Zane Grey Eagle Scouts Fly High On Alaskan Adventure

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Hiking, fishing and camping are not novel activities for Boy Scouts.

But kayaking in an ocean, soaring aloft in a float plane, catching a 50-pound halibut and trekking in the Alaskan wilderness is something the Zane Grey District Eagle Scouts will never forget.

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Scouts Max Lane, Daniel Hill, Shane Brown and Jeremy Davies take a break from their hike up the Chilkoot Trail during their Alaskan expedition.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Jeremy Davies, a 16-year-old junior assistant scoutmaster who received his Eagle Scout Award in 2002.

The award, a requirement for the trip, is much like a high school graduation for Boy Scouts. To earn one, a Scout must boast of at least 21 merit badges, lead various troop activities and organize community service projects.

Leading and organizing a large-scale service project culminates the award.

Payson Troop 454 Scoutmaster Dan Hill said he organized the trip for six Eagle Scouts and two Star Scouts well on their way to earning their awards.

Hill, who also led the 17-day journey, said it was the first of its kind for the Scouts.

"We've never done a trip like that," he said. "We go to places like Camp Geronimo in Pine, but we rarely cross state boundaries."

Hill added the excursion, which took 14 months of planning, $9,000 in fund-raising, and long working hours from the Scouts, was everything they had hoped it would be.

"We did it all," he said. "We did things we would never get to do here. We absolutely loved every part of it."

He added a two-day fishing trip in the Pacific Ocean was among the most memorable of excursions for the boys.

One Scout, 13-year-old Troy Brown, caught a 51-pound halibut during the fishing trip and said it was one of the best experiences of his life.

"It was just pure adrenaline," Brown said. "I thought my mind was going to snap because it felt like pulling a rock from the bottom of the ocean. It was really heavy."

Brown, a Star Scout, added that the fund-raising it took to pay for the journey was challenging.

"We sacrificed a lot of stuff," he said. "Sometimes I worked from six in the morning until eight at night.

"But it was worth it," he added. "I got to do a lot of stuff I would probably never do in my life."

Hill said rummage sales in front of Wal-mart were the most lucrative fund-raisers the Scouts undertook.

He added that help from Payson community members like Ken Biggs was vital to the fund-raising. Biggs bought a new car and then gave his old one, a Chrysler New Yorker, to the Scouts for one of the rummage sales, Hill said.

The donation added $2,100 to the savings pot.

The Scouts are already saving for next year's "Eagle Scout Super Activity," a jaunt to Washington D.C. and New York.

Hill said the Scouts chose the destination mainly because of their desire to see the former site of the World Trade Center.

Brown said he can't wait for the trip.

"I'm probably never going to be able to go to New York or Washington D.C.," he added. "It will be cool to see Ground Zero."

Hill said, "This is just an incredible group of young men. Sharing that much adventure with them was important to me ... And it was truly an adventure."

Journaling a journey of a lifetime

Saturday, 18 June 2003

After 14 months of planning, organizing and fund raising, eight local Boy Scouts and two scout leaders turned a great idea into a great reality. Participants in the first ever Zane Grey District Eagle Scout Super Activity were:

Troop 254: Max Lane; Troop 652, Joshua Sprinkle; Troop 454, Shane Brown, Troy Brown, David Cluff, Isaac Cluff, Jeremy Davies and David Hill. Adult Leaders: Scoutmaster Dan Hill; Assistant Scoutmaster Keith Brown

The adventure lasted from June 4-17 and included fishing, kayaking, a float plane ride and a four-day backpacking excursion on the Chilkoot Trail from Skagway, Alaska to Lake Bennett in British Columbia, Canada.

Day One: Wednesday, June 4

We left Payson at 6:00 a.m. and drove all day. We made camp in Madera, California, near Fresno.

Day Two: Thursday, June 5

We drove all day and made camp near Olympia, Wash.

Day Three: Friday, June 6

We drove to Seattle. As a special treat, we ate lunch at the Space Needle. We continued the drive to Bellingham, Wash., and boarded the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry, Columbia.

Day Four: Saturday, June 7

We spent all day aboard the Columbia. The Scouts explored, rested and prepared for the upcoming backpacking hike.

Day Five: Sunday, June 8

We arrived in Ketchikan early in the morning. We toured the famous Totem Pole Park in Saxman Village before going to church. After church, the Scouts were treated to a tour of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Anthony Pettit, stationed at the Ketchikan Coast Guard base.

Kirk Thomas, the owner of Silver King Lodge, took us out to Grant Island and dropped us off. The lodge doesn't open until July, so they turned over the entire island and lodge to us. We had the run of the place.

Day Six: Monday, June 9

We used the lodge's boats and spent the day fishing. The largest catch of the day was a 51-pound halibut pulled in by Star Scout Troy Brown. The menu, which had been planned out months in advance, called for fish on Monday night. Troy's fish alone fed the whole troop.

Day Seven: Tuesday, June 10

We fished all morning and then were picked up by the lodge's big, work boat and taken back to Revillagigedo Island. We drove back to Ketchikan and spent the early afternoon walking around the tourist shops. Six cruise ships were in port, and the downtown area was crowded.

At 5:00 p.m., we split up to explore the island from two different perspectives. Half the troop took to the air on a float plane tour. They saw the beautiful fjords of Ketchikan, huge granite cliffs, frozen lakes and dozens of mountain goats. The other half of the troop saw the island from kayaks. They paddled through the harbor, up Ketchikan Creek and past Dolly's House in the historic red light district of Creek Street. They continued back out to sea and across the bay to Pennock Island.

We made camp at the Signal Creek Camp Ground at Ward Lake near Ketchikan.

Day Eight: Wednesday, June 11

We boarded the Alaska Marine Ferry, Taku, and headed for Skagway. We had stops in Wrangell and Petersburg along the way and passed "Green Rock" in the Wrangell Narrows, where the ferry, Kennecott, ran aground last week. The captain of the ship invited the Scouts to tour the bridge. While there, they let the young men take turns steering the ship. We learned what a constant vigilance it takes to keep a large boat on course against wind and tide. The crew of the Taku treated the boys with great respect and entrusted the responsibility of steering the ship to them.

When the third mate called out, "Five degree right rudder, bring us to 325," the Scouts were expected to repeat back the order, and then obey the order.

When they had successfully brought the ship to the new heading, they informed the third mate, and he repeated back the heading to them and noted it in the logbook. It was a great experience for the young men.

Day Nine: Thursday, June 12

Our trip on the Taku continued to Juneau. We were supposed to go on to Haines and arrive in Skagway at 2:00 p.m. to begin our hike. The Taku broke down in Juneau, however, and we were stranded there until the Matanuska Ferry picked us up late Friday morning. The extra time in Juneau gave us a chance to see the Mendenhall Glacier, do laundry and eat dinner at a Sushi Bar. The sushi was a part of the adventure that some of the Scouts thoroughly enjoyed, and some of them found thoroughly disgusting. After sushi, we went to McDonalds in downtown Juneau for those who were still hungry.

Day 10: Friday, June 13

We left Juneau on the Matanuska bound for Skagway at 11:00 a.m. and arrived in Skagway at 6:00 p.m. By the time we picked up our trail permits and got to the Chilkoot trailhead, it was 7:30 p.m.. We hiked the first 10.5 miles to Pleasant Camp and settled in at 1:30 a.m.

The Chilkoot trail was the original 33-mile trail the Klondike Gold Rush Stampeders had to take to get to Bennett. From Bennett, they built, or purchased, boats and continued on for another 547 miles by waterways to Dawson. The Chilkoot trail is littered with thousands of rusty, old relics left behind by the Stampeders in their race to the gold.

Day 11: Saturday, June 14

We slept in this morning until 7:30 and then hit the trail. It was our intention to go 12 miles to Deep Lake Camp. We learned from a park ranger on the trail that the Canadian Parks Warden at Lindeman City Camp was inviting us to come to Lindeman. There, she would give us a special tour of the historic tent city that was home to as many as 5,000 gold rushers at a time, who would wait for the Spring thaw so they could resume their trip.

At 3:00 this afternoon, we crossed the Golden Staircase. This was a mile of very steep, very rough rocks that had to be crawled over. Upon reaching the summit, we crossed the border into Canada. The next four miles was on-and-off snow--mostly on. And when we weren't hiking on snow, we were trudging through water from the snow melt running off the mountain and forming raging rivers in the gorge below our trail. We reached Lindeman at 10:15 p.m. very tired, and with very sore legs.

Day 12: Sunday, June 15

Sunday as a "day of rest" has never been so meaningful to us. We slept until late in the morning and had a late breakfast. We held worship services in a log cabin around a wood stove. After lunch, the park warden spent a couple of hours with us teaching us the history of Lindeman. Because it was a tent city and every part of the land was used, even the placement of rocks were artifacts and we had to be careful where we stepped. We had dinner and went to bed early.

Day 13: Monday, June 16

We arose at 5:00 a.m. so we cold get an early start on the last leg of our hike. The last seven miles took us to Bennett. Bennett was a city of over 20,000 at the peak of the Klondike Gold Rush. The only buildings still remaining are the St. Andrews Evangelical Church and the White Pass/Yukon Route Train Depot. The WP/YR was built in 1900 and replaced the Chilkoot Trail as the gateway to the gold. Today, the train runs as a tourist attraction and to bring out the adventurous few who still backpack the old trail.

Monday evening we were back in Skagway, exploring the town and eating pizza -- a nice treat after a few days of freeze-dried foods. We made camp in Dyea, Alaska just outside Skagway.

Day 14: Tuesday, June 17

We headed home on the Alaska Highway. We saw numerous bears, moose, caribou and deer along the road. We made camp near Fort St. John in British Columbia, Canada.

Day 15: Wednesday, June 18

We drove through Canada all day and made camp in High River (near Calgary) in Alberta, Canada.

Day 16: Thursday, June 19

We drove to Cardston in Alberta, Canada, and visited the Latter-day Saints Temple there. It was built in 1912/1913 in the shape of a Maltese Cross.

We drove all the way through Montana, and stopped in Idaho Falls and visited the LDS Temple there. We had dinner in a park across the street and made camp near Logan, Utah.

Day 17: Friday, June 20

We drove through Utah and Arizona and arrived home at 10:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 21

All the families of the Scouts got together for a barbecue and watched the video we had taken throughout the trip. The parents thoroughly enjoyed seeing the activities their sons had participated in. We passed our "Chilkoot Trail, 2003" T-shirts and patches for the Scouts' uniforms.

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