My Explorer Belt adventure started roughly 2 years before
the actual trip. Once deciding I wanted to go on the trip, I had to find a
team, a group that you can get on with and can trust.
Then the training and planning started. Training involved
lots of walking, strangely enough! Navigation, team building, first aid and
cooking also featured in the training and as we improved our navigation skills,
we then started to look at a route.
We decided to leave from roughly 100 miles north of Harpers
Ferry, where our leaders were based, and heading back towards them. Slowly, the
route began to break down into individual days, including ensuring that we had
a good plan for Independence Day, which was about 3 or 4 days into our trip. We
also started work on deciding what our projects would be, both major and minor.
Whilst doing this, we made contact with some local Scouts, which would help us
fulfil both our major and minor projects once on the trip. Another major
consideration before the trip was thinking about the equipment that we would
use. As a group of four, we decided we would use two tents. Blair and I ordered
a very cheap, very small but crucially very lightweight tent. We knew that the
weather should be mainly dry Ė barring the odd thunderstorm! We also decided to
use lightweight gas stoves, and ensured that we would be able to purchase the
correct Gas in the USA, given that you cannot take Gas on a plane!
We flew out to the USA a few days before the Explorer Belt
started and used that time to grab some last minute equipment and get some
maps, which we had struggled to get in the UK.
The night before we started, we stayed in a campsite at the
top of the route, away from the main group. Suddenly, it all started to seem
very real! We spoke to a friendly couple who were able to help us with various
pointers along the route. Next morning, we were off!
With the five surprise challenges fresh in our heads, we
started walking our route. Our first problem turned out to be that the road we
planned to walk along was a major highway! Next problem, the Campsite we
planned to camp at turned out to be a Static Caravan site, and not a very
friendly one at that! We were a bit stuck. We went into the local bank and
asked if there was anywhere we could camp nearby, but they were stuck for
answers. We were told head into town and look for Old Bill. Having said that,
we had never met Old Bill! Close to the bank we stopped at a house to ask to
refill our rapidly emptying water bottles, got chatting to the elderly couple
who lived there, and soon found ourselves being put up in the local church!
Little did we know it was also womenís evening at the Church, so we were
invited to share in their buffet dinner which they had organised. It was a
great first night, if a little bewildering.
I think that first night summed up the Explorer Belt
experience; be prepared for the unexpected! The days seemed to fly by, with
projects being completed left right and centre, without us really having to go
to much effort to do so. Before leaving I was concerned that my fitness would not
be up to it. However although the walking was hard work, it turned out to be
the best fitness regime ever! Iíll always remember the sense of achievement and
pride walking with my group into Harpers Ferry on that final morning. Looking
back, I still canít believe how good an experience those 10 days were.
Upon our return to Harperís Ferry, we met with our mentor,
who talked us through our experience, and took notes regarding our projects,
which we would then be able to use in our presentation once we returned home.
Even then, we struggled to sum up exactly what we had just completed, the
number of people we had met and the different stories we had, including two
On return to the UK, we began to prepare our presentation. The
challenge; how do you sum up such an amazing and life changing experience to an
audience in less than 30 minutes! During the presentation so many memories came
back, and we wished we had time to tell everybody more! Looking back now,
nearly 3 years since the trip, I realise how much confidence the trip has given
me, knowing now that if I put my mind to it, anything is possible. The bond
between the four us in our team is fantastic, from folk that I didnít know
terribly well before the trip, they are now some of my closest friends.
If youíre interested in getting support to run an Explorer
Belt expedition, please donít hesitate to get in touch with me.Author: Gary Bainbridge