Scouts backpack in fall colors

Overlooking Lake Ann, elevation 11,100 feet above sea level, four scouts break camp and are packing up to down-hike five miles to the base of Mount Huron. From left to right are Lev Wolkenbreit, Fletcher Mattix, Ryus Mattix, and Grayson Brown. Nearby but not shown are fellow scouts Seth Sutton, Jack Taliaferro, Grady Harris, Luke Johnson, Talmage Trujillo, Amato French-Halenda, Isaac Cao, and Sawyer Pack.


Salida’s Troop 60 Scouts backpacked more than twenty-one miles across the Gunnison National Forest from the summit of Cottonwood Pass to the base of Mount Huron. 

The trip included crossing over the Lake Ann pass at an elevation of 12,550 feet above sea level. 

Twelve scouts completed the early October trip. Of the twelve scouts, seven were sixth graders. Two were high school upper classmen and the rest fell somewhere in between. 

While some had some backpacking experience, this three-day, two-night trip was a completely new experience for some. 

“Hiking above treeline at the end of the day was really tough,” said Fletcher Mattix, a sixth grader. “We did about eleven miles in one day with a full backpack. I’ve never done anything like that,” he said.

The scouts packed in their own food and gear and purified water from streams. 

Nighttime temperatures were in the low 20s, so some scouts were chilled at night. “I was OK most of the night, but my feet got a little cold in the morning,” Jack Taliaferro said. 

The hike was led by Amato French-Halenda, an eighth grader. 

His responsibilities included setting the pace, establishing timelines for breaks, plotting for water resupply and making adjustments to the plans in accordance with the difficulties of backpacking at altitude. 

“This group did so well. It was not an easy trip. Lots of feet and shoulders were achy, but everyone stayed positive,” French-Halenda said. 

The highlight of the trip was an early morning moose sighting. 

Two bull moose took an interest in the campsite, with one moose walking in within seventy-five meters of the campers. 

“That was special. To see a moose in a calm setting where it fed and moved about so close to us,” French-Halenda said. 

The toughest point of the trip was the grinding ascent from camp at 10,100’ to the saddle of Lake Ann Pass at 12,550 feet.  

The start of the ascent came late in day, after nine miles of steady backpacking. 

The Lake Ann Pass did provide exceptional views of Taylor Reservoir and for some at the back, a gorgeous October sunset.

With the state-wide fire ban, nighttime activities were quite short.

“It was warm during the day but it got cold fast and we were all beat. We mostly got into our sleeping bags right after eating,” sixth grader Ryus Fletcher said. 

This backpacking trip developed outdoors self-management skills such as food selection and preparation, keeping one’s pack under 30 pounds (with water), water purification, physical fitness, cold weather management, and foot and body care over a long duration outdoor event. 

Once per day, the scouts shared with each other what they did well and what they would improve for next time. 

“I’m happy with my packing. My pack weighed only 18 pounds which was the lightest of anyone. But next time I would bring another outer layer. I was chilled in the morning,” sixth grader Grayson Brown said. 

Salida Scouts are heading into the late fall scouting season. The next campout, Nov. 13-15, will be a mix of outdoor skills and cold-weather camping preparation. It will include archery and orienteering skills. 

Salida Troop 60 Scouts meet Monday nights at 6 p.m. at the Scout Hut (pending Chaffee County Public Health guidance for group gatherings and Salida Schools COVID-19 guidance). 

New boys are always welcome. 

Scouts are ages 11 to 17 or sixth through 12th grade. 

For information on Salida’s Troop 60, contact Brian Petit at or the troop committee chair, Carrie Mattix at

For boys first grade to fifth grade (ages 7-10), Salida has a Cub Scout “Pack.” For more information for this age group, contact Cubmaster Buel Mattix, 719-221-0492 or at

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