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The Summit Experience – Day 7

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

Well, this is it. Our week at the Summit has come to a close.

Last night we had a closing ceremony where we received our participation patches and said our goodbyes to the staff.

We woke up and quickly packed up our camp. Next, we hiked to a breakfast of french toast sticks, breakfast potatoes, eggs and cheesy eggs. We completed the day with a drive back to the Tidewater of Virginia.

Post Script

The trip was fantastic. Personally, I’ve never packed so many varied experiences into a single week. It is also unique among the BSA High Adventure Bases as it offers individual choice in program selection as well as access to those with handicaps or special needs. I highly recommend it to fellow members of BSA.

Here are some admin notes about camp for those of you considering going.

The base camp is well laid out, designed to become a sizable city, every other year. There are power stations scattered throughout the camp.

Likewise, water stations are all over and allow the simultaneous filling of multiple bottles or reservoirs.


Call it a blessing or a curse, the base camp has extensive Wi-Fi access thanks to an AT&T network leftover from the National Scout Jamboree. In fact, I used it to provide my coverage of the experience.

Finally, follow the packing list. I didn’t think I would need a jacket in June, but it got down into the low 60s. Also, you’ll do lots of hiking during the day. I found light hikers worked best as you are almost always on a path or road.

The Summit Experience – Day 6

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Today’s schedule for our Summit Experience included the Park and Trax. We had eggs, pancakes, tater tots and ham. While it wasn’t bacon, ham comes in a close second on the pig edibles scale.

Next, we lined up by activity for flags. After the requisite Pledge, Oath and Law, instructors from the various areas led crews to their facilities.

First up was the Park, a skateboarding experience. Scouts were issued Helmets along with Elbow and Knee Pads. The Skateboards were passed out based on shoe size. Next, they given very extensive instruction in how to safely ride a skateboard. Apparently it paid off, because no one was hurt.

There is plenty of space to skateboard.

The Crew had wraps for lunch and then hiked to Trax. Once again, they were issued Helmets along with Elbow and Knee Pads. Since they take such a beating, the bikes were very simple, with a rear brake.

There are three progressively more difficult dirt tracks. They include bumps, jumps and turns. After establishing the fundamentals, the Scouts moved on to the next course. The final track is set up for racing and race they did.

The Summit Experience – Day 5

Friday, June 29th, 2018

This is the fifth day of our trip to BSA’s Summit Experience. We’ve combined with a contingent from a Boy Scout Troop in Yorktown, Virginia, which is just across the water from our home of Chesapeake. So far, we’ve had an amazing experience, meeting people from all over America and learning new skills. Today, we attended Low Gear, Ropes and Big Zip.

This morning’s breakfast was chicken and waffles, along with scrambled eggs. Afterward, the camp conducted a flag ceremony and we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Scout Oath and Scout Law.

We hiked to Low Gear, a mountain Biking activity. We were issued helmets and bikes and then given instruction on how to ride on the trail. Everyone participated in a group ride of about three miles which included down and uphill including switchbacks, mud holes and jumps. After that, smaller groups negotiated various other trails. In all, SBR boasts 32 miles of dedicated mountain bike trails.

We ate a lunch onsite, consisting of cold cuts for sandwiches, sunflower seeds and cookies.

Every training site features water for the participants, often in the form of water buffalos.

The hike to our next event was very short. Ropes is SBR’s version of a COPE (Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience) Course where various elevated rope and cable obstacles must be surmounted in order to progress further in the course.

Built by Bonsai Design, it has a common entry point with several choices of obstacles to negotiate to get to the end. From above, it resembles a spiderweb. As you can see, it exists right in the trees, with very little was cut back to accommodate the course. The finale is an assisted rappel from a platform about 30 feet in the air.

The hike to our last event of the day, the Big Zip, takes about 45 minutes up a winding mountain trail. But the opportunity to go in excess of 50 mph down this 3,000 ft long zip line, makes it worthwhile.

Dinner was cheese tortellini or a sausage and chicken gumbo with green beans and garlic bread.

Tomorrow is The Trax and The Park.

The Summit Experience – Day 4

Thursday, June 28th, 2018

Once again, we arose to another fun-filled day at SBR. After a breakfast of French toast sticks, eggs and sausage patties we raised the flags and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Today, our agenda included Barrels with its shooting sports focus and Bows, which features archery.

The hike to Barrels took quite awhile due to both distance and elevation changes along the route.

During our orientation, we went over the NRA’s three rules of firearms safety. Next, the instructor went over the principles of marksmanship, eye dominance and general range admin.

First up was shooting clays. The shotguns we used were MX5 12 ga Automatics by Turkish manufacturer Emperor Firearms.

Next, we transitioned to rifles. We fired .22 Savage Mk II rifles equipped with Weaver 4-9x or Bushnell 4-9x scopes at bullseye paper and various steel targets to gain confidence. Next we moved to a 100 yd Steel target range where we fired Savage Axis rifles in .223 and .308.

