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Boy Scouts enjoy Waterville Valley Jamboree

The Home team! The Cub Scouts and Webelos of Pack 50 from Campton/Thornton/Waterville Valley enjoyed learning from their older Boy Scout brethren during Scout Craft exhibits and festivities at the Daniel Webster Council Boy Scout Jamboree this past weekend in Waterville. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
October 12, 2011
WATERVILLE VALLEY — The mountains of Central New Hampshire were on fire with fall foliage this glorious Columbus Day weekend, and fittingly, the Boy Scouts of Daniel Webster Council had the best seat in the house for one of nature's greatest spectacles.

The weather was picture perfect as more than 2,000 Boy Scouts from all over New Hampshire pitched their tents on the slopes of the Waterville Valley Ski Resort on Friday afternoon, preparing to spend an entire weekend camping, enjoying one another's company, and practicing their wilderness survival skills in the midst of all the inspiring beauty that is New England in autumn.

"It doesn't get any better than this," said Jim Curtin from Pack #263 in Windham as he and several of his fellow Scout leaders enjoyed the entertainment of Juggling Jim Gleich during lunch break on Saturday in the Village Square at Waterville Valley, overlooking Corcoran Pond.

"Every four years, the Boy Scouts of the Daniel Webster Council from all over New Hampshire get together and hold a huge camping event, with skill building exercises and exhibits on scout craft," explained Curtin's fellow Pack Leader, Jeff Carter. "It's kind of like the Olympics of Scouting!"

"It doesn't always look like this," explained Steve Carter, Jeff's brother, from Troop #414 in Bedford. "Usually, the accommodations are a little more rustic… way out in the woods somewhere. But this is really great. Everyone is having so much fun."

Carter said that the troops were up at 7 a.m., cooking their own breakfast, and then held a flag raising ceremony before hiking the two miles from the slopes of the mountain to the vast, open expanse of meadow in the center of Waterville Valley that hosted their exhibits.

"The Jamboree is a social occasion, and an opportunity for learning," said Carter. "It is a chance to work on merit badges, as well."

"Boy Scouts is about skill building, morality, guidance, giving boys the tools they are going to need to be successful later on in life," explained Curtin. "It is all about outdoor education, citizenship, personal fitness and character development."

But the leaders agreed, it's not your grandfather's Boy Scouts anymore.

"There is something for everybody, no matter whether you are an athlete, a scholar or a scientist," said Carter.

Lending truth to that statement, the boys in the field were enjoying activities as diverse as Zipline, kayaking, wilderness survival preparedness and robotic competitions.

As part of their work on earning the Science, Engineering, Technology and Math merit badges, Scouts were engaging in competitive robotics "freeze tag" competitions, using little mechanical/electric vehicles built by students and scouts from Pembroke Academy, one of the most popular activities of the weekend.

Other equally amazing but perhaps more traditional activities included learning to ford a river by building a bridge made of ropes, start a fire by splitting a match with a hatchet on a tree stump, pitch a tent improvised with nothing by a tarp and tree-limbs, and recite the constitution.

Then there were the enterprising young Scouts who engaged in an impromptu snowball fight…using snowballs they made out of the shavings from ice deposits they found dumped behind the Waterville Valley Skating area.

But it was not all fun and games.

"These skills are critically important because as a troop, we generally camp out once a month, even during the winter," explained Scout Leader Patty Vegan, from Troop #136 in Epping. "All outdoor activities are Scout run, teaching the boys leadership and giving them skills in planning and preparation. We are extremely proud of all of the boys in our Troop."

The Cubs and Webelos of local Pack 50 from Campton/Thornton/Waterville were eagerly soaking up all they could absorb from watching demonstrations and skill building exercises. While the Cubs are too young to participate in some of the more advanced activities, like, for example, tomahawk throwing, the Webelos, transitioning from Cubs to Boy Scouts, get to try out some of the more challenging Scout experiences.

Transitioning Webelo Milton Woolfenden was excited that he was allowed to camp out in a tent on a mountainside for the first time during Jamboree weekend.

"Well, it was a little chilly, but once you got used to it, it actually wasn't too bad," said Woolfenden. "We had a lot of fun."

He quickly pointed out that no cooking fires were permitted in the encampment during the weekend. "Campfires are prohibited," he explained. "After all, we are in the National Forest, and we wouldn't want to start a fire."

Milton and his fellow campers were lined up, waiting patiently to take their turn on the merry-go-round made from fallen tree limbs and ropes, built by Scouts from Troop #270 in Pembroke, under the guidance of Scout Leader Scott Lane.

"The tree limbs were pre-cut, because we put this together for the first time during Pembroke Old Home Day in August," explained Lane. "But the 11 Boy Scouts and four adult leaders did all the lashing and put it all together here this morning in about one hour and one-half. We expect to use it again and again."

At the end of a very busy, beautiful fall day, the troops marched back to the mountain to re-occupy their temporary village on the slopes, a seemingly infinite mosaic of colorful tents and tarps spread out over the hillside, as visually stunning a spectacle as the fall foliage against the bright, clear blue sky.

The Cubs and Webelos of Pack 50 said they had so much fun, they thought the Jamboree should be an annual event at Waterville Valley.

More photos of the Daniel Webster Boy Scout Council Jamboree can be found on the Record Enterprise Facebook page.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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