Monday, June 18, 2012

Scout Camps and Hikes

Over the past few days in communication with various members of the family and others, I have been impressed with the number of times the subject of scouting has come up. I substituted at the Temple on Friday and one of my former ward members and friend in the old Lanark Ward where I grew up asked me in a spare moment between assignments if I remembered a specific scout trip we had been on many years ago. In fact this particular trip was just one of numerous scout activities that are still fresh in my memory from fifty-five plus years ago. The specific scout trip my friend referred to was when the Lanark boy scouts made a trip to Yellowstone Park, the first of many for me. We made plans most of the winter in our troop meetings and then Arnell Early and Fred Parker loaded us up in their cars and trucks with the truck pulling a small tailor full of camping equipment and supplies and we were off on a wonderful adventure for the better part of a week. We camped in tents and it was quite early in June. The nights were rather cold and their was still some snow around in Yellowstone Park. We saw all the traditional sights and some which are not nearly as common any more, There were literally dozens of bears, mostly along the roadways, where they had learned to congregate and beg for a handout from passing tourists. Apparently there were some who were injured in these bear encounters and still others who were killed. For this reason the park officials put a ban on feeding bears and did all that they could to separate the native bears from the tourists who frequented the Park. Now it is a rarity if anyone sees a bear or two in the wilds of Yellowstone. They are still there but have learned again how to live in the wild rather than congregate around the dumps and highways looking for an easy, but unhealthy treat. I remember well one night when bears came into our camp. We were trying to sleep in our tents but during the night we could hear bears wandering ans snorting around the camp as they looked for any morsel of food that might have been left out. One go so close to our tent we could actually feel it as it went past and could hear it breathing. Needless to say this was a bit unsettling to a group of young scouts, but it made for some rather tall tales later on and some never to be forgotten memories of this early scout trip.
Judging from the cars in this picture this was about the same time as our scout trip to Yellowstone. We didn't really think much about the dangers of feeding the bears or taking pictures of them, especially while they were accompanied by cubs.
We also were not well taught about the dangers of leaving food on our campsite table or in our tents. Bears have a very keen sense of smell and are easily attracted to these items left by careless campers.

The trip to Yellowstone was just a starting point in our conversation, but over the next several days I have been reminded of many other adventures, some of which I shall endeavor to describe in this post.

My very first scout camping adventure took place when I was just eleven years old. I was invited to go with the Lanark Ward troop on a two night camp at Neibuhr Spring in Mill Canyon just about five miles west of home in the mountains. I was the youngest boy in the group, but I was made to feel included and we had a great time. As a part of this early scouting adventure one activity stands out. Some of the boys including me climbed to the top of the rather steep mountain directly east of our camping spot near Neibuhr Spring. There we found several large boulders lying on the hillside. We decided to see if we could move any of them and roll them down the hill. to the stream and the beaver ponds below. We were successful and I can still envision these large boulders thundering down the hill wiping out everything in their path before they finally came to rest at the bottom of the canyon below. We tried to maneuver some of these rocks so that they would end their downward path of destruction in one of the beaver ponds along the stream below. This we were also successful in doing with a resultant huge splash. This we found to be great fun. We didn't really do any damage except for crashing through the brush and perhaps jarring a few small saplings from the moorings on he hillside.

Another memory from this trip was that every mother of every boy in the troop it seems had sent an abundant supply of of canned pork and beans which we all ate with the gusto of hungry boys. The result- Chamber Music all through the night. It would not be the last of such music to be heard as the pork and beans seemed to be a pretty standard fare for boy scout camping trips. And never forget, boys were boys then, just as they are now.

Since that eventful camping trip to Neibuhr Spring I have returned to this spot many, many times. I have even rolled a few more boulders down the hill as an adult, but it didn't bring quite the same rush as it had so many years before when I was an eleven year old lad on his first scout camp. One time I even took my chain saw, hammer, an axe and some spikes and spent a day building a protective fence around the spring there where the clear water bubbles so mysteriously from the base of the mountain. This was some of the best water I had ever tasted, but by then it had become a trampled muddy watering hole for thirsty range cattle. I thought I was doing a service and hope either my small fence or a better one is still there protecting that lovely spring and the small stream which it feeds. To this very day one can see some of the boulders we rolled down that mountain in 1951, each one of them bringing back fond memories of good times. There are many places that I have grown to love in the mountains, but Neibuhr Spring is near the top of the list.


