Hiking 50 miles in less than 20 hours may seem superhuman, but for members of Falls Church Boy Scout Troop 821, it was a matter of mind over miles.
That’s what Campbell Lloyd, Jarrett Jardine and Justin Murri did last month, accompanied by fellow scouts who marched almost half the distance.
The venture is part of the annual Alonzo Stagg “50/20” hike, named after the legendary football coach and College Football and Basketball Hall of Famer, who supposedly required his players to hike “50/20” every season, said Jarrett’s father, Jeff Jardine.
The local route took the boys along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, through Maryland and Virginia, Ballston and back to St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington, where it all started with several hundred scouts from the Chain Bridge District.
The Falls Church troop participates every year “to help the boys learn about themselves and build character through the process of learning to do something hard,” according to Jeff Jardine, who acknowledged anyone who hikes 20, 25 or 50 miles, “has to overcome some adversity and learn to push through it.”
Last week, the News-Press sat down with five of the scouts, and two dads, to hear about the hike which 18 from their troop started at 5 a.m., most planning to hike at least part of the way.
For the LaPointe brothers, Andrew (17, McLean High School), Josh (14, Longfellow Middle School) and Matthew (11, Haycock Elementary School) their day began at 4 a.m. when “our fantastic mother got up and made us breakfast [burritos],” Matthew said.
The brothers hiked 20 miles.
“Overall, it was not a bad experience,” Andrew chimed in. “It was actually Matthew’s first hike with the scouts so that was pretty tough, but it was good, right, Matthew? You liked it? “
Matthew paused for a beat until Andrew broke the silence with, “That’s a yes.”
The boys realized the value of preparation and training.
“We were supposed to train but we did not make it out to the practice hikes like we should have,” Andrew continued. “We definitely have learned a lot from our lack of preparation.”
Jarrett (11, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School) completed 50 miles and four of the six practice hikes. “If you put your mind to it, you can do it,” he said. For a practice hike, “I did 25 and it started to get kinda hard at 25, and I knew I could do at least 25 so I thought, ‘Maybe I can do a little bit more,’ and then I kinda just kept going.”
Another 50-miler, Campbell (15, McLean HS) finished all six of the practice hikes.
Jarrett and Josh mentioned the monotony of the long walk but group talk and singing helped to relieve boredom, such as the hymns Jarrett sang.
Andrew said he embarrassed everyone with his not-so-good voice along the trail, but he did so to distract everyone from the mental toll the hike was taking.
“It’s so much longer than you think. It’s kind of mind-boggling. You think, ‘Oh, I’ll just do a day of hiking,’ but you go like 20 miles and you think, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do this again.’ And another 5 miles, you’re just wiped,” Campbell said. “The crazy thing is even after you stop hiking, it still keeps hurting, even when you are sitting down. That’s the worst part. You can’t stop it from hurting. There’s no escape.”
Around mile 20, Jarrett got some wicked blisters, which made him stop every couple of miles after halfway in. There was no age limit for broken skin, with Jeff Jardine getting blisters while hiking the trail with his son.
Encouragement from others was a major factor in the group’s success. Jarrett benefited from two cousins who showed up at miles 25 and 40 to urge him on. Around mile 40 Campbell started to feel like he was going to pass out but then his sister came and she convinced him to keep going. She walked with Campbell the last 10 miles.
Campbell was aided by four Advil he got at one of the rest stations which dotted the trail.
Some ate and some didn’t from the stocked rest stations.
To reduce possible cramping and upset stomach like Jarrett had last year, he and Josh mostly avoided food on the hike.
Not so for Andrew, who consumed three hot dogs, a pile of trail mix, a cold grilled cheese sandwich and Snicker bars.
What about next year? Are they going next year? Silence at the table. Too early to discuss!
At the end of the hike, they were all glad they did it.
The dads, Jeff Jardine and Matt LaPointe, father of the LaPointes, sat in listening to the group, praising the boys for finishing the hike, and “learning ‘how I operate and how I can fight through challenges and make it to the end.’” according to Jeff Jardine.
The Falls Church Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the charter sponsor of Troop 821.