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Go West: Boy Scouts hit the trail on hiking adventure

The Fiery Furnace at Arches National Park in Utah. Provided photo

DeKALB - Boy Scout Troop 33 experienced the Wild West recently on an adventure tour that included backpacking in the mountains, climbing, desert hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and exploring historic sites. In southern Wyoming, a climbing adventure was planned at a place called Vedauwoo, which means "earthborn spirit." Its unique exfoliated granite formations attract climbers from all over the world. Due to rainy weather, activities moved indoors to a climbing gym in Laramie, Wyo. Though not the Scouts' original plan, it was still a great climbing experience. Scouts backpacked into the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Their trek took them to high alpine lakes, through pine-covered mountains, beneath snow-covered peaks and cascading waterfalls and along sheer rock cliffs. Three times they encountered snow on the trail. Tents, food, water and clothes, everything needed to survive, were carried on their backs for miles through the mountains. It was hard work, but a fantastic experience! At Arches National Park in Utah, they hiked through Devil's Garden, home to most arches in the park. As the temperature climbed above 100 degrees, they reached a narrow ribbon of stone 306 feet long called Landscape Arch, one of the world's longest free-standing natural arches. Also within Arches National Park lies a place called Fiery Furnace, one of the most unique hiking areas in North America. With its dense array of stone, red fins standing on end - hoodoos, spires and slabs 200 feet high, it's easy to get lost in its maze of deeply grooved slots and dead-end passageways. Visits to this area are normally restricted to ranger-guided hikes, but Troop 33 secured a special permit to hike the area on their own. Moab, Utah, is often called the mountain biking capitol of the world. One of the Scouts' highlight adventures was mountain biking across Canyonlands National Park. Their biking adventure began at "Island in the Sky," bicycling down the Shafer Trail, White Rim Trail and Lathrop Canyon Trail, through deep canyons, narrow trails next to 1,000-foot sheer drops and up and down steep hills (some so severe they dismounted their bikes and walked). After long miles of burning hot desert, the Scouts eventually biked their way to the banks of the Colorado River, where they boarded a jet boat for a river tour revealing hidden grottos and Indian petroglyphs. Two whitewater rafting adventures included the Colorado River in Utah and the Animas River in southern Colorado. Whitewater stretches were always exciting, but even calm sections of river became fun when bailing buckets were used in great water fights. No one in the raft remained dry. Mesa Verde National Park, world renowned for its amazing cliff dwellings, preserves sites of the Anasazi people dating from the 6th through 13th centuries. The most adventurous and challenging tour is Balcony House, where Scouts climbed a 32-foot ladder high above a deep canyon to enter, squeezed through an 18-inch opening at one point and exited by climbing 60 feet up a sheer cliff face using hand and foot holds carved into rock. Koshare Indian Kiva Museum in La Junta, Colo., provided Scouts with Native American dances, a museum tour and an overnight lock-in. Also nearby, Bent's Fort National Historic Site, a large reconstructed adobe fort, held its annual Santa Fe Trail Festival which provided an Arapaho village, fur trappers' camp, military camp, blacksmith and teamsters, all authentic to the 1840s with interpretive staff in period costume explaining life in that era. Fort Atkinson State Park near Omaha, Neb., was the location for a signature event of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. The first council held between Lewis & Clark and Native Americans took place on that site in 1804. To commemorate the event were a trappers and traders village, Indian village and large tents for educational programs, with many interpretive staff on site to answer questions and explain frontier life in the early 1800s. A replica of Lewis & Clark's 55-foot keelboat "Discovery" was on display. In honor of Troop 33's visit, the ship's builder, Butch Bouvier, fired its cannon. Bouvier also explained how the ship operated and details of life onboard. One of the Scouts' unique camping locations was Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha, where they camped by a lake and enjoyed meals at the base's dining hall. They enjoyed touring the Strategic Air & Space Museum, which preserves military aircraft flown by the Strategic Air Command. Troop 33 worked with and met other Scout troops during their trip. Troop 136 from Laramie, Wyo., hosted their climbing activities. Troop 493 from St. Louis camped alongside them at Offutt Air Force Base. Troop 232 of La Junta, Colo., performed Indian dances, while a chance encounter provided an opportunity to meet the Scouts of Troop 31 from DeKalb, Texas. The Wild West was one of the most exciting times in American history, representing tremendous growth along a new frontier. Troop 33's Wild West tour represented fun, adventure, challenge, excitement and the thrill of new experiences. The boys returned with newfound knowledge, greater confidence and skills and a sense of accomplishment. It was one of the most exciting parts of their summer and a time of tremendous growth while they discovered their own new frontiers. Troop 33 is sponsored by First Lutheran Church in DeKalb.

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