill in the woods near my house. It was fascinating to see how each track told a separate story of what each animal did.
Can you find a location with a stream and build a bridge across it? How about hiking to a hill and building a tower on it? Pioneering is one of the best activities to build your Patrol team dynamics. All of the members have a role – from the gear guy who makes sure you have all the materials to the scribe who makes sure you have good project plans. It’s a great challenge with endless possibilities!
Divide the Patrol up into two groups. Each group designs an orienteering course. When both are done, each follows the other group’s course. Building an orienteering course isn’t very difficult. I built one as a Tenderfoot Scout for my Orienteering Merit Badge. There’s no better way to hone your map and compass skills to perfection!
Planning the Trek
Planning is easier and more fun if you involve the whole patrol. This is where the Patrol jobs you’ve assigned really come to life! Here’s the different things you’ll want to pay attention to and who ought to be joining in to make the plan a reality (I put the position that can do the tasks in parenthesis):
The Patrol Hikemaster finds a good location. It may be a local park; it may be private property. With a little initiative and time your Hikemaster can find some great nearby trek locations. Finding a good location can seem like a daunting task at first. When I started looking, I was surprised at how many good locations there were not many miles from where I lived. It may be easier than you think to get permission for holding one on privately owned land.
Weekends are generally good times for Patrol Treks. If you are all free on a weekday afternoon, all the better! (Patrol Leader)
Often, it’s not the schedules of your Scouts that is the biggest constraint; it’s the schedules of their transportation. Many parents have jobs at different times. If your Patrol could pay some gas money, there is a good possibility one of the parents might pick up multiple guys from your Patrol and you could car-pool. (Patrol Hikemaster)
In addition to gas money, if you’re going to a park, there may be some entry fees as well. Plan for this in advance and figure out how much each Scout has to pay. ( Patrol Scribe)
Depending on your purpose and time constraints, either pack an easy lunch or bring the ingredients and cook a great meal. If you’re going to cook, plan it out thoroughly and make sure you are bring all the necessary gear. (Patrol Cook and Patrol Quartermaster)
Secure permission from the location owner (if needed), Troop adult leadership, and parents. Consult your Troop’s adult leaders about permission forms and make sure they have a schedule, itinerary, and a way to contact you during the trek. (Patrol Leader and Assistant’s job)
There are dozens of different Field Treks, and dozens of great locations a few miles from where you live if you look! You need the help of the whole Patrol to have a successful field trek, so inspire everyone to pitch in.
This sort of thing requires a great deal of responsibility from a Patrol leader. Consult the adult leadership of your Troop for advice on doing things safely, and ask them to be on call for emergencies, or to come along as observers if they think this is necessary.
What kind of field trek will you do first? What can you do to get your Patrol ready for it? Leave a comment below and let me know!