Several young men from Amigos de Cristo Boy Scout Troop 300 participated in a once-in-a-lifetime high adventure camp in West Virginia July 2 through 10. The scouts were honored to be the first troop in their council to participate.
Nathaniel Edwards, scout master for the trip, said the group went to Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, near Beckley, West Virginia. Scouts Jeffery Allen, Antonio Olivos, Dominic Alicea, Luis Sotelo and Grant Chumpraphai attended the camp along with two adults.
“High adventure camps are very prestigious in Boy Scouting,” Edwards noted. “It’s a lot more fun and there’s a lot more to do than just your regular summer camp. We had the opportunity to go there through the Great Rivers Council.”
Troop 300 was the first troop from Great Rivers to attend the distinguished summit and they were funded through Scoutreach — Boy Scouts of America.
“It helps out different troops and individuals in scouting who aren’t able to financially meet the requirements,” Edwards said of Scoutreach. “When I went through scouting, I had to pay for all my summer camp stuff. I had to pay for my badges, for all merit badge camps. You have to pay for all of it out-of-pocket.
“Scoutreach really helps those kids and finds those kids and troops who aren’t able to financially meet that (requirement), and help them get their Eagle (Merit Badge),” he added.
Attending the camp costs approximately $800 per person. Scoutreach funded the cost of attending, but not travel expenses. Edwards said they drove to Bechtel Reserve. Usually when attending camp, scouts work on obtaining merit badges. Bechtel is a step above providing a wide variety of opportunities and adventure.
“At high adventure (camp) they give you time-lines for different events and you and you can go to those events as you wish,” Edwards said.
At Bechtel scouts may participate in zip-lining, kayaking, canoeing, white water rafting, paddle boarding, mountain biking plus climbing and rappelling.
“One of the attractions that they had, that really interested me, was called the Sustainability Treehouse,” he said. “It’s like this four- or five-story treehouse that is self-sustaining. It gets energy from the ground from thermal vents. It gets its energy from the sun … from wind. The whole purpose of the treehouse is to show that, this can happen.”
Boy Scout Troop 300 member Dominic Alicea said the trip was a “great experience.”
“I took one Merit Badge class, which was in that treehouse,” he said. “It was environmental science and we learned about different ways we could use energy and help the environment.”
Alicea said the camp gave him some direction about what he wants to do when he becomes an adult. The class discussed environmental issues and helped the scouts understand how those issues could be used in a career.
“There was a board and we wrote a bunch of stuff we could do, and used that to make it into a job,” he said.
Alicea added that he didn’t go zip-lining because he’s afraid of heights, but he did enjoy group activities and exploring the outdoors.
“They had this bridge and it was pretty high,” he added. “The view was amazing.”
A fairly new camp, Bechtel Reserve is only three years old and covers 40,000 acres. Because of its expansive size, the scouts did a great amount of walking.
“Just to go to the dining hall, it was three-quarters of a mile, up hill,” Edwards said laughing.
Edwards, who has his Eagle Scout Badge, said this was his first time to attend a high adventure camp. He thought the camp was a great experience and added that he was glad the youth from Troop 300 had the opportunity to attend Bechtel so soon after it opened.
“It’s cool to go there in its infancy,” he noted. “You went there in its third year, in 30 years how much is it going to change?”
Alicea said his favorite part of the trip was hiking up to a lookout.
“You could see everything, you could see the other mountains, it was beautiful,” he added.
The scouts hiked approximately two miles, on an 11 percent grade, to the VIP Lookout where there was a viewing deck that allowed the scouts to view the valley below.
Edwards, the music director at Amigos de Cristo Church, said he took a banjo and a classical guitar with him on the trip. His favorite part of the trip was being outdoors and playing the instruments at night as they sat around the campfire.
“It was very relaxing, and very peaceful,” he said.
Scout Troop 300 arrived at the camp two weeks after major floods hit West Virginia. Edwards said while there the scouts lived in tents and it rained every day; they had to learn how to adapt to the situation.
“It’s probably the first time I can say I went swimming … in my tent,” he added laughing. “The last day was probably the most interesting, because we knew there was a storm coming.”
Two of the scouts were back at the camp when it began to “pour.”
“Wind and hail and wind going sideways, you know Forrest Gump type of rain,” Edwards said. “We get to camp, and the two dinning flies (canopies) are gone, all the boys’ gear is wet. Seventy tents are destroyed and 13 dinning flies.”
The troop had to leave a day early because their tents had been destroyed, but the rain didn’t dampen their experiences at Bechtel Reserve.
“… it was worth it,” added Alicea.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.