This year (2015) the Royal Marines Cadets Expedition team flew out to the USA where they would attempt to complete a section of the Appalachian trail in Connecticut along with cultural visits and further training with the US Navy & Marine Corps. The team consisted of 11 RM Cadets, 5 Sea Cadets and 5 Staff/Instructors.
The morning of the 3rd July saw the team fly out from London Heathrow to New York JFK and then a drive to Naval Station Newport in Rhode Island where the team would be staying for the two week visit. Once base Admin and accommodation had been completed the cadets enjoyed 4th July celebrations on the Saturday and a Baseball game in Boston on the Sunday. Monday was Exped Admin and preparation and before we knew it, it was time for the long drive to Connecticut and the start of our 3 day adventure on the AT.
Day 1 saw the team start at Under Mountain Trail, the weather was hot and over 30c, the humidity was an eye opener for all of the cadets and some of the Instructors, the priority was topping up water bottles at every opportunity whilst trying to enjoy the abundant wildlife and constant buzzing of mosquitos and midges! The trek was quickly becoming a ‘Walk in the Woods’ mile after mile. The cadets quickly picked up the fact that when trekking through constant woodland the miles seem a lot longer as the eyes have only the trees as reference points! However spirits remained high and the team was rewarded with some wonderful views on Bunker Hill and a good 20k later our first campsite of the journey. Meal time, admin and sleep was the priority now and day two to look forward to, oh and hopefully no Bear visits as in this part of Connecticut there had already been over a thousand sightings of Black Bears! Oh My!
Day 2 and the eyes were open early, breakfast sorted and Bergens packed ready for more woodland and wildlife! As we set off from Camp 1 we encountered our first snake of the journey sat sunning itself and in our way. A quick assessment and a re-route were in order and the snake was left well alone, picture below! The day was again very warm and overcast with the humidity once again oppressive and very uncomfortable. Today the team would gain 2,935ft onto Sharon Mountain and more stunning views, then down into Camp 2. Again the cadets were in high spirits, however we did notice that some of them were suffering from the heat and insect bites, an eye was kept along with some weight distribution and we cajoled them into camp 2. Another 25k knocked off and a very tired team this evening. A quick staff meeting was in order as some of the team were showing signs of fatigue plus insect bites had knocked the enthusiasm from some. Who said this was going to be easy!?
Day 3 was upon us and I took the decision to shorten today’s section to just under 13k, some of the cadets heads had dropped, mainly because of the heat and constant annoyance from insects despite repellant! The end of the trek found them all smiling especially as we had a surprise for them in the form of a big Burger & Chips! Another day finished, again very warm and humid, we just had the long drive back to Rhode Island.
The AT trail proved to be quite tough, the section through Connecticut is mostly woodland with the trail breaking through the tree tops only periodically. This proved to be a little daunting for some of the group, but again they proved to myself and the team that they could crack on with a sense of humour and some real determination. I’m once again very proud of them all, a hoofing effort by the team.
The rest of our stay was taken up by visits to the 9/11 memorial in New York City, a visit to the Battle site of Bunker Hill in Boston and a soccer game against a local High school team in Providence where Bravo Coy Royal Marines Cadets were awarded the Freedom of the City of Providence Rhode Island and 12th July was declared Bravo Coy day! Result! The team cracked on with training on the base plus lots more.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Ulysses Trust. Without their help this once in a lifetime opportunity for these young people would not have been possible.
Lt G MacLennan RMR