Breckenridge Texan

Local scouts hike 20-mile trailway from Mineral Wells to Weatherford as first step toward hiking badge

Local scouts hike 20-mile trailway from Mineral Wells to Weatherford as first step toward hiking badge
April 16
09:00 2023

By Nathalie Wilhite/For the Breckenridge Texan

Spirits were high on a recent Saturday morning, as the six members of Scouts BSA Girls Troop 72 of Breckenridge got up early and prepared to walk the 20 miles from Mineral Wells to Weatherford, along the Lake Mineral Wells State Trailway, the first step toward earning their hiking badge, a requirement for the Eagle Scout rank.

The girls thought it would be a long way, but they also expected to have fun, walking with friends and eating at Cici’s Pizza after the hike on April 8.

Troop 72 is made up of Magdalynn (Maggie) Wunsch, Aurora Dawson, Caelyn Willis, Amélie Wilhite, Gabbie Smith, and Kasey Walker, and is led by Scoutmaster Matt Wunsch. Kelly Dawson and Nathalie Wilhite are Assistant Scoutmasters.

Troop 72 is still a young troop, having been established in 2021, so they leaned on their scoutmaster’s knowledge a good bit, but they brought a lot of enthusiasm and humor to the learning process. Wunsch organized the hike, planning out the route and pit stops along the way, while patrol leaders Maggie Wunsch and Aurora Dawson helped newer troop members learn about what they should have in their first aid kits and how to treat hot spots and blisters that might develop on the trail.

The Scouts on the 20-mile hike sing to keep the pace up. Pictured, from left, are Shane Schopt, Gabbie Smith, Kelly Dawson, Izabella McCutchen, Magdalynn Wunsch, Jacob Grelle (facing back). Click here to see more photos from the hike. (Photo by Nathalie Wilhite)

The girls in Troop 72 were joined on the hike by scouts from other troops, including three members of Breckenridge’s Boys Troop 63 – Matthew Wunsch, Dirk Miller and Christian Lechner – as well as members of girls troops 306 of Abilene and 308 of Valley Mills, and boys troops 272 of Abilene and 480 of Valley Mills. Nine of the 14 scouts and three of the seven adults were from Breckenridge.

Jokes, creative stories, and much laughter were heard as the scouts got acquainted with each other at the Mineral Wells Trailhead in downtown Mineral Wells, where they began their trek at 8:30 a.m.

The first few miles were light-hearted and fun, with the scouts taking turns leading silly songs and picking wildflowers to adorn their hats and hair. Throughout the hike, they stopped for 10-minute breaks every 1.5 miles.

At the three-mile mark, the hikers met with Meredith Wunsch and Helen Harris for a short break and water refill stop. Wunsch and Harris were there to ferry vehicles to the end point in Weatherford and to pick up any scouts who found that they had walked as far as they could.

The scouts walk in a perfect line along U.S. Highway 180, due to a detour along the trailway. (Photo by Nathalie Wilhite)

While the vast majority of scouts were eager to continue walking, that was the point where things seemed to get more serious. Due to a bridge being out of commission on the trail, the hikers took a detour, walking along U.S. Highway 180. That was also the time when they treated the first hot spots, trying to prevent blisters.

Everyone was glad to arrive at the National Vietnam War Museum, where they were cheerfully greeted by Wayne Parham, a volunteering veteran. They did not go into the museum in an effort to get to Weatherford by suppertime as planned, but the promise of a bathroom break and getting back on the Lake Mineral Wells Trailway was music to the scouts’ ears. The following 5 miles to the Garner Trailhead, where lunch was waiting, weren’t as exciting for the scouts and were possibly the hardest for Troop 72, mentally. A few considered that stopping at the 10-mile mark might be the wise thing to do, or perhaps the more comfortable thing to do. There was talk of blisters and sore feet, and the concern that another 10 miles would simply be too much.

The pace had become grueling, but everyone arrived at the lunch stop and gratefully sat down for a long rest. Some stretched, some napped, some checked their feet for blisters, but all ate and most came to the conclusion that while another 10 miles did not sound exciting, it also didn’t sound impossible. The scouts encouraged each other, and in the end only two scouts and two adults declined to continue.

On the second half of the journey, phones were put to good use, providing music and audio books to distract from discomfort. Conversation – and the pace – picked up, and while the hikers were tired and took frequent breaks, they were determined to conquer the challenge.

The scouts were even more thankful for phones three miles from the Weatherford trailhead. They were ready to tackle those miles, but they were also worn out, with sore joints and aching feet, so when a parent walking along approached Matt Wunsch with a GPS tracker, showing that they had hiked 20.25 miles, they all breathed a sigh of relief.

It was 6 p.m. — nine and a half hours after they started — and their goal was achieved.

It is evident from some of the pictures that the scouts were tired, but their smiles were just as big in the end as they were at the beginning. When one fell behind, others would keep pace with them and encourage them. As Wunsch said, “Events like this are a reminder that Scouting is a world-wide organization that draws in youth whose natural state is to encourage each other to persevere through hardship. While hiking 20 miles is an accomplishment in itself, the real lesson is that with proper support, and a cheerful spirit, any goal is within reach. We may be tired, sore, and have blisters in new exciting places, but every step taken passed the limits we set for ourselves is a lesson in growth that will last a lifetime.”

Speaking with the girls of Troop 72 in the week following their hike, there was always a pause after I asked, “Are you glad you did it?” Amélie Wilhite and Gabbie Smith shared similar thoughts, saying they underestimated what 20 miles was like, but Wilhite followed it up with, “The different troops were definitely cool, though.”

While they all seem to have good memories attached to the trek, it may be a little bit before they are ready to tackle the next hike to complete their hiking merit badge.

Scouts BSA Troop 72 members, from left, Kasey Walker, Magdalynn Wunsch and Gabbie Smith enjoy a break during the hike. (Photo by Nathalie Wilhite)

Troop 72 members Caelyn Willis, left, and Aurora Dawson laugh at a break-time joke. (Photo by Nathalie Wilhite)

Scoutmaster Matt Wunsch gets a closer look at the bluebonnets on the hike. (Photo by Nathalie Wilhite)

Cutline, top photo: The scouts and leaders who hiked the 20 miles included, back row, from left: Matt Wunsch, Ilene Schopt, Eric Johnson, Jacob Grelle, Matthew Wunsch, Nathalie Wilhite and Kelly Dawson; middle row, from left: Jeremiah Dunham, Shane Schopt, Aurora Dawson, Gabbie Smith and Dirk Miller; and front row, from left: Amélie Wilhite, Izabella McCutchen, Magdalynn Wunsch, Samantha Grelle and Christian Lechner.

Click here to see a Photo Gallery from the hike.


Nathalie Wilhite is an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 72, which includes her daughter, Amélie. She got involved in scouting three years ago as a parent when her kids joined Cub Scout Pack 81. When Amélie graduated to Scouts BSA, she accepted a position as Assistant Scoutmaster to help provide female leadership for the growing troop. She has two boys still in Cub Scouts and one aspiring Cub Scout, who will join when he gets to first grade. She made the entire hike with the scouts and says with a smile that she was probably the most excited about going on the hike.



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support The Breckenridge Texan


Title of the document Sign up for our
Click Here
Verified by MonsterInsights