Tag Archive | "High Adventure"

philmont gate

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Tale of Two Philmonts

Posted on 08 May 2012 by MikeD

The following is a Guest Article by Mike Dubrall. Mike “Dub Zero” Blogs and writes informative articles on backpacking and snow camping at 50Miler.com.

Philmont sits at the apex of the Scout backpacking experience. For skilled backpackers the Philmont routes are not difficult. However, most Scouts are not accomplished backpackers and the challenge of being on the trail for almost two weeks makes any trip to Philmont incredibly worthwhile. In addition, the fun activities and camaraderie with hikers from every state makes Philmont a kind of “Scouting Disneyland.”

Philmont is much more than backpacking. There are months of prep meetings, practice hikes, and shopping sprees. Commemorative shirts have to be designed and ordered and new equipment purchased. There is often an exciting cross county trip by train, plane, or automobile and groups stop at popular attractions along the way. Nearby cities like Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos are teeming eager Scouts (in uniform) during the summer months. Afterwards, reunion parties, slide shows, and campfire discussions keep the Philmont experience alive for a long time.

Philmont sits at the apex of Scout wilderness experiences

My first trip to Philmont was a disaster. We trained hard for a difficult backpacking trip and that is not what we got at all. A forest fire broke out before our arrival and a large part of the Ranch was closed to hikers. Everyone got crowded into the southern section of the Ranch, where campsites and trails were overflowing with Scouts. There were lines at every Red Roof Inn and our assigned Ranger was an idiot incompetent. Stringent rules put everyone on edge. Programs were impacted and long wait times or even oversubscribed activities were daily occurrences. A lingering drought meant no swimming or showers for the entire trek. (Ten days on the trail days without anyone bathing even once!)

Our difficult 80 mile planned backpacking trip turned into a 35 mile romp with nothing to do most afternoons. The Scouts got bored and turned on each other and then on the adults. Eventually the adults started taking out their frustrations on the Scouts. It was, by all measures, a miserable trip.

Almost a decade passed before my new Troop became serious about backpacking and started talking about Philmont. It was with mixed feelings that I was swept up in their collective enthusiasm and put my name on a list to go again. The goal was to make my second trip a different experience altogether.

This time we focused on the overall Philmont experience and not just the backpacking. Practice hikes were important of course, but the hikes were filled with stories about Philmont history, camps, activities, and potential service projects. Along the way everyone learned the Philmont Grace and Philmont Hymn, which we all sang with increasing fervor every day we were on the trail together. The song became a unifying force of surprising power. (Even now, one year later, they sing the Philmont Hymn at the drop of a hat!)

Philmont is more than a hike - it is a lifetime memory

Arriving at Philmont base camp in the middle of the night, we tried to slip quietly into our tents so as not to wake the backpackers in our assigned area. Morning soon arrived, with the staff welcome at breakfast, paperwork processing, review of the routes, and introduction to our Ranger, who would be with us for a couple of days. The boys swarmed into the Philmont Trading Post to stock up on candy, belts, hats, shirts, and assorted mementos, some of which might be valuable on the trail. We finished the pack check, stored our extra stuff in the lockers, attended an inspirational Scout’s Own, and were ready to leave the next morning.

The first morning on the trail, our Ranger woke us up before dawn, and in the dark, we scrambled to the top of a mountain to experience the sunrise. Sitting together in the gathering light, we watched the valley come into focus under an azure sky. When he had our attention, the Ranger said, “Before you is a unique opportunity to have an incredible experience at Philmont. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do things you don’t think are possible. Create memories for your lifetime. No one can do it but you.”

For the next ten days we had a glorious time together, punctuated by burrow racing, lumber jacking, black bears, beautiful sunrises & sunsets, cantinas, campfires, horseback riding, singing songs, petroglyphs, porch talks, rock climbing, shotgun shooting, card games, storytelling, challenge courses, and, of course, backpacking. Everyone had a fantastic time.

Some trips are good and some are not so good, but every visit to Philmont is transformative in its own way. Boys become men and men become better. For that reason, every serious Scout and Adult Leader should hike there at least once.

…………………….

Mike Dubrall writes about backpacking, snow camping, and other high adventure outings at 50Miler.com.. His email is miked@50miler.com or you can be connected through the “50miler.com Outing Resource Center” on Facebook.

 

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MD Snow Shoe Trip

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Five Degrees of Snow Camping

Posted on 08 March 2012 by MikeD

The following is a Guest Article by Mike Dubrall. Mike “Uncle Dub Zero” Blogs and writes informative articles on backpacking and snow camping at 50Miler.com. 

