Rafting trip lets Scouts put lifesaving lessons to work

Members of Bonner Springs Boy Scout Troop No. 149 paddle through the rapids on the Arkansas River while on a camping trip in Colorado. Further downriver, after this photo was taken, the Scouts and their adult leaders helped rescue several passengers who tumbled out of another raft in their group. Enlarge photo

July 14, 2011

On a recent river rafting adventure, members of Bonner Springs Boy Scout Troop No. 149 got a chance to learn new skills, and even put some of those skills to the test.

The Scouts spent a week in the Rocky Mountains in Divide, Colo., to create their own summer camp experience. In addition to the usual camping activities and merit badge classes, one of the special activities for the troop was white water rafting on a swollen and fast-moving Arkansas River. And when members of a raft traveling with their group went overboard, the Scouts came to the rescue.

“I was really proud of the boys,” said Michael Hart, one of the troop’s leaders. “As soon as we realized people were in the water, everyone was doing something (to help).”

The troop usually goes to summer camp at Camp Naish, but every three years, Boy Scout officials organize an out-of-state camping trip. To fund the trip, Scouts sold popcorn, cleaned trash and gathered donations.

This year, from June 25 to July 2, 21 Scouts and 13 adult leaders took the camping trip to Colorado’s Mueller State Park. Other special activities included viewing fossilized redwoods, cave dwellings and natural rock formations; touring a gold mine; and driving to the top of Pike’s Peak.

The river rafting trip was possibly the most memorable portion, however. The river, normally classified a class 2 or 3 for rapids, was moving faster due to recent rains and was at a class 4 — moving at 4,000 cubic feet per minute. The downriver trip normally would have taken three hours but was accomplished in one-and-a-half hours.

“Most of the way through it was pretty bumpy,” Scout Peter Jenkins said.

“The rapids didn’t look that bad until you get in them,” Scout Quinton Schneck added. “I thought it would be a lot worse than it was.”

The Scouts took up five rafts in a group of seven, with a river guide and six to eight people in each raft. Hart said they made sure to put two experienced adults and two experienced Scouts in each raft to balance out those who had less rafting and canoeing experience.

“The river guides gave them a lot of compliments on how well they did paddling together,” Hart said.

One of the two non-troop rafts contained a six-member rock band from California. At one point, through a combination of running into some of the troop’s rafts and hitting rapids, all of the people in the band’s raft, aside from the river guide, went flying out of the raft.

“I don’t think the raft tipped over so much as it exploded people,” said Bob Nolan, one of the troop leaders.

The Scouts put their rafts quickly into action, rescuing all of the band members, one in each raft.

“If you had to fall out of your raft, that probably wasn’t a bad spot to do it,” Nolan said.

Once the rafts made it out of the rapids to a calm section of the river, the troop got to purposely practice water rescues when some members jumped out of the rafts into the frigid waters.

Aside from the excitement on the river, the Scouts said their favorite memories included seeing wildlife in the area. Quinton said he liked seeing a black bear and her cub, which wandered into the troop’s campsite, as well as several mule deer and wild turkeys.

C.J. Hayes said he enjoyed the visit to the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine.

“I liked seeing how many people can fit in a three foot by three foot elevator shaft,” he said. “It took us, like, five minutes just to get 1,000 feet underground.”

Richie Gilchrist said he liked climbing on the boulders in the Garden of the Gods, and the Scouts also agreed they enjoyed the trip to Pike’s Peak.

“I like that there’s a doughnut shop at the top of Pike’s Peak,” Peter said.

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