Scouts planning 500-mile trip

BURGETTSTOWN, Pa. – Anyone who has enjoyed the local rail-trails this spring has likely run into some or all of the Bavington Boy Scouts Troop 1396 scouts and leaders.

The troop is spending a lot of time on the trails in preparation for its second Pittsburgh-to-Washington, D.C., bike trek.

“We did this ride six years ago before the whole Great Allegheny Passage was completed,” said Scoutmaster Chris Kramer, who noted the trail back then was only done from McKeesport to the capital. “They completed the last section earlier this year and we are ready to be one of the first Scout troops to leave from ‘The Point’ and go all the way.”

On the last trip, 12 scouts and three leaders did the trip. One of those Scouts, Nick Noble, was in his first year of Scouting. Since then, Noble and his family have moved to Reynoldsburg, Ohio. When he heard his old troop was doing it again, he asked to tag along – and bring some friends.

“We’re looking at around 40 of us on this trip so it’s a bit more daunting,” said Kramer. “Troop 826 from Reynoldsburg is well-equipped and in exchange for our itinerary work they’re going to bring their support equipment and team and make this a real expedition for us.”

The GAP runs primarily on the right-of-way of the Western Maryland Railroad whose main line was between Connellsville and Baltimore. It became part of the Chessie System in 1973 and ceased using its lines in 1983. Since then, several parts have converted to rail-trail, the most significant of which is the GAP. To complete the trip, through-bikers use the C&O Canal National Historical Park and its towpath to reach the capital. Along the way, the scouts will be camping along the trail.

“This will be the third time we’ve used the GAP for summer camp,” said Kramer. “A couple years ago we biked to Heritage Reservation (the local council camp) from Burgettstown. It was about 100 miles and we left from Main Street and followed the Panhandle Trail, the Montour Trail and then the GAP as far as Ohiopyle.”

They’ll be more than tripling that distance this time, adding an extra day to their original D.C.-trip itinerary to fit in the extra mileage from Pittsburgh’s “Point.”

“Because the trail wasn’t completed, we only did 300 miles of it last time,” Kramer said. “We’re leaving from the fountain this time and that’ll add another 50 or so miles and another day.”

In addition to Kramer and Noble, second-time bikers planning to bike the distance include troop Committee Chair Jim Stetar and Assistant Scoutmaster Colin Sabatasse, who first did it as a scout. On the support team, Vince Sabatasse, Randy Paulin and DeWayne Noble will lend a hand for the second time.

“Almost to a man, every Scout who has done this trip with us counts it as his greatest adventure in scouting,” said Kramer. “It’s challenging physically and mentally and the rewards are physical, mental and spiritual. It changes the way you look at yourself, your friends and your country and what a big, marvelous place it is.”