How do you get a 250-pound picnic table up a steep 1.2-mile mountain trail?
That’s what I wondered when my son found his Boy Scout Eagle Project.
After much asking and researching, and even hoping that someone might approach him with a project idea, I was quite proud when my son came up with a project on his own last spring.
We were hiking a popular local trail, the Mineral Ridge National Recreation Trail, one which we’ve traversed several times a year for the past ten years. It’s a 3.3-mile loop, with the first third of it being quite a strenuous trek up to the top of the ridge.
Quite often, we’ll bring a picnic lunch or snack with us to eat when we reach the top. It’s a good place for a little rest before walking along the spine of the ridge and admiring the beautiful lake views. At the top, there is a small bench and an old wooden shelter. No place for a family or group to sit and eat.
So, my son had the idea to do something about that. The shelter was kind of useless, and a bit unsafe, while the ground underneath was uncomfortably sloped. He decided to redesign the shelter, level the ground, and place a heavy-duty picnic table there.
Sounds easy, right?
It might have been, if not for that 1.2-mile trail. My son would have to coordinate the transportation of over 500 pounds of materials, tools, and supplies to the top of the ridge.
Oh, but first he had to measure and sketch and think. Which meant, before the project even began we’d hiked that thing so many times I began to have dreams about it.
And, every time we’d go up, I couldn’t help but notice how bad the yellow jackets were around the shelter.
Late in the summer, on our last planning hike, a man suffered a heart attack and died right in front of us on the trail.
I wasn’t feeling very good about the whole thing.
But the idea behind an Eagle Project is to challenge the Scout to plan and coordinate properly, and then to lead the effort to finish the task.
I’m happy to say I shouldn’t have been worried. My son rallied enough friends and family to lug 80 pounds of concrete, 150 pounds of gravel, and 100 pounds of lumber up that trail over the course of two days.
Then came the big day of work, when a dozen of his fellow Scouts went up to dig, cut, paint, drill, and nail.
Over the course of 5 hours, I watched my son be a leader, and make it all come together.
There was just thing left to do. That 250-pound picnic table.
This was some serious table. 8 feet long, heavyweight aluminum, rubber coated, designed to last forever in the rugged outdoors.
My son brainstormed numerous ideas for getting it up to the top of the ridge, including using a horse or motorcycle to pull it. But the BLM said no motorized vehicles and no horses. It would have to be done with sheer muscle.
After building a fancy wooden rig to lift the table onto the shoulders of six older boys, he realized this would not be sustainable for the entire trail.
Finally, someone suggested a game cart. Not being hunters, we had no idea what this was. These 2-wheeled carts are built to haul heavy game across rugged mountain terrain. We borrowed one, and my son figured out the best way to strap the table, benches, and legs onto it, so it was perfectly balanced and extremely secure (duct tape is amazing).
That’s the answer to the question. You get the table up the mountain with a game cart. Oh, and 6 strong boys pushing and pulling this contraption up the trail, taking lots of breaks, rotating jobs, and only dumping the table off the narrow trail 5 or 6 times.
And then anchoring it into the ground with 80 pounds of concrete. That table is not going anywhere.
With the project completed, my son just has a report to write, and a few bits of paperwork, and then he can go up in front of the Board of Review to see if they think he deserves the rank of Eagle Scout.
If only they had climbed that trail as many times as I have, the decision would be a no-brainer.