Every summer our high school age Scouts get an opportunity to stretch their physical and mental endurance at one of the BSA’s high adventure bases. We’re pleased to announce a return to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base in Ely, MN in July 2021.
Prepare to spend a full week paddling and portaging through the 1 million acre wilderness of the Boundary Waters like the French Canadian Voyageurs of old! Swim in warm water so clear you can see down 25 feet. Eat handfuls of wild blueberries as you walk the trails between lakes. See waterfalls and ancient petroglyphs left by the indigenous people. Enjoy a place where the loudest sound you’ll hear besides each others’ voices will be the calls of loons.
But this trip isn’t all easy street. We will be paddling our canoes for several hours a day, heavily laden with everything we need to survive. Where the water ends, we’ll need to carry our boats and gear across rough and rocky trails to the next lake or river. And when it gets buggy or rains, which it will, we’ll need to cheerfully shrug it off as just part of the adventure. Roll the summer video here: https://youtu.be/oXw8CDlOeOc
The fine print:
All attendees must be registered with BSA
All attendees must be in EXCELLENT physical condition, meet BSA height & weight limits and pass the BSA swim test
Scouts must be 14 yrs old by July 25, 2021
$500 deposit due 10/2/20, final balance $600 due 3/1/21 – ALL PAYMENTS NONREFUNDABLE!
Personal gear, travel meals and souvenirs are the responsibility of each attendee
It’s always exciting to hear from past members of Troop 79 who have kept Scouting in their lives. As our Scoutmaster Mr. Keats is fond of saying, the Eagle ceremony isn’t a retirement party! Read on to hear what’s up with past SPL Elijah Greiner.
“When I first joined scouting as a Webelos Scout, I probably wouldn’t have imagined that I would still be involved with the program eleven years later at age 20.
I definitely enjoyed my time in Cub Scouts, but it was not until fifth grade, when I joined Troop 79, that I began to realize how much more there was to scouting than what Cub Scouts had to offer. My Cub Scout pack didn’t “feed” into any Scout troop, so — at the time — earning the Arrow of Light felt more like the denouement of my scouting career than the first step down a trail that would eventually lead me through the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, the wilderness of Canada, and so many other adventures along the way!
I was left, then, to seek out a Scout troop on my own. It was intimidating. Many of the boys were much older than me and I knew nobody at first, but continuing scouting beyond Cub Scouts was the best decision of my life! The years went by, I learned new skills, grew more confident from my experience, had a blast at Camp Blackhawk each summer, and somewhere along the line was elected into the Order of the Arrow: scouting’s “Brotherhood of Cheerful Service”.
Active service in the OA was never high on my interests. I loved scouting for the carefree romps through the woods on weekend campouts and the grand adventures at Northern Tier, Okpik, Philmont, and Sea Base. I had no interest in such formal events as OA chapter elections, winter banquets, or section conclaves. Maybe I never knew what I was missing.
As a member of the OA, however, I also was contacted to assist in crossover ceremonies for Cub Scouts receiving their Arrow of Light award, with an emphasis on the transition from Webelos to Scouts. It was at these events that my passion for scouting — or, more specifically, not wanting any Cub Scout to lose interest before discovering what scouting really has to offer — met with my interest in storytelling before large groups.
I volunteered for every crossover ceremony I could attend, which I performed alongside other Troop 79 Scouts. After doing it enough, I inevitably learned the lines for each role. So, when I couldn’t find anybody to join me to perform at a Blue and Gold Banquet in 2017, I performed the whole ceremony solo (taking my own liberties to make the four parts cohesive). When I staffed at Camp Blackhawk in 2018, my practice at crossover ceremonies made me an integral member of the OA ceremonialist team there.
