Misleading map challenges La Jolla’s Venture Crew 506 on 55-mile hike


Although experienced backpackers and hikers, the young adventurers in La Jolla-based Venture Crew 506 recently completed a trek that would test anyone’s mettle. The group of 12 traversed the 55 miles of the North Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State over five days in August, and, in addition to the challenge the hike itself presents, faced unexpected obstacles.

The Crew was established eight years ago and is comprised of 12 co-ed members, ages 14-21, sponsored by the La Jolla United Methodist Church. They focus on backpacking and hiking, but also engage in service projects, as a part of the Boy Scouts of America program.

“Crew members are extremely enthusiastic and self-motivated,” said associate Crew advisor Tiffany Smith. “They are all busy with school and other efforts, but it doesn’t take a lot for these kids to get excited about a hike! It’s really nice; we’re the lucky ones because we get to spend time with kids who are the best of the best.”

Not the least of whom is 18-year-old youth leader, David Edwards, who took the reins on this particular trip.

“I’ve been on a few backpacking excursions with Venture Crew,” he told the Light. “We’ve been to Yosemite and the Cuyamacas, and I went to Mt. Whitney this summer. I like the big relief of getting away for the day or the weekend. One of my favorite hikes is Mt. Woodson; it’s very easy to get to and makes for great day trip. The views are good when you get to the top. This trip, with my experience, was a great way for me to test my leadership skills.”

From the beginning, the Cascade Mountain trip was different from the other backpacking excursions the Crew has made. “It took a year of planning, and they did all the work themselves and really came into their own,” Smith said.

To access this remote mountain range, the Crew needed to orchestrate a flight to Seattle, a three-hour drive to a ranger station on one end of the trail, decide how far to go each day, identify safe places to make camp, find a ferry to pick them up on the other end, find another van ride and flight home.

But even the best laid plans often go awry.

“We had some trouble with the miles, because the mileage on the maps was off,” Edwards explained. “We had to stop sooner than we wanted … and as youth leader, that decision was ultimately mine.”

Elaborating, Smith added: “This was a pretty big deal, the mileage was extremely heavy and the trail was wildly inaccurate. We reported the map’s inaccuracies afterward. We had to walk 18 miles the first day, and by Day 2, everyone was so tired they passed out by lunch for a solid two hours. They were really tense because they had so many more miles to do.

“We knew the last three days were lighter and we would get there on time. So we adjusted our plans and once we made the decision to not reach camp at Day 2, everything was fine. We knew we could make up the mileage.”

Fortunately, the crew could deviate from the planned stops because they always travel with a GPS tracker so they can be located in an emergency, and check in with their emergency contact once a day to let them know they reached camp safely in the deep mountain range. So deep, in fact, the Crew only saw 12 other people over the entire five days.

“We arrived on the fifth day in the town of Stehekin, which is only accessible by foot, ferry or float plane. It is the last stop on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Campo (California) to Canada. We were there for a full day because we had to wait for the ferry, which was nice because we were all tired and hungry,” Smith said.

But not so spent that they weren’t eager to plan their next trip: Venture Crew 506 will walk the “backbone” of Catalina Island in December.

Crew Garage Sale

Venture Crew 506 will hold a fundraising garage sale from 7 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Oct. 6 at La Jolla Methodist Church, 6063 La Jolla Blvd.