Snow camping is a popular winter activity for sturdy Boy Scouts.  Every year, thousands venture into snow covered fields and conduct a variety of maneuvers, all designed to prove that they can survive and thrive in cold conditions that cause their parents to mutter about hot tubs and hotel rooms.   However, while cold weather outings can be challenging, not all winter outings can be called snow camping, no matter what your leaders tell you.

Winter is a great time for Scout outings.

Snow camping requires, at a very minimum, that Scouts build shelters in the snow and sleep in them.  These could be tents, Ice or Hop Houses, Quinzies, Snow Trenches (sometimes called Ice Coffins) or the most popular of all – the classic Snow Cave.   Anything less than spending the entire night in one of these shelters  is just a winter outing with snow involved.

To clear up any confusion, here are the degrees of snow camping clearly defined – from easiest to most difficult.

Zero Degree: Staying in a cabin. Gentlemen, this is not snow camping.  No matter how many times you go outside and walk around in snowshoes or how cold you get making snow angels wearing only your shorts, it’s not called snow “camping” when you sleep in a “cabin.”  Even your little sister knows this.  Give it up and try again next winter.

First Degree: Car Camping.  Adults drive you up to the mountains and park near the snow.  You get to pitch tents or dig snow caves right next to the cars and keep all your shovels, extra tools, snacks, water, and tarps in the trunk, grabbing them as needed.  Adults sit in a Winnebago preparing hot chocolate and there is no need to dig out a cooking area because there is a propane stove in the back of  the truck.  Often you have KYBOS nearby, but you have to be brave enough to use them, partly because of the frigid temperature inside.

Second Degree: Tent Camping.  After arriving, Scouts pack up their equipment and leave the parking area to find a campsite.  Travel from the cars can be via snow shoe, cross country ski, or by booted foot.  Upon arrival at a suitable location, snow is cleared or smoothed and tents are erected with “dead men stakes” covered by snow.  Gear is stowed in the tents and the group works together building  a common kitchen area and latrine before heading off to explore the frozen lake.  After dark, Scouts climb into their tents and hope that the temperatures outside do not drop below 30 degrees or that it doesn’t snow too much.  If it does, they shiver in their sleeping bags and think about real snow caves.

MD Snow Cave

Digging a Snow Cave is much more difficult than just erecting a tent - but is usually more comfortable.

Third Degree: Cave Camping.  Scouts load their backpacks, fasten on their snow shoes, and carry all their equipment across the snow and away from the parking lot until the desired separation is achieved – usually when the weakest camper drops from exhaustion.   (The longer the hike, the more adventurous the outing.)  After testing the snow with an avalanche probe for hidden large rocks and other surprises, Scouts spend hours sitting or lying on tarps digging caves using snow shovels, saws, and their gloved hands.  During the afternoon, volunteers takes turns sculpting a kitchen area near the shelters.  Someone makes sure the cooking stoves are constantly lit and that snow is being melted into drinkable water.  After dinner, everyone climbs into their cave, lights their glow stick, and settles into a soundless trance until morning.

Fourth Degree: Cave or Tent Camping as part of an extended trek.  This is full metal jacket snow camping and only for the strongest and most prepared youth in the Council.  In addition to carrying a heavy backpack full of food and supplies across the snow on snow shoes, Scouts have to get up early every day

MD Snow Camping Levels of Difficulty

Leaving the vehicles for several days is the most challenging kind of fourth degree winter outing.

(when it’s really, really cold), break camp, and start moving so they arrive in camp in time to create new shelters and melt snow for drinking water before it gets dark.  On top of the significant physical and psychological burdens, everyone has to navigate across a frozen and alien geography where trails and landmarks are covered in snow, rending most maps almost useless.

Of course additional points can be earned when something difficult happens an any of these outings.  For example, when a storm unexpectedly dumps two feet of snow on your shelters overnight collapsing tents or forcing campers to dig out of their caves in the morning.  Likewise, when adults inexplicably insist that everyone buckle their snow shoes  after dinner for a night hike in sub-arctic temperatures.

Now that you have a snow camping barometer, what kind of winter camping does your unit do?
…………………….

Mike Dubrall writes about backpacking, snow camping, and other high adventure outings at 50Miler.com.. His email is miked@50miler.com and you can friend him on Facebook.

 

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Boy Scouts to Bring World-Class Center of Scouting Excellence to West Virginia

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Boy Scouts to Bring World-Class Center of Scouting Excellence to West Virginia

Posted on 18 November 2009 by admin

New River GorgeIn a room filled with hundreds of supporters and local leaders, the Boy Scouts of America today unveiled its plans for a world-class, national center of scouting excellence in the New River Gorge region of West Virginia. The site will serve as a premier Scouting destination, offering a new high-adventure base and national leadership programs and will become the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree.

