Boy Scouts go the distance on new trail

Summerville Boy Scouts Troop 2 members John Williams (left) and Jackson Baxley paddle along the cypress trees on the Swamp Fox 50-Mile Paddle/Camp Trail.

There are plenty of outdoor adventures out there for those interested in spending time on the water. One of the newest is the Swamp Fox 50-Mile Paddle/Camp Trail. It’s open to anyone, but it was appropriate that the first group to complete the trek across the Santee Cooper lakes was a group of Boy Scouts and their leaders from Troop 2 in Summerville.

The idea for the trail came about during a discussion at Camp Moultrie, a Boy Scout facility, between Bonneau and Moncks Corner. Boy Scouts offers a 50-Miler Award merit badge for individuals who complete a trail or canoe or boat route of not less than 50 miles over a minimum of five consecutive days. During that time, they also must complete a minimum of 10 hours of service.

Scoutmaster Glenn Justis and the older members of Troop 2 were planning a spring trip to the Grand Canyon; assistant Scoutmaster James Vansant began looking for an outing for the younger Scouts and discovered the Swamp Fox Trail. Preparation began with arranging for the Scouts to become swim certified and they also worked on fishing and wildlife conservation badges.

The five-day journey began March 28 at Low Falls Landing in Cameron, on Lake Marion, and concluded April 1 at a public landing near Bonneau. Camp Moultrie provided the canoes for the Scouts while the leaders used canoes from Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Charleston Air Force Base.

“It turned out to be a 60.8-mile canoe trip, a little longer than 50 but they didn’t seem to mind it,” said Vansant.

Paddling enthusiast Archie Thompson, who helped plan the route (swampfox50milepaddleandcamptrail.com) with Ranger Stan Stanley of Camp Moultrie, said the trail is set up in five segments, each ending at a small island suitable for camping and each suitable for a day trip. While you could paddle in either direction, he recommends starting at Low Falls and coming down the lakes rather than have to battle the current through the Diversion Canal that connects Lake Marion with Lake Moultrie.

Thompson said the Swamp Fox Trail is part of Berkeley County Blueways (berkeleyblueways.com), which offers 23 self-guided paddling trails that cover more than 175 miles.

Vansant praised the experience.

“Overall, we had a great time. I would encourage others to definitely do at least 10 miles (one segment) if not all,” Vansant said. “There are a lot of sites that are untouched. People just don’t go in these areas.”

Stanley said there is a lot of history on the Swamp Fox Trail. Among the interesting places paddlers can encounter are the old lumber mill at Ferguson, a cemetery on Church Island and the old Santee Canal.

Vansant said there is a lot of nature to enjoy. A couple of the Scouts caught fish, and they saw all types of wildlife and waterfowl.

Each day when they found their campsite, they spent a couple of hours picking up trash or collecting firewood for future campers to utilize. Each of the campsites is near a boat landing or facility, so Vansant said it was only a short paddle to get provisions that parents would bring for each day of the trek.

Vansant said when the journey began there were a couple of homesick Scouts, but by the end of the trip the boys “who were nervous and unsure at the beginning, to see them when they completed the trip was special. I served in the Army and these Scouts were just as good as the guys in my platoon. They were ready to eat nails and keep paddling.”