At the time, I hardly imagined that my enthusiasm and dedication to performing these solemn rites-of-passage would earn me nomination to Vigil, the highest distinction of scouting’s National Honor Society. After all, I scarcely involved myself in OA business outside of the ceremonies. But — as time continues to prove — the more you put into scouting, the more you get out of it. As an Eagle Scout, seasonal employee of the BSA, and now a Vigil member of the Order of the Arrow, I can attest that scouting continues to be a gift that keeps on giving.”
As the year 2020 kicked off, Troop 79 was eagerly awaiting the end of school that marked the start of a fun-filled summer – camp in Michigan and high adventure like The Summit Experience at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. But as we all know, 2020 has been nothing but unpredictable. As we neared closer to the date of departure, we were met with a stringent set of health checks and requirements designed to make sure that everyone stayed safe, but had a fun experience at camp. The crew ended up being comprised of three scouts and two adults – Daniel, Sawyer, Nicholas, Mr. Falkner and Mr. Schnee. Our small crew size didn’t diminish our enthusiasm to make it an enjoyable time though. Paired with a great troop from Memphis, Tennessee (Troop 197), we set out each day, masked up, full canteens and looking for fun. Each Day looked to outdo each other as the best day at Summit.
Day One led the excitement with rain and a service project! A Scout is Helpful! Helping to clear woods and build trails on the far side of Summit was strenuous work in the backwoods of the Appalachians, but quite rewarding as we saw the fruits of our labor at the end. Plus, the general thought was to get the hard work out of the way early in the week to set up a full week of fun. The afternoon brought just that – whitewater rafting on the Lower Keeney Rapids of the New River Gorge! Just the thing after a hard day’s work on the trail. Our small crew size paid off by us being paired with the best guide on the river (Justin aka “Motorboat”) in the smaller and faster boat than our sister troop. With this great setup, we were able to tackle rapids from Class 2 all the way up to Class 5. Although we were shaken up a bit at points, we all made it through unscathed and a bit more confident out on the water. We even tackled some of the rapids out of the boat, in the water!
Day Two had a hard act to follow from the previous day’s events. But it proved up to the challenge. As everyone knows in the Scouts, it’s not worth it unless you hike there. Summit does not disappoint in this respect. Everywhere you go, you walk. Take lots of water, lace up your boots and head out. Our second day of events consisted of rock climbing and rappelling. Sawyer proved himself the star of this event, easily scampering up the rock courses with his nimble arms and legs. Everyone succeeded in their endeavours at the wall, no matter their skill level. What do you do after climbing the rocks? Rappel back down – on a different tower. This included traditional rappelling on the wall, but also a confidence jump. This meant you were tethered to a pulley and harness, but you jumped off the platform to be lowered to the ground gradually by gravity. It took some nerve to willingly jump off of a platform 30 feet in the air.
In the afternoon, we hiked over to the Canopy course for some fun in the trees. The canopy course was a lesson in navigating the zip lines up in the trees and learning how to fly from tree to tree, but stop before you slammed into the far tree or worse, the staff member waving for you to slow down. This was a fun challenge and gave us a preview of what to expect on the Big Zip. After a fun day on the ropes, everyone was eager to head back to base camp and relax.
Day Three proved a step up from Day Two. On deck were The Big Zip, Ropes course and Mountain Biking! The Big Zip is a 3,500 foot long, 400 foot drop zip line from the top of the hill, over a lake to the platform below, all at over 40 mph. This was a lot of fun and worthy of a second run, but then you would have to hike to the top of the mountain again. Next trip. The Ropes Course was a challenge course up in the trees and was quite the challenge for adults and Scout alike. The adults certainly paid for their youthful tries later that night. Mountain Biking proved every bit the challenge with the endless hills and rough terrain, but the views of the Reserve from the vistas were worth it.
