Polar Bear camp cold but successful

By Paul Wilson
Courier Express

(Read about how SFC Seth Moore and SFC Aubrey Russell, both from the Dubois RS, were award the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal by the Bucktail Council, Boy Scouts of America for their efforts on behalf of the local Boy Scout council and numerous community activities.)

DuBOIS – The Bucktail Council, Boy Scouts of America, held its annual Polar Bear campout at Camp Mountain Run near Penfield over the weekend. The Polar Bear campout and Klondike competition have been held annually by the Bucktail Council since 1970.

The Scouts and leaders began arriving Friday evening with the thermometer headed below zero. The official low temperature for Friday night was minus 15 degrees, making for a rather brisk evening, but still a bit balmier than Polar Bear XL’s 20 below zero temperature.

A snow depth of 9 inches made for good sledding conditions. This weekend would challenge the Scouts in numerous skills as well as their ability to live up to the Scout motto – Be Prepared.

The weekend staff of about 85 volunteers had been preparing for this event since last year’s campout. Gary Gilmore of Luthersburg was chairman for the 2011 Polar Bear weekend, Dave Schwab of DuBois served as co-chairman. and Kevin Detsch, St. Marys, served as youth chairman leading the volunteers from the Ah Tic Lodge, Order of the Arrow.

A new event was inserted into the rotation this year; the Scouts were to prepare a meal at lunchtime on the trail that was judged as event seven.

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast in their campsites, the Scouts assembled at 8:30 a.m. for the opening ceremonies at the flagpole outside Walker Center.

Two hundred and forty-four Scouts, 82 leaders and 35 volunteer staff members participated in the weekend’s activities.
The Scouts represented 34 patrols and 22 troops from 17 communities.

Congressman Glenn Thompson, and Eagle Scout, assisted with the opening ceremonies and provided a commemorative U.S. flag, which had flown over the U.S. Capitol Building on the day of the Boy Scouts’ 100th anniversary.

After the raising of the colors by the U.S. Army, the competition began with a celebratory explosion of compressed black powder by Gilmore and Thompson.
Also in attendance this year, Eagle Scout and state Rep. Matt Gabler, R-DuBois, served as an assistant mayor along with Thompson at stations on the Klondike Trail.

This year’s competition consisted of 12 “Arctic Cities” located along a trail throughout camp.

Patrols of four to eight Scouts ran their “dog sleds” through the 12 designated problems, working a 30-minute “challenge” at each city. Patrols were scored on a possible 25-point maximum at each city with bonus points awarded by the “Mayors” for Scout spirit, teamwork, and leadership.

The Klondike Course started at Eek under the direction of Mayor Henry Vipond of DuBois. At this city, each patrol must work together to find the depth of a hole in the ground with no member getting closer than ten feet from the hole.

Moving along the course with their “dog sleds” containing all of their supplies, they arrive at Barrows. Here Mayor Jim Davis, Woodland, had the Scouts identifying trees.

At Juneau, Mayor Justin Angeletti of Luthersburg monitored the Scouts as they competed in the primitive skill of tomahawk throwing.

Proceeding to the “town” of Nome, the Scouts competed in marksmanship with .22 caliber rifles under the watchful eyes of Mayor Dave Kunz of DuBois.

Kodiak is the next stop. The patrols competed in map and compass skills organized by Mayor Frank Zore of Weedville.

The Tok station was mayored by Betty Detsch of St. Marys where she tested the Scouts’ knowledge on wildlife in western Pennsylvania.
Station No. 7 was the trail lunch completed by each patrol by building a cooking fire and preparing a hot lunch.

The next event included a U.S. civics quiz and team building activities run by Mayor SFC Seth Moore and members of the U.S. Army.

Testing of lashing and knot tying skills awaited the Scouts at Sitka guided by Mayor Brad Finalle of DuBois.
The Ekwok stop, mayored by Scott Kerr from DuBois, tested the Scouts’ knowledge of first aid and emergency preparedness.

Craig Ball of DuBois headed the next station at Skagway where the Scouts competed in an obstacle course.

The final station was Seward where Don McNutt of Brookville tested the Scouts’ fire building skills.

During the events, a special ceremony was held at the Sitka station being run by members of the U.S. Army. SFC Seth Moore and SFC Aubrey Russell were awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal to recognize their efforts not only on behalf of the local Boy Scout council, but numerous community activities. Moore and Russell were awarded the MOVSM by Gabler and Thompson reading the citation.

Closing events
Following the completion of the Klondike competition, the Scouts gathered at the Stackpole Dining Hall rally point to await the results.

While the results were being tabulated, the Scouts and leaders were entertained by Elk County’s Biggest Liar, Dennis Murray or “Murph” as he is better known. Murph recounted tales of days gone by and woods lore.

Joan Strong, wife of Bob Strong, chairman of the 1st Polar Bear event, was recognized for the donation of prizes awarded to the winning patrols.
This year’s prizes were a complete patrol box of flint and steel fire making tools, a hatchet, a twin cast iron pie iron, a bow saw, a propane lantern a 12-inch cast iron skillet, and a collapsible trenching tool.

The winners of the 2011 Klondike Derby were: the Owl patrol of Troop 83 in Johnsonburg – