Friday, October 23, 2009


(Click to enlarge)
(Older scouts were north of Gunpowder Creek)
(Younger scouts were south of Gunpowder Dreek)

This latest campout was the infamous “Survivor” campout, where the older scouts can test their wilderness survival skills in a real-life situation: getting stuck in a forest without any clue as to where to go and only the ten scout essentials plus the clothes on their backs to help them. Meanwhile, the younger scouts who were not high enough rank to try roughing it in the wilds of Kentucky set up camp by a pre-existing shelter located next to the Gunpowder Creek, their main goal of the weekend being to work on rank advancement, although they too would not have access to as many luxuries as they usually had on a campout due to some restrictions such as having to make all their meals over a campfire. The only two First Class scouts who were with the younger scouts was Ben M, the acting SPL for the non-survivor group, and me as the staff cook.


Friday saw the two groups split up, the Survivors leaving a little bit earlier than the younger scouts. The Survivors were driven on a very long, disorienting route before being dropped off in the middle of a forest and left to their own devices. Accompanied by Dr. Reynolds and Mr. Neuhart, the survivors hiked about half a mile before they came across what appeared to be a decent location for building their shelters. The key words in that sentence being “appeared to be,” as it was anything but what the survivors later said was decent. The place where the survivors had built their earthen shelters turned out to be on a slope of such a degree that extra effort had to be exerted to ensure nobody went rolling down the hill! At the same time, the other group of scouts drove down the gravel road to the campsite, where after surveying the ground; tents were set up near a fire pit. After the tents were pitched, the young scouts burned through triple-digit numbers of matches in trying to light a fire in said fire pit, eventually succeeding with the help of some of the adult staff.


Saturday morning brought with it cold temperatures and a late sunrise. For the survivors, it meant breaking down their shelters and following a GPS (provide by Dr. Reynolds) to another location, this time a much better campsite where the survivor group, broken up into groups of three teams of three, built more shelters, except this time they were significantly better than the previous ones as they were built closer to the ground and insulated better to keep the heat inside. One of the shelters even had a door on it reportedly (these shelters were destroyed the next morning as well). The following hours had the survivors spend most of the time sleeping after the previous night’s rough struggle with gravity; or search the surrounding area for objects that would help the survivors out, like a metal can to use for collecting water from a stream. (Dr. Reynolds had placed the several objects for the Scouts to find, as they would not normally be there as though being forgotten by previous adventurers.)

Dr. Reynolds and Mr. Neuhart came to visit the survivors periodically throughout the day, giving wilderness survival tips - and towards late afternoon - small animal traps that would hopefully yield dinner. The traps did not actually catch anything, so for dinner the adults provided a freshly-shot turkey and a cornhusk. Mr. Neuhart taught the survivors how to make a cooking spit to cook the turkey.

Later, after Dr. Reynolds repeatedly advised the survivors to go pick up the traps (using several different plausible reasons), Nick B. went to collect his group’s cages when he apparently encountered something inside one of the traps staring right back at him, so he went to go get help from the other scouts. When he returned with backup, it turned out that the trap had caught a savage and ferocious…chocolate bunny. The shiny plastic window on the bunny’s packaging had probably reflected the light from Nick’s flashlight, so that to him it looked like something staring right back at him. However, the chocolate bunny did not require a device like a Holy Hand Grenade to subdue, and so the scouts did enjoy a little desert before crawling into their shelters to survive out one more night.


The young scouts had a much different day. Waking up to the same cold morning that the survivors did, the young scouts set out to make breakfast without the use of propane stoves and were successful. Meanwhile, SPL Ben and the rest of the staff had planned for the group to take a 5-mile hike early in the day after breakfast to fulfill the related requirement for First Class, lunch to be held on the trail thus requiring it to be made before setting out on the hike.
Things got interesting when the trail markers; two blue stripes or “blazes” painted onto trees along the trail, became harder and harder to follow, the group sometimes trail blazed a little on their own before realizing where the trail actually was.

Along the way, Justin K. got “bit by a snake” and so the young scouts were supposed to show they knew how to treat the wound, the effectiveness of their medical treatment being questionable had it been a real medical emergency. lunchtime, the group stopped for lunch right on a small tributary to the Gunpowder Creek, the water level being low enough that there were dry rocks to sit on to eat their sandwiches. After lunch was done, everybody had varying amounts of difficulty climbing out of the riverbed up to the road, then again when the adults decided to have the group trail blaze up the hill on the other side of the road to a trail located at the top of the hill. It was tough and slick thanks to the thick growth and mud, but eventually everybody made the climb.

Then Mr. Carlson had a heart attack. It was up to the young scouts, again, to try and address this medical emergency, but they generally did only slightly better than before as this time they sent someone to go get help, after which they needed to consult the Scout Handbook once again. Mr. Carlson, after making a miraculous recovery, then asked questions to the young scouts about what to do in the case of a heart attack, correct answers rewarded with chocolate candy.

It was quickly realized after that event, however, that there was no direct trail back down to the bottom of the hill, so after following the available trails for a good little bit of time, the hikers broke from the trail and blazed their own down the side of the hill, ending up a short distance away from where the camp was set up. For the young scouts, it was not over just yet, as right after getting back to camp, they were sent on the orienteering course to finish that requirement for First Class, while those who did not need to do that stayed behind to work on other requirements.

For the rest of the day, the young scouts focused on getting more requirements done, while Staff did various administrative things for the campout and helped me out in making the Skyline Chili for dinner. Finally, around 11 o’clock, everybody was in their tents sleeping or just about to start sawing logs.

Sunday morning ended up being even colder than the previous one, but that didn’t stop the survivors from waking up before dawn and breaking down their shelters, ready to finish their journey and find civilization (or at least a hot meal). Unfortunately for them, their final destination ended up being on the other side of Gunpowder Creek, and so to keep themselves as dry as possible, they had to walk across with only their bare feet in their boots, only putting their socks back on after they had made the crossing.

Back at the other campsite, everybody slowly woke up to find that there was frost on the ground and on the tents! Needless to say, that made packing up the tents harder than usual, but by the time the survivors managed to reach the campsite where the young scouts were, only one green tent was still standing (among a few of the adult’s tents being left out to dry any moisture from the frost) and the adults had prepared a large “Mountain Man” breakfast, the survivors getting first dibs before anybody else.


It was while the survivors were eating, Will C. noticed that I was slightly wincing in pain, and so inquired as to why I was doing that. I explained that I had a slight pain in my hip as I had not slept well that previous night. Within half-a-second of me finishing my sentence, all the scout survivors said in near-perfect unison: “YOU didn’t sleep well last night?” with Bret C. jokingly pretending to hand me a plastic drum liner that he had used and telling me to go try sleeping like they had last night. When the now-reunited Troop 281 members had finished breakfast and packed the trailer, the traditional flag lowering closing of a campout was performed and the Scouts went back to the church.

However, upon arrival, there was one last thing the scouts needed to do before being dismissed. The church had bought a building close by as an annex to serve as its offices, but the flagpole’s halyard had been removed when the building’s former owners moved out and now it needed a new one. With the help of the local fire department and one of their ladder trucks, Dr. Reynolds was able to install a new halyard through fusing the two ends of the rope with a blowtorch. The scouts took over from there, as all the scouts in Class “A” uniform grouped up to perform a flag raising ceremony for the church’s newly repaired flagpole before being dismissed and allowed to go home.

Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Photography by Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian

Photos from shooting sports campout at Achewon, September 18-29, 2009

Check Spelling

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Of Survival Skills and Geometry

At last week’s Troop meeting, things got a little crazy. First, the youth staff announced that in November there will be a uniform inspection conducted every meeting to make sure scouts are in complete “Class A” uniform. There was a small commotion when it was added that wearing the “Class B” shirt (the white shirt with the Troop 281 logo on the front) was part of the Class A uniform, since it would be almost completely hidden under the Class A shirt, but eventually the situation was sorted out. After some more announcements, Greg B. told the scouts to form a “half-circle-nonagon” (A nonagon is a nine-sided polygon) for the skill session, although in the end the scouts just formed a half-circle.
Confusing geometric-related commands aside, Greg did a good job of covering the basics of Wilderness Survival, the next campout (location still unknown to most of the Troop). He covered the essentials and the top 7 things anybody needs to survive in the wild for a little while: Water, the ability to assess the situation, food, a fire, shelter, signals, and a flashlight. The scouts who are going on the actual wilderness survival part of the campout will need those skills to survive for the 2-3 days they will be lost in the wilds of…wherever they’ll be.
When the skill session was over, the scouts got to play a game of “Spud”. For those who don’t know, the game “Spud” is kind of like dodge ball, but with a few twists: Each scout is given a number, and when one scout tosses the ball in the air, whoever has the number that is called out must catch the ball and shout “SPUD!” At that point, all the other scouts who were running away from the ball must freeze, and the scout who has the ball gets three steps before he must toss the ball at another scout. If the ball makes a hit, the unlucky scout is out of the game, but if it’s a miss, then the game just restarts.
When it was time to circle up to close the meeting, the scouts fell in as usual for the end-of-meeting announcements. SPL Avery R. got a little creative towards the end, however, and taking a page from Greg’s book had the Troop “nonagon-up”, but the Troop still ended up making more of an amoeba shape than a polygon.

Ben Hallenbeck, Troop Historian