Day Four offered up a day at the ranges – shotgun, rifles, pistols and archery. After a safety briefing, the crew stepped to the line to try their hand at clay pigeon shooting with 12 ga shotguns. Although newbies, everyone scored a hit with what appeared to be ease. Nicholas, Sawyer and Daniel mastered the pistol and rifle ranges as well, with little instruction. No matter the caliber – 12 ga, .22 pistols or rifles or .223 rifles – all were great shots! Archery ended up being rained out, but this offered up a great afternoon lesson in breaking down the firearms and lessons on safety and cleanliness. A great Scout lesson. The boys learned how to break down the shotguns and rifles and safely reassemble them. Arguably the highlight of the day.
Day Five was the last day at camp, but was not to be outdone by the rest, including skateboarding and BMX bikes. The boys took the challenge to brush up their skills at the skate park and tackle the concrete jungle of Summit. Everyone came out in one piece, so it was deemed a success. The BMX course was the last, but not least event of Summit. The boys and Mr. Falkner got some good fundamental training on maneuvering the hills, dips and turns of the dirt course, then hit the track. This proved to be quite the fun event with endless runs on the various tracks.
Summit definitely didn’t disappoint and lived up to the High Adventure spirit of Scouting. At the end of an eventful week, the crew looked back and determined it was the best it could have been, even with the pandemic trying its hardest. Everyone tested their personal limits, came away scraped, sore and bit bruised, but were beaming from ear to ear on the drive home. Someday Troop 79 will return to Summit, a new crew, but eager to conquer again.
YIS, the Summit 2020 Crew – Daniel, Sawyer, Nicholas with Mr. Falkner and Mr. Schnee
[PHOTOS] Summit Experience @ B. Schnee and G. Falkner
The current pandemic has reshaped so many lives. But despite the human and economic disaster that’s been unfolding, Troop 79 met its commitment to our high school age members to get a shot at summer high adventure. As you may recall from this earlier post, we were thrilled to secure two coveted spots for Philmont in the summer of 2020. Seemed far away at the time. Nobody knew what would happen nine months later…
BSA high adventure trips are intended to be a physical and mental challenge, pushing the Scouts (and adult advisors!) to exceed their self-imposed limits of endurance and leadership. Many in the Scouting community view Philmont as the pinnacle of high adventure – hiking for dozens of miles in the rugged Sangre de Christo Mountains, living on freeze dried food and Spam, carrying everything you need on your back. It’s not a vacation.
When Philmont’s summer 2020 season was canceled on June 4, the troop’s adult advisors sprung into action to organize a suitable replacement. Truth be told, we’d been formulating backup plans for a while, suspecting that Philmont’s modified operations could be blocked by state orders. A Scout is Prepared. After some debate on alternatives, a ten day trip to Alaska rose to the top, including five days of backpacking in the wilderness of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Our secret weapon for organizing the trip was a Scout’s parent who lived near Anchorage during the summer. And with the state requiring negative covid test results upon entry, we felt the locals were taking the virus seriously, as we would create our own social pod on trek in the wilderness.
While for many 2020 is a summer of cancelled plans, Troop 79 pushed ahead with our Philmont alternative. Read below for the trip report written by one of the two Crew Leaders, Eagle Scout Andrew Bui.
My statement on Alaska High Adventure
Three years ago, I first stepped foot onto Philmont. I loved the experience and wanted to do it again, but as Crew Leader. Due to COVID, we ended up changing course to Alaska as part of a DIY High Adventure as Philmont was closed. Our final group was Mr. Boyle, Mr. Chambliss, George, Chris, Henry, Max, Craig, James and myself.
We caught the 6.5 hour plane ride to Anchorage on 7/21/2020. After getting through COVID paperwork and entry forms, we made it to the Eagle River campground where we had hot dogs and reindeer sausage for dinner.
The next day, we hopped into a van to go to Wrangell St. Elias for our adventure. Wrangell St. Elias is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Switzerland combined. Our guides were Mike and Jonas, both of whom were fantastic. Since Mr. Boyle asked for the trip to be a high adventure, they were pretty much hands-off for the trip. The scouts backpacked, navigated, cooked, and cleaned. The first night was at the riverbar and the next morning, we spotted a bald eagle and a moose with her calf.
