By Melany Gardner
Oct 24, 2013

Pony Express 50/20 Hike Teaches Boys to Do Hard Things

For its third year running, the Pony Express 50/20 in Eagle Mountain has taught boys to do hard things. This strenuous over-night hike happens during the weekend of the first full moon in September, and pushes Scouts to their physical and mental limits.

Scouts study the Pony Express Trail before they set out on their 50-mile hike. They look optimistic for the grueling trip ahead. In 2013, 207 Scouts registered for the 50/20 hike, only 28 finished the full 50 miles in the amount of time…and one dog named Rusty. That’s an average of only 12% of the boys and leaders that make it all the way since the Pony Express 50/20 began in 2011.

Scouts study the Pony Express Trail before they set out on their 50-mile hike. They look optimistic for the grueling trip ahead. In 2013, 207 Scouts registered for the 50/20 hike, only 28 finished the full 50 miles in the amount of time…and one dog named Rusty. That’s an average of only 12% of the boys and leaders that make it all the way since the Pony Express 50/20 began in 2011.

What is a 50/20 Basically it’s a 50 mile, but unlike overnighters, this hike is to be done in under 20 hours. It’s called the Pony Express because it generally follows the Pony Express Trail in Eagle Mountain.

Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, the Scouts head out from the Eagle Mountain Stake Center in the Ranches to Fairfield,  head 6.5 miles down the Allen Ranch Road before turning west over the low hills to the Vernon Road, then back over Five Mile Pass to Fairfield, ending at the same start location by 2 p.m. Saturday.

But wait, this is no taped-off-highway marathon – the route consists of dirt roads and rocky trails mingled with some bike paths in the back hills of Eagle Mountain’s terrain. Utah’s unpredictable weather can also be a factor in the toughness of this hike. Last year’s event was wet and windy, making it the hardest trek yet.

Scout Finishers Pony Express

This event is recommended for Varsity and Venturing Scouts because of its challenging nature. The first three Scouts that crossed the finish line in 2013 were Joey Shawgo 13:55, age 14 (3rd overall); Zach Bradshaw 14:09, age 14; and Talon Walker 14:28, age 14.

For safety, aid and resupply stations are sprinkled approximately every 3 to 4 miles. A medical station is also set up in Fairfield –the 10 and 40 mile point in the hike. Troops and teams man the stations and provide food and support throughout the hike. In addition, some leaders drive “sag wagons” all night long to pick up hikers who are spent and bring them back to the start.

Last year’s stellar and challenging event was organized and led by Bryan Bassett from the Eagle Mountain district.

“This event is great. I love how boys have an opportunity to do hard things and feel proud of  meeting the challenge,” Bassett said.

Hikers begin and end their journey at the Eagle Mountain Stake Center. The first place and course record was set by a leader, Tammy Makin at 12:16:57.

Hikers begin and end their journey at the Eagle Mountain Stake Center. The first place and course record was set by a leader, Tammy Makin at 12:16:57.

Scouting gives boys opportunities to push themselves physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. A 50/20 hike might just be that sort of opportunity.

Dave Pack, Utah National Parks Council Scout Executive wrote in the previous article “Why I love 50-Mile Hikes,” “When we do and teach hard things, we bring young men to a level of competence and confidence that prepares them for the future—the opportunity to serve an honorable mission, be successful in school, become a worthy husband and father, and do other things the Lord expects of them.”

Tony Burdette and his son, Darren, finished both in 2011 & 2012.   “We all had a good time. In 2012 there was a huge thunder and lightning storms from about 11 p.m. through then next morning until about 6 a.m. There was no place to go or ride back home so we all had to just keep going. The young men to this day still talk about it. The power of lightening in the middle of the night when you are up close and personal is one not to forget. The boys were soaking wet, but happy to be out doing something adventurous. I recommend this event for varsity groups because it is very challenging and probably the hardest mental thing I have ever done. It was hard for the boys as well, but one that is doable. It was physically hard, but for me, like the boys, it was all mental towards the end. My son and I completed it in 2011 in 18 1/2 hours, and in 2012 we completed it just under this time in about 18 hours and 20 minutes.” –Tony Burdette

Tony Burdette and his son, Darren, finished both in 2011 & 2012.
“We all had a good time. In 2012 there was a huge thunder and lightning storms from about 11 p.m. through then next morning until about 6 a.m. There was no place to go or ride back home so we all had to just keep going. The young men to this day still talk about it. The power of lightening in the middle of the night when you are up close and personal is one not to forget. The boys were soaking wet, but happy to be out doing something adventurous. I recommend this event for varsity groups because it is very challenging and probably the hardest mental thing I have ever done. It was hard for the boys as well, but one that is doable. It was physically hard, but for me, like the boys, it was all mental towards the end. My son and I completed it in 2011 in 18 1/2 hours, and in 2012 we completed it just under this time in about 18 hours and 20 minutes.” –Tony Burdette

Organizers are already planning the fourth annual Pony Express 50/20 for September 12-13, 2014. Opportunities are also available for shorter hikes of 5, 10 and 20 miles as well. We will post more about 2014’s hike when there’s more information.

Author: Melany Gardner | Marketing & Program Assistant, Utah National Parks Council

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