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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Trip to Alaska takes local Scouts on 'high adventure'

Friday, July 17, 2009

Canoers and sponsors enjoyed the beautiful scenery on the Alaskan canoe trip taken by Monett Boy Scout Troop 38.
Eight boy scouts from Monett Troop 38 embarked on an Alaskan canoe trip in June. The group, sponsored by the Methodist Men, ranged in ages from 14 through 18 with six adults sponsors.

Scouts attending were: Michael Kean, Ryan Frieze, Preston Locher, Clayton Locher, Clayton Patton, Carlin Balley, Geoff Bowsher and Justin Christensen. The adults were Scoutmaster Charlie Locher, Rusty Bowsher, Eric Kean, Jon Funk, Laura Funk and Zach Patton.

On June 22, the group of 14 flew to Alaska to join two guides for the "high adventure."

The trip began 90 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, just south of the Artic Circle in the Steese National Conservation Area. The scouts and their sponsors spent seven days on the water on Birch Creek, canoeing 120 miles.

The first three days of the trip proved to be challenging with intermittent rain showers that caused the creek to rise over six feet. The creek has a fairly large tributary area, and on day three, some class one and class two rapids had increased to class four. The group lost two canoes that day. One was found the same day, and the other was found the next morning.

According to Scoutmaster Locher, the group was discouraged by the end of the third day and the guides were talking about cutting the trip short. "When you cut the trip short you do not cut the mileage, you cut the time," said Locher. "When you put in your canoe, it is the only access point in the area and where you take out 120 miles later. There are no roads, no buildings, no access to helicopters," said Locher. "Since there is 24 hours of daylight you can paddle 24 hours. Paddlers would doubleup, and instead of going 15 miles a day, you go 40 or 50 miles a day and arrive to the take-out point sooner."

On the day the canoes were lost, there were two cases of hypothermia, one boy and one guide. The guide lost all of his equipment totalling approximately $4,000 when his canoe was lost.

Prior to the dumping of the canoe and for the rest of the trip the group was unable to build fires because of a "Leave No Trace" program that the park asks everyone to adhere to. This program is supported by the Boy Scouts of America and sponsored by the National Park Service. Under this program, people take out what they take in, including trash. Fires are not allowed without special permission.

Because of the hypothermia situation, the group was allowed to build a fire and the two suffering from hypothermia were fine by bed time.

On the third day of the trip, the group became petrified every time we stopped. Locher said they were scared to get back into their canoes in fear that they would get dumped again in the 45 degree water. "What the group had gone through was physically exhausting and the weather was wet, rainy and windy," said Locher. "The last part of the trip was a reprieve with mostly sunshine and the creek opened up to calmer water." The only civilization thegroup saw from the time of put-in was spotting some F-18 Air Force jets. Fairbanks, Alaska is home to an Air Force Base, and Locher thought the jet pilot was on a training excercise. Locher said that the jets were maybe 100 feet off the ground and the first one flew directly over the group. "You could see him looking down and see us so I think he must have radioed the others, because after that they went past us or before us instead of right over us," Locher said.

Locher started in Scouts approximately 14 years ago and has been in Troop 38 since 1999. Locher became scoutmaster in 2002 to encourage the older scouts to stay in the program. He implemented the "high adventure" program when he became scoutmaster and their first trip was to Florida Sea Base in 2003.

In 2005, the group canoed in Northern Tier, which is canoing in the boundaray water lakes between Minnesota and Canada. In 2007, the group went back to Florida Sea Base and then this year to Alaska. In order to participate in the "high adventures." Scouts must be 14 or older so the younger ones are not able to participate. These "high adventures" are planned 18 months in advance, and the boys financially fund the trips. A working budget is used, and the boys raise two-thirds of the cost and one-third is secured through private donations and civic donations like: The United Fund, Pearl Foundation, ASI, Methodist Men and smaller donations to make up the difference. For the entire group, the total cost was $18,000.

Locher expressed his appreciation to the adult leaders and the youth for their willingness to work successfully as a team.

"It was a lifechanging event, in a good way" said Locher.

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