In Kennecott, we toured the abandoned copper production centers and learned about the history of the copper boom. Then we hiked to our first campsite. It overlooked the glacier we would cross the next day. Dinner was couscous and someone ended up having to drink the last of it to avoid leftovers. Dessert was much better, as everyone loves Oreo cheesecake.
Hash browns were the next day’s breakfast. We walked across Root Glacier in crampons, which gave us extra traction but felt weird doing it for the first time. The glacier was only one mile wide, but it took 5 hours to get across it and get around all the crevasses, glacial streams, and moulins. We had lunch at 3 and were pretty miserable and tired. However, we still had to trek to our campsite for that night, enduring 5 hours of rain and bushwhacking. I was about to call it quits and sleep in a marsh when George pushed me to go across one last hill. There was a valley below and a much better site for sleeping. While not everyone was thrilled arriving into camp at 8:00PM cold and wet, we worked lightning speed to get food ready. That night was Kung Pao noodles and vegetables, which tasted great and was a huge morale boost. We were in Donoho Basin and were exhausted, so we all had a good night’s sleep.
On 7/26 (Day 3), the crews took a day hike on the moraine of Gates Glacier, a neighboring glacier. Nobody wanted to put on crampons again. The hike was short, and that was intentional to give ourselves a rest. Dinner was chili and mashed potatoes, and everyone enjoyed it. Despite being stuffed, dessert was two servings of pudding.
For breakfast the next morning, it was oatmeal combined with some hot cocoa mix, something I learned at Philmont. We dumped an entire gallon bag of oatmeal in, which was apparently twice the amount we were supposed to eat. We still finished all the food. Then, I naviguessed us back across Root Glacier. We hiked back to our first night’s campsite because of ice climbing the next day. The return trip was completed in two less hours, as we recognized the path. Dinner was fried rice and dehydrated vegetables, which was the perfect consistency.
On 7/27 (Day 4), we all ice climbed. Breakfast was ramen, and lunch was granola and Cheerios. We were joined by two other guides, Jeremy and Eli who helped us with ice climbing. There were three walls to climb: the beginner’s wall, the endurance wall because it was the tallest, and the technical wall. It’s technical because of the overhangs. Everybody climbed at least once and some of us climbed two or even three walls. At the top of the center wall, I was feeling adventurous and took a selfie at the top. You can even see the rest of the guys down below.
The last climb was into a moulin. A moulin is where glacial streams all converge. Those who were feeling up to it were lowered down, and we climbed back out. The inside of a moulin is full of pretty blue ice, although that ice is very hard to stick crampons in. It was the biggest test of our technique and our will to continue. Nobody needed to be rescued, and that was the best part of the climbs.
Once we were done with climbs, we headed back to the riverbar in McCarthy. Dinner was beef stroganoff with peas and bell peppers. Dessert was Reese’s pudding. In the food storage area, they have a full map of Wrangell St. Elias. If you thought what I mentioned was huge, that small area between Mr. Boyle’s fingers is where our trek went. Wrangell St. Elias is huge.
Unfortunately, Nothing Gold Can Stay and on 7/28, we left St. Elias, Mike, and Jonas. At the Schechter’s cabin, we took showers for the first time in a week. We also slept in a climate controlled place, which was a nice change from the tents in 50F overnight temp.
On the morning of 7/29, half of us hiked up Mt. Aleyaska. The view was great, although we didn’t see any bears (which we were all hoping for). The wildlife cruise was five hours long, and we all were able to see sea lions and sea otters in the wild. One of the glaciers we passed was calving, so everyone saw a hunk of it fall off and then heard a low rumble from hundreds of tons of ice falling into the sea. After the cruise, we headed to Anchorage airport. Our trip was 10 days/ 9 nights long and while it wasn’t Philmont, it is something I will remember for a long while.
– Andrew Bui
Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.
[PHOTOS] Alaska high adventure @P Chambliss, A Bui