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by Bob Geier 

Current demographics in our troop are such that we have a big group of 8th/9th graders and we just graduated a large group of seniors. One of the PLC's goals for camp was to really cement patrol method and patrol "bonding" especially among the older boys in each patrol.

By working together as older boys, the guys who will be supporting each other and the younger scouts on regular trips get some challenge, skill building, and team building.So after week one with everyone, the older (13 and up) boys in each patrol got to stay for a second week of adventure.

Week two had a decidedly different feel. We had about half the number of people as week one, and had really designed it to work with very little adult support (only 2 adults, really, but our committee insisted we have 4 for safety/backup in the event of a problem, etc.). The point was to step the patrols further toward autonomy. Each patrol again got to choose its own calendar, though one event was preset by the PLC - a 3-day no-adults backpack trek of about 30 miles or so.

Sunday saw the departure of our younger guys after mass, and the older guys got time in town for laundry. Each patrol also go to hit the grocery to buy patrol food for the week. By Sunday evening, the boys were set up for the week.

Each patrol again got to decide their own patrol activities and schedule for the week. All patrols did a 3-day, 30-mile independent backpack trek without adults. The start location for that trek was adjacent to a great Sporting Clays facility, so they all got some outstanding shotgun instruction and experience for half the day, followed by a quick lunch where we reviewed their route plan (TCP) and then they were off.

On average, we had only half the patrols in camp on any given day, with the rest on the trail at various points. For the in-camp segments, patrols chose different activities, most of which were coordinated with outfitters. For whitewater rafting, rather than do a guided-tour style trip, we worked out a long, hard day of "raft guide clinic" where they got a good portion of an outfitter's training course for new guides. Fun with whitewater, and extra fun captaining rafts, flipping and unflipping rafts (over and over...), learning how to set safety systems, etc. Boys finished the day happy and exhausted.

We tried to duplicate that kind of experience for all of the activities that patrols selected. Some patrols opted for some more hardboat (kayaking) clinics, some climbing, some caving, some mountain biking. Wherever we could, we followed the same Rx... fun, challenge, and leadership/learning.

Each day after they were done with outfitters (or emerged from their backpack trek), they were on their own in town and for the evening. We had a small cabin in town as an adult contact point (and shower facility for those coming off trail), and were of course available. A little bit of formal advancement went on some evenings, but it was more likely for a patrol to ask an adult to go down to the river to do some after-dinner kayak instruction, or to take some bikes out on their own. Things were active enough that despite the proximity of a paintball facility, I don't think we got a single request <g>.


Reflections This week ran so pleasantly and easily that it was very much an adult vacation. I used it for some adult training, sending individual adults for kayak instruction or river guide training; had I been more on the ball, I would have set up more of that. Adults ran their own self-guided raft trip one day, a couple went into town to catch Dark Knight another day.

The boys naturally had all their own tales of adventure, from rattlesnake encounters on the trail to kayak and climb and biking stories. Almost every boy easily exceed the (non bookwork) Shotgun MB requirements, and the non-bookwork stuff for other awards as well. Honestly, everything ran so smoothly and so completely youth- run that it's really hard to comment.

It was simply a marvelous week of scouting.







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.