We ate lunch of cold cuts at Barrels due to its distance from the dining hall and then hiked to Bows.

After a brief introduction by the Bows team which included archery fundamentals and safety, we were issued 20 lbs Matthews Genesis compound bows and split into two groups. One group went to the 40/60 Range, engaging static targets at 40 and 60 meters respectively. The other group went to shoot at 3D animal targets in the woods from close although unknown, distances and angles. Can you see the 3D targets in this photo?

This photo depicts the types of targets the archers engaged. The dinosaurs were only in the 40/60 Range.

At the static range they engaged targets at 10m while playing ‘bake the cake’ which is a competition where an archer has five arrows and must hit white (flours), blue (water), red (heat) and yellow (eggs), but not black which burns the cake. In the event an archer burns his cake, he can burn others by shooting into an opponent’s black ring.


Action archery consisted of thrown targets similar to sporting clays, with all of the archers attempting to hit the target. Can you see the target and arrows in this photo?

Whether first timers or old hands, skills were learned or improved and fun was had by all.

We wrapped up the day with a hike back to base camp for a dinner of Slaw Dogs, Chicken and Dumplings with cornbread and green beans.

Tomorrow is Mountain Biking and the Big Zip!

The Summit Experience – Day 3

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Day three kicked off with a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, cheesy eggs, tater tots and sausage patties. Right after our meal the colors were raised and we participated in our daily ritual of reciting the Pledge Of Allegiance, Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Our first event was Canopy. After a being issued harnesses and helmets, there was a brief training period. Then, we negotiated a course of ziplines back and forth across a valley. Staff members accompanied us through the course and set up our equipment on each obstacle.

In addition to ziplines, we also crossed two bridges and made two rappels.

Due to the distance between the events, we had lunch just we were diminishing up at Canopy. It consisted of breaded chicken strips with bread if you wanted to make a sandwich, chips, fruit and granola bars.

The afternoon was spent at Rocks which features is the largest manmade, outdoor climbing facility in the world. Constructed of concrete by Eldorado Climbing Walls, the formations were painted by a company which does work for Disney.

Summit Experience participants are provided with helmets, harnesses and shoes for the afternoon’s climbing. SBR uses Trublue self belay devices for safety and the facility offers routes with varying degrees of difficulty. The most challenging is the Black Mamba route.

There are also bouldering stations.

Participants in Rocks get the opportunity to rappel from a 40′ Tower.

Rocks was capped off with “a leap of faith” where participants are attached to a Trublue auto belay device and run out from a tower. The device gently lowers them to the ground. Fun was had by all and at the end of the day, we had 12 Scouts with a little confidence in themselves.

We hiked to the dining hall and ate a supper of Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, Beans, and Tater Tots.

One final note to potential attendees of the Summit Experience. Although not all of the shower facilities feature hot water, there are a few, scattered throughout the campground. While the weather has been cool and rainy, it was worth it to take warm shower last night and wash off the river after our white water rafting trip yesterday.

Tomorrow, it’s Barrels and Bows!

The Summit Experience – Day Two

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

We had a great day today. It started out early with breakfast kicking off at 0630, followed by a quick meeting to discuss the day’s schedule which would include a service project in the morning and white water rafting after lunch. Next was flags, with the requisite pledge of allegiance as well as Scout oath and law.

We organized into a larger group with another crew from Ozark, Missouri and were bussed to a nearby football field, located at a local closed high school, to help revitalize it for use by youth sports leagues. We were joined by a couple of local volunteers wielding chainsaws in order to clear small trees. We got quite a bit done and others will continue the job until it is complete. Service to the local community is a big part of what SBR does. Completion of this project also helps our Scouts earn a sustainability award while at camp.

After being bussed back to SBR, we ate a quick lunch and prepared for a white water rafting trip. Although it is an add-on with additional cost, it was worth it. The excursion is conducted by an offsite vendor, in the New River Gorge. We spent about two hours on the water, first learning how to control the boat as a team, and then negotiating multiple rapids during our journey. Although our boat crew was an ad hoc team comprised of Scouts and leaders from various locations, we had the opportunity to sit in different positions on the boat, giving us new perspectives of how the boat behaves on the river. If you’re looking for a great guide, ask for Chas who is a wealth of knowledge. Unfortunately, I was unable to bring a camera on the white water rafting trip.

Although it rained off and on all day, it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. The temperature remained cool, which was great for the service project and we were already wet from the river.

Evenings are capped off with a variety of activities. Unfortunately, I have to prepare stories for the website, so I am unable to participate. However, my son enjoyed some additional time out on the water.

Today’s meals consisted of do it yourself breakfast burritos in the morning, pulled pork sandwiches with fries and chicken fingers for lunch, and Hawaiian chicken with baked potatoes and corn for dinner. Granted, they weren’t the tastiest meals I had ever had, but they gave us the energy we needed for the day’s activities.

I’m looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings.

The Summit Experience – Day One

Monday, June 25th, 2018

A few years ago, the Boy Scouts of America opened the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 14,000 acre high adventure camp near Buckley, West Virginia thanks to a donation of $50 million from the Stephen D Bechtel, Jr Foundation.

So far, the Summit Bechtel Reserve (SBR) has been used for two National Scout Jamborees as well the Centennial celebration of the Order of the Arrow. When such events aren’t under way, it serves as the Paul R Christen High Adventure Base, joining the other three bases currently in operation.

This summer, I’m attending SBR along with my youngest son and other members of our Scout Troop. SSD has quite a few readers who were either Scouts growing up, or still participate in the Scouting movement. I thought it would be worthwhile to chronicle our experience.

When I was a Scout I attended the 1981 National Scout Jamboree at Fort AP Hill, Virginia, as well as Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico. During the last two Jamborees, I visited my sons at SBR and I was very impressed with the facility.

SBR boasts multiple distinct program areas: The Park (skateboarding), The Trax (BMX), The Pools (scuba and swimming), The Cloud (popular science & robotics), The Bows (archery sports), The Barrels (shooting sports), The Ropes (challenge courses in the trees), The Rocks (climbing, bouldering and rappelling), The Zip (zipline), Low & High Gear (mountain bike headquarters locations connecting over 36 miles of downhill and cross country mountain bike trails), The Canopy (canopy tours). Additional activities include ATV riding along with white water rafting and climbing in the nearby countryside.

The high adventure base offers several focused programs, concentrating on activities in the various program areas such as the Marksman which includes shooting sports and archery. We selected the Summit Experience, as it gives a taste of each of the areas.

In true Scouting fashion, just as we drove up to the JW and Hazel Ruby Welcome Center, it started pouring. Fortunately, check in was inside.


We had a few hiccups with paperwork, but overall, the experience was slow, but painless.


We were assigned to Camp B which is close to the CONSOL Energy Bridge making main camp, known formerly as Lonnie Poole Gateway Village, quite convenient. Although our tents were already set up, we had to swap one out due to a broken zipper and holes. Shower and restroom facilities are located close by.

Dinner was tasty and consisted of turkey and mashed potatoes with carrots and rolls with pumpkin pie for dessert. Drinks were water, lemonade, Powerade and fruit punch.

It is a seven-day program and today was essentially devoted to in processing. Over the next few days we’ll tell you about our impressions of the program.

To learn more, visit www.summitbsa.org/programs/national-high-adventure-base/summit-experience.

Frederick Russell Burnham – An American Scout

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Although I grew up in Scouting, it was not until just a few years ago that I learned the story of Frederick Russell Burnham.

Burnham’s story is an amazing tale, that could only have happened in the 19th century. He served as an Scout for the United States Army during the Indian wars and later emigrated to southern Africa where he served as chief of Scouts for British Forces fighting the Matabele and Boers. Eventually, he was awarded the rank of Major by King Edward VII and invested into the Companions of the Distinguished Service Order, the highest military honor bestowed upon an American in the Second Boer War.

During this period he worked with Lord Baden-Powell, teaching him woodcraft. Lord Baden-Powell put them to immediate use in his campaign and when he later started the Scouting movement, those lessons became integral parts of the program.


What I find most amazing about their friendship is that Lord Baden-Powell adopted the Stetson and Neckerchief worn by Burnham. When Lord Baden-Powell created Scouting, a multi-use uniform item was the neckerchief. As this was not a common item of British military garb, I had always wondered how it and found itself into the Boy Scout uniform which was initially based upon military clothing. Conversely, during the Indian Wars in particular, you’d find a US Army Cavalry Trooper wearing a neckerchief which could be used for a variety of tasks, on the trail and in camp. Once I learned about the Burnham connection, I realized the neckerchief had come full circle, from the United States, to England, and then back to us.

But he did so much more than give us a neckerchief. Burnham participated in the early Scouting movement and was a lifelong friend of Lord Baden-Powell.

Frederick Russell Burnham: Explorer, discoverer, cowboy, and Scout. Native American, he served as chief of scouts in the Boer War, an intimate friend of Lord Baden-Powell. It was on some of his exploits demanding great courage, alertness, skill in surmounting the perils of the out-of-doors, that the founder of Scouting based some of the activities of the Boy Scout program. As an honorary Scout of the Boy Scouts of America, he has served as an inspiration to the youth of the Nation and is the embodiment of the qualities of the ideal Scout.

— 27th Annual Report of the Boy Scouts of America 1936

I’ve read several books on him, but my favorite is “A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham” by Steve Kemper. Be sure to check it out. And please, share the story of the American origin of the Scout neckerchief.