Another vivid memory of our scouting activities while growing up in Lanark, Idaho is a five day / four night trip we took while I was an explorer scout. Preparations began long in advance of the actual hike which was to begin in the town of Cove, Utah  in Cache Valley and end at Camp Nebeker on the eastern side of Bear Lake. This was a trip of some sixty or seventy miles. I don't know exactly the length of the trip but it was a feet of endurance of most of us, especially me. During the winter leading up to this adventure, under the direction of our dedicated scout leader, Vyron Orr, we made preparations. We studied the trail. We studied the weather at various times of the year. We built our own backpacks, fashioning them from hardwood slats and light with rope which was strung tightly over the frame and leather shoulder straps which we attached carefully by hand in such a way that they could be adjusted to the size of the body and also the size of the load. We discussed how much we would be able to carry and what kind of supplies would be need for such a trip. We decided that our packs would be about forty pounds/little less for some of the younger boys. Talking about it and even trying on our weighted packs was one thing. Carrying them up nine thousand foot mountains was another thing all together, which we learned in the course of our trip a little later.

In the weeks just prior to our departure around the tenth of June I became ill. I was very concerned that I wouldn't be able to go with the rest of the guys. Mom and Dad were also concerned about me making such a trip when I was still weak from the illness that had been plaguing me. The night before we were to leave the decision was made to let me go. Our leader and the other boys knew I was not really well and agreed to help me if it became necessary, and so when the morning for our hike began we were off early driving over to Franklin and then starting up the trail with our heavy packs on our back. We had a map which showed the trail clearly, however the trail was not a heavily traveled trail and it was sometimes a little difficult to follow. Our first night encampment was to be at a place called Horse Lake, high in the mountains above Franklin, Idaho. As we labored up the trail we made occasional stops to rest and review our progress. During on of these rest stops we all gathered around the map held by our scout leader. One of the boys noticed that Horse Lake was not very far away from where we were. In a direct line on the map it was in fact but a short distance, maybe a couple of miles. If we continued up the canyon and followed the trail it was much further, perhaps another eight or nine miles. I remember well the deliberations. The scoutmaster kind of encouraged us to stay on the trail even though it was not a very good trail. Some of the older boy suggested making a B-line for Horse Lake going up and over the mountains between us and the lake. I remember it was put to a vote and most determined to take the shortcut. As we labored up the mountains we at length came to realize that the daylight was getting away from us and we might be very late arriving at our first nights planned destination. After stumbling down the mountainside after the steep climb we arrived at Horse Lake exhausted but glad that we had made it that far, even if we were a few hours later than we had planned. The shortcut had turned out to be anything but a shortcut. It added hours onto our hike and caused all of us to burn up a lot more energy that first day than we had planned. It was especially telling on my as I had started of in a somewhat weakened condition anyway. We built a fire, pitched our tents in the dark and cooked a quick supper over the campfire. We gave thanks for our safe arrival at that point, but I think all of us learned an enduring lesson from the day's experience

Our first day our had been very demanding, but for the most part we got along quite well and learned some important lessons along the way. After a not so restful nights sleep we arose, prepared our breakfast and after eating stared on to the second leg of our trip. This day was to bring us to Bloomington Lake. This was a place familiar to some of the boys , but most of us had never been there, and none had ever coming from the direction we were hiking. We were in unfamiliar territory, but with our trusty map in hand we were confident that would would arrive at our camp site before dark. Shortly after noon, however, we began to notice ominous signs in the skies. The clouds were gathering and it was turning colder. Soon a lite drizzle began to fall. This continued off and on for the remainder of our second day out. During times when it was raining harder we occasionally tried to find cover under a large tree. This worked, but it had consequences. It slowed us down. I was getting very weak and some of the older boys helped me with my pack. This slowed us down even more. It eventually became apparent that we would arrive at Bloomingotn Lake much like we had a Horse Lake the night before, in the dark. That was bad enough, but as the evening progressed and the darkness fell so did the temperatures. The rain turned to sleet and the sleet to snow. We trudged on grumbling about our plight until we finally reach Bloomington Lake. We found a somewhat sheltered spot near some large boulders along the shore of the first Bloomington Lake. There we decided to set up camp and make a fire. Making a fire in these conditions was no easy task as everything was sop and wet and the wet snow continued to fall. We were all exhausted and hungry which only added to our plight. We were fortunate though and our training about keeping our matches dry and some dry fodder paid of and we were soon able to get a fire going. After finding some branches covered with pine gum we were soon able to coax the small fire into a roaring fire for which we were all grateful. By this time most of us were wet through and were happy to try to warm ourselves by the roaring fire. Then a small problem developed. As we stood with our backsides to the fire our wet clothing began to steam, being heated by the fire. We soon had to move away from the flames and make the process a lower one, but we were glad and fortunate to have a nice warm fire. From this process we learned still other valuable lessons. We pitched our tents and tried to dig small ditches around them to keep the water and snow melt from filling our tents and making what appeared was going to be a sleepless night even worse than it needed to be.

We finally got around to cooking some hot dogs on a stick and were glad to fill our stomachs with some good warm food. It was certainly not a banquet, but it might as well have been. I've never tasted hot dogs that good in my entire life. As we were standing around the fire eating our hot dogs one of the boys noticed something very strange. across on the far side of the lake. It was dark except for the light of the fire, but off across the lake at a distance of about a quarter of a mile we noticed some small lights bouncing along in the darkness. We stopped and listened, but we could hear nothing. The lights came closer and closer, finally we recognized some people coming toward us in the dark and stormy night. Soon we recognized most of our parents. They had planned this rendezvous for weeks and were not about to let this surprise visit to their scouts be missed, regardless of the weather conditions. They had fixed a tarp over the top of Dave Parker's cattle truck, piled in a few bales of hay, and then climped in on top of the hay. They had blankets and flashlights and I can just imagine the tone of their conversation as they drove out into the darkness toward Bloomington Lake to meet their boys. We were all astonished to see them, that is all but the scoutmaster, who had kept this secret from us and had pushed us to make it to the site of our second night campsite. Our parents brought with them more hot dogs, some marshmallows and some hot chocolate. We thought we had died and gone to heaven right there in that snowy wet landscape on the shores of Bloomington Lake. I remember discussing with our leader and our parents that night whether we should just call off the rest of our trip and go home with them or if some of us perhaps should do that. In the end we all decided to stay the night and continue our trip in the morning. Late in the evening our wonderful and brave parents left us again in the wilderness, by a smoldering fire and we prepared to get what sleep we could. Needless to say, none of us slept very well again our second night out in the woods.

I remember saying my prayers silently in the tent that night. I thanked the Lord for helping us and especially for good friends who had helped me to bear up the heavy pack on occasion during that day with out complaint. I thanked Him for good parents and neighbors who cared about their kids, and I prayed that they would be alright on their return journey to Lanark.

Day three of our trip started of cold but with clearing conditions. Soon the sun was shining down on our tired troop as we trudged up the trail toward St. Charles Canyon and Minnitonka Cave. This was the easy day on the trail. We made good time and arrived at our camp site in mid afternoon. We were grateful for the short hike and the pleasant weather. We camped near the trail which leads up to Minitonka Cave and after another, this time less hastily prepared campfire meal, sat around the campfire and told stories and recalled the events of the previous days and nights. Eventually we crawled into out tents and sleeping bags and went to sleep. After giving thanks to the Lord for a better day, I remember how well we all slept that night. The next day we hiked up over the mountain and down Fish Haven Canyon, eventually arriving at the western shore of Bear Lake, There we loaded all of our gear into a truck and ourselves into a waiting motor boat. This was my first time in a motor boat and I think the same was true for most of the other boys. The boat had been previously arranged and we enjoyed a wonderful crossing of beautiful Bear Lake arriving early in the afternoon in time to set up our tents and participate in the special Friday night campfire ceremony where the troop of tired explorer scouts from the Lanark Ward were honored for the completion of this great trek in the wilderness as the evening sun set across beautiful Bear Lake. This experience will not be soon forgotten, as it becomes a topic of discussion when any of the boys (now old men) who participated get together even fifty plus years later. It was a tough and hard experience, but we all survived, learning important life lessons, and making memories that I hope will be carried on beyond our own generation.

1 comment:

  1. Hard work brings great memories. Thanks for the stories.