The BSA’s selection of the 10,600-acre site near Beckley was chosen after an extensive, nationwide process that lasted more than 18 months aimed at finding the perfect location for realizing the vision of a national center of Scouting excellence. The development of the site is made possible by a $50 million gift, the largest in BSA history, from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

The new site, to be named “The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve,” will help the BSA fulfill its mission of serving America’s youth for another 100 years, providing character-building opportunities, a respect and appreciation for the outdoors, physical fitness, and leadership development. With its extensive and diverse program offerings, the site will become a pinnacle of the Scouting experience.

“Today is a great day for Scouting. Thanks to the generosity of the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the development of The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve will be a source of fun, adventure, and discovery for hundreds of thousands of Scouts and leaders for generations to come,” said Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca. “As we prepare to enter another century of service, this announcement demonstrates that Scouting is as relevant and vital today as it was when our journey began.”

Area residents, Scouts, community leaders, and elected officials attended the unveiling celebration at the Glen Jean Armed Forces Reserve Center. Guests included Gov. Joe Manchin, D-WV; U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-WV; Superintendent of the New River Gorge National River Don Striker; Fayette County Commissioner Matt Wender; and Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr.

“I commend the Boy Scouts of America, Stephen Bechtel, and all of the supporters for working so diligently with our state and local officials to bring this project to fruition. This partnership will reap tremendous benefits for young people across the country and the Mountain State for many years to come. West Virginia is proud to be a part of this new chapter in Scouting history,” said Gov. Joe Manchin.

The vision to establish a permanent home for the National Scout Jamboree and a new high-adventure base evolved from an intensive, highly competitive site selection process that drew 80 proposals from 28 states. The New River Gorge Region in West Virginia was selected because of its outstanding natural beauty, its world-class high-adventure opportunities, and the availability of superior local infrastructure, including roads and public services. A nonprofit organization formed by the BSA, Arrow WV, recently signed the agreement to purchase the property, some of which is reclaimed mine land and is adjacent to more than 70,000 acres of National Park Service land.

“The story behind this project is one of true partnership,” said BSA National Executive Board member and project leader Jack Furst. “This new site would not be possible without the Bechtel family, the State of West Virginia, Fayette County, 4C Economic Development Authority, the National Park Service, and dozens of others who have played such an instrumental role in making today a reality.”

The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve will complement the BSA’s existing three high-adventure bases in New Mexico, Minnesota, and Florida and help meet demand for new high-adventure activities not offered elsewhere. Annually, the BSA’s three existing high-adventure bases serve more than 50,000 youth – with 20,000 or more regularly wait-listed to attend.

The site, located in the Glen Jean – Mount Hope area, will offer unique opportunities for high-adventure whitewater rafting, technical rock climbing, mountain biking, and other extreme outdoor sports. The beautiful backdrop of the New River Gorge serves as a living outdoor classroom, offering activities that build leadership skills and the strong principles rooted in the Boy Scouts’ mission.

The New River Gorge property will require a large investment. The effort has already received a large boost with the announcement of the $50 million gift from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

“Scouting made a tremendous impact on my life,” said Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. “It’s the source of some of my fondest memories. I’m proud to be a founder on this project, and I’m thrilled to know that it will be a part of the Scouting legacy future generations will enjoy.”

Construction of the project will be based on the BSA’s long-standing commitment to “leave no trace.” Strict stewardship of the New River Gorge environment will be enforced throughout site development and reinforced daily when the property opens for use.

“In order to maintain the natural beauty of the New River Gorge, we rely heavily on the creation of strategic partnerships, such as the one we are developing with the Boy Scouts,” said Don Striker, superintendent of the New River Gorge National River. “Collaborative efforts like this are essential to carrying out the Park Service’s mission to protect our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.”

“Thanks to the vision of the Boy Scouts, the significant contributions by the Bechtel family, and the coordinated efforts of local, state, and federal partners along with dozens of other individuals and organizations, the development of the New River Gorge site represents a remarkable opportunity for our country’s youth and the State of West Virginia,” said Congressman Nick J. Rahall.

Detailed plans for the site will be finalized soon, with construction scheduled to begin in the spring of 2010. It is expected to take approximately three years to have the site ready for a full array of Scouting activities.

Serving nearly 4.1 million youth between the ages of 17 7 and 20 (updated 12:20 p.m. Nov. 18 EST), with more than 300 councils throughout the United States and its territories, the BSA is the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. The Scouting movement is composed of 1.2 million volunteers, whose dedication of time and resources has enabled the BSA to remain the nation’s leading youth-serving organization. For more information on the BSA, please visit www.scouting.org.

More information about 100 Years of Scouting can be found at www.scouting.org/100years.

Source: BSA Press Release

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