Hiking and Scouting are practically synonymous. But the assumption is often made the hikes take place during the day. I’ve learned that night hikes can be a great way to engage the troop during a campout.
Our SPL came up with the idea for the first night hike during my Scoutmaster tenure. His idea came about after struggling to put together successful campfire skits. As is sometimes the case, our scouts had become uninterested in campfire ceremonies. Our SPL figured that scouts would be more apt to sing, act silly, and have fun during a night hike. And he was certainly right!
He and the Patrol Leaders mapped out a 2 mile course. Several stations were defined where the hikers stopped for a rest and fun. 1) scary story station, 2) night sky exploration, 3) funny story station, and several others where specific skits were performed. Part of the course was designated as “lights out” – meaning all flashlights had to be turned off and scouts had to “feel” there way along the trail while cooperating with each other to avoid obstacles.
I questioned whether his plan would work. Scouts would complain, someone would get lost, the older scouts would outpace the younger, scouts would lose interest in the stations, etc. I was wrong. It wasn’t the first time. Or the last.
As it turns out, our Troop basically sang songs the entire 2 miles. Stations worled very well. And, cause the scouts were moving ahead of adults, adults were in no position to intrude on their plans. Best yet, the scouts were fairly tired by the time we wandered back into our camp and went to sleep almost imediatly.
Another time, we camped on Block Island off the shore of Connecticut in the Long Island Sound. We hiked about 2 miles from our campsite to the shore and had a party on the beach.
As an adult leader, a few extra precautions are in order for a night hike. In particular, making sure scouts don’t get seperated and wander in the wrong direction. I always tell the SPL to lead the procession and have adults follow up the rear to account for stragglers. At key trail split-offs, I have the patrol leaders post there to make sure scouts go the right way. Walkie -talkies and/or cell phones are key to recovering anyone who gets lost. Frequent buddy checks and spacing between scouts on the trail to prevent falls is important. And tell scouts to keep their knives folded and stowed to provent injury. A natural perimeter to the hiking course is useful: mine was the ocean on block island and the edge of a large state park.
Cheap glow sticks or necklaces from the local dime store are also useful for spotting lost scouts.