100 years ago, an old British general started the Boy Scouts, teaching them the outdoor skills that kept him alive during the wars in Africa. Things like camping, hiking, cooking over a real fire, knot tying, expert use of axes, saws and hatchets, shooting, tracking and more – led and trained by the older boys instead of being “bossed around” by a bunch of adults.
100 years later, Columbia Falls boys enjoy the same things, sometimes with a modern twist, sometimes not. Your son can be one of those boys.
When I assembled the slide show for our September recognition (we call it a “Court of Honor”), I was thinking that the summer flew by & we didn’t get to do all that much. Then I saw pictures that reminded me of our Native American ceremonies at the June campout, our week on Melita Island in July (including the tornado), our August hiking and fishing trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and finally, our camping trip last weekend to fish private trout waters.
In Columbia Falls, we do what Boy Scouts in the big cities just dream of – and we do some of it every month. Archery, black powder, shotgun, .22s, tomahawk throwing, canoeing, kayaking, snow caving, hiking, camping, fishing, biking, and more. We sleep in snow caves, cross country ski, shoot, snowshoe and discover how to find our way no matter what the conditions.
Even our junior high boys are trained to use axes and hatchets well enough – and safely enough – to impress an expert woodsman. You don’t “wait until you’re older” to do most things in Boy Scouts. You do them every month, safely.
In the summers, we hike 50-100 miles in the Bob, sometimes with pack animals, or we canoe 50-70 miles down the Missouri River Breaks, stand where Lewis and Clark first saw the Rockies, find dinosaur bones, and sleep where Lewis and Clark slept along the river.
We camp every month, rain or shine (or snow). We fish, we shoot, we throw tomahawks and yes, we tie knots. We go to summer camps from Lewistown, to Melita Island, to the Pacific Ocean where we shoot black powder, shotguns and .22 rifles, climb 30-40′ towers and rappel off of them; learn to sail and kayak, or ride a zip line off a 42 foot tower.
Of course, there’s a secret no one talks about. Boys find out that they can tie a bunch of heavy wooden poles together into a tent frame that’ll stand up to 14″ of new snow. 12-13 year olds discover they can make up a menu on their own that will feed 6 to 8 people for a weekend, figure out what groceries to buy (and how much – on a budget), pack it up, haul it into the woods, cook it, eat it, clean it up, and leave their camp better than they found it.
Not chili from a can, or hot dogs and ramen, but real food, with a Dutch oven cobbler for dessert – all for 8 bucks, and without an adult hovering over the camp stove. Boys eventually find that they can stand in front of a crowd and confidently speak on a topic that is important to them, plan and run a month’s worth of meetings (or a week-long trip into the Bob), organize a project taking 50-100 man hours of work, or teach a skill – and all of that just magically happens during the adventure.
They learn by doing for themselves, in a fun, safe environment.
And of course, there’s lots of bacon. Seems Boy Scouts rarely go camping without a couple of pounds of bacon. It must be a law or something.
If you want to learn more about how your Columbia Falls-area boy can experience the adventure of Boy Scouts, give Bill Boyd a call at 387-4555.
Outside of Columbia Falls, call Jim Atkinson at 249-6765. There are troops all over the valley, from Bigfork and Somers to Whitefish, Kalispell and Columbia Falls.
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