Saturday, February 14, 2009

Polar Bears in Manistee

young Scout by campfire
Polar Bear candidate (photo by J Young)

by Joan H. Young, a GOTC exclusive

Polar Bears are not endangered in Manistee. Boy Scout Troop 167 was adding several more to the ranks this weekend. Manistee Polar Bears are not white and furred with four feet. They are Scouts who have stayed outside for a minimum of 20 hours, and cooked over an open fire, when the temperature is below freezing. Troy, tending the fire here, was determined to earn the Polar Bear Badge this weekend despite having a cold. Encouragement from his buddies and leaders practically guaranteed success.

bringing supplies by sled
sledding in supplies (photo by J Young)

Nine boys and four leaders were camped at Big M ski area this weekend. (The area is not open for camping in general, but special permission was granted to the troop.) There is always plenty to do around camp, no matter what the season. Bringing supplies from the vehicles can actually be easier in the winter when a sled can be used. Other boys were chopping wood, shaking snow from the tents, shoveling, or taking damp sleeping bags inside the warming shelter to dry them out.

tents in the snow
winter quarters (photo by J Young)
Scoutmaster Klaus Kutschke explained that the troop does a winter campout each year. With justifiable pride he revealed that the troop has awarded Eagle rank to 18 boys since 2000. Eagle is the highest rank a Boy Scout can attain. "The lessons in ethical living last a lifetime," Kutschke stated. "Winter camping builds character, too," he added. Following the Scout Oath and Laws have been consistent goals throughout the decades of Scouting, as well as building leadership skills. Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Postema, and two scouting moms were also serving as counselors for the weekend.

making scrambled eggs
Nick & John make scrambled eggs (photo by J Young)
The campers ranged in age from 11 to 16. Most of the boys had previously earned their Polar Bear. These veterans were cooking in the warming shelter on propane stoves. At first the older boys started the potatoes. When asked why they weren't letting the younger ones cook they answered, "We don't want breakfast burned!" But soon Nick and John were breaking eggs into a pan. "Hey, don't forget the milk!" called one as the other headed for the stove. "Oh, yeah," was the reply. Scouts work together. Soon they were scooping eggs and hash browns into their mouths, and then cleaning the dishes and putting away the stoves (with a little reminder from Postema).

The chores were soon done and the whoops and hollering began as the boys took to the steep slopes at Big M. Snowboards, saucers, sleds, and even an inner tube threaded a track through the trees. A couple of fresh inches of snow over the remaining icy base after the warm week made conditions very good for sliding. "There's a great jump at the end," said one snowboarder. These young fellows may very well be headed for leadership roles as adults, but Scouting is also about times for having fun.

Other activities included snowshoeing, fire building, wood chopping, and much discussion of progress toward ranks. I was mightily heartened to see young people enjoying a weekend outdoors, totally oblivious to the weather.

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nosolutions said...

didn't read but I heard it and love it, keep the scouts scoopin

Lin said...

My son and husband did this a few times and were sooo proud of it! It is quite the adventure to boast of. It's funny, Joe used to wish for snow on those weekends because it was usually warmer than if it wasn't.

I love boy scouts and what they teach the boys. I have found Girl Scouts to be really lame, earning badges for silly girly stuff. I often wished my daughter could have been a Boy Scout instead.

Sharkbytes said...

Lin- Girl Scouts used to be worth something when I was growing up in it. I've been very unhappy with them for decades, however. I agree with your assessment.

Josh- Yeah... you got me to talk so you didn't have to read, you sly thing.

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