Tapping into local experts for Venturing high-adventure activities

Scouter R.S. is the Advisor of a new Venturing crew in Memphis, Tenn. He is not aware of many high adventure opportunities in his area and asks for help in finding activities that will interest and challenge his Venturers.

Check the USDA Forest Service (www.fs.fed.us) and National Park Service (www.nps.gov) Web sites for your state and neighboring states. Don’t overlook historic parks as well as scenic parks. The Web sites of your state’s departments of environmental protection (see a state-by-state list with links here), parks and wildlife, or natural resources may contain lists of outfitters and other useful information. Check neighboring states, too.

Check the outdoor publications rack at your local camping retailer. Don’t forget the BSA Fieldbook, merit badge pamphlets, and Venturing publications. Google relentlessly.

Pitman, N.J.

We found high adventure opportunities as close as the local park district that offers kayak and scuba lessons in the pool. A nearby city offers a rock-climbing wall, and a college offers high ropes courses.

Our guys plan an annual, multiday, 50-mile canoe trip on local rivers. We have also taken the older Scouts to a summer camp in a neighboring state, where they have the opportunity to participate in high adventure activities like whitewater rafting and sailing, which are not offered in our area.

Freeport, Ill.

Contact your council’s high adventure team, an excellent source for both training and resource information. Next, talk with your Venturers to determine their interests. While backpacking, canoeing, cycling, and rock climbing are fine traditional high adventure activities, there are many more challenges available, such as orienteering, and caving (spelunking).

Finally, many areas have a wide range of hobbyist organizations with members who are willing to help Boy Scouts and Venturers discover their specialties; [mountain man and Civil War] re-enactors and ham radio clubs come to mind. Many members of these clubs were Scouts in their youth and developed an interest in these activities and hobbies while earning a related merit badge.

Hemet, Calif.

The BSA’s bible for high adventure information is Passport to High Adventure (BSA No. 4310). You’ll find ideas you must consider when planning high adventure trips. It also contains a nationwide list of high adventure opportunities operated by local Boy Scout councils. It should be a part of every unit’s library.

Fairfax, Va.

[Editor’s note: Scouters can also find an updated directory of local Boy Scout council high adventure programs on the Web at: www.scouting.org/boyscouts/directory/index.html.]

We found a great camp database on www.scoutcamp.org. It is organized by state and identifies all the BSA camps and some private and state-owned ones, too. No doubt you will find something close to Memphis by searching through Tennessee and adjacent states.

Battle Creek, Mich.

Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, but go directly to the closest BSA Powder Horn course. It is exactly what you need. Check for Boy Scout councils close to you that may be conducting a course and sign up. You cannot go wrong with this one. Also look in the back of the Venturer/Ranger Handbook (No. 33494B); many resources are listed there.

Masontown, Pa.

[Editor’s note: Powder Horn is a weeklong (or two-weekend) high adventure skills resource course for Boy Scout and Venturing leaders. For a current directory of courses, visit www.powderhorn-bsa.org.]

High adventure is what you make it. Some Eagle Scouts told me they would much rather do some serious primitive camping instead of paying large amounts of money going to out-of-state camps. (Primitive camping for them is to hike into farm/ranch tree stands out in the middle of nowhere—after gaining permission—and to live off whatever they pack in, no matter the weather.)

Plattsmouth, Neb.

Memphis is not that far from some great high adventure activities. For a hiking challenge, visit Taum Sauk Mountain State Park in southeastern Missouri and hike parts of the Ozark Trail.

For some challenging canoeing, try a three-day trip on the Buffalo National River in northwestern Arkansas. To stay in state, hike a part of the Appalachian Trail near Roan Mountain, Tenn.

Southern Illinois has some great camping at Giant City State Park with hiking and scrambling. Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky includes some fun caving and has good camping nearby.

Don’t forget to look at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. High adventure needs only adventure and fun.

Chesterfield, Mo.

Web Exclusive Responses

The following responses did not appear in the print edition …

I was born and raised in Memphis and was even a Scout there. You have several opportunities for high adventure within a day’s drive.

Using many volunteers drawn from Scouting as well as hiking organizations, a nonprofit corporation in Memphis offers a Shiloh National Military Park trail award program (see www.nps.gov/shil/scouts.htm and “About Shiloh” at www.shilohmilitarytrails.org) that helps Scouts understand the Battle of Shiloh.

The Buffalo River near Waverly, Tenn., offers excellent canoeing experiences, as do the Little Red and Buffalo National rivers in Arkansas.

Whitewater rafting in southeast Missouri, trout fishing, waterskiing, diving, snorkeling, and rappelling at Greers Ferry Lake in north-central Arkansas, backpacking in the Ozarks, and caving in Arkansas are a few more ideas. All of this is within a few hours’ drive.

Woodward, Okla.

Pick a location, and it’s likely to be the backyard for some Boy Scout troop. They may have a Web site and a contact person and would enjoy sharing their knowledge with fellow Scouts.

When Troop 7 of Ann Arbor, Mich., rode Amtrak to Colorado and went backpacking in the Uncompahgre Wilderness Area, we found a Boy Scout troop near our destination, and they were wonderful in suggesting routes, campsites, and resources. They even had three cans of stove fuel waiting for us, as we could not bring fuel on the train.

Ypsilanti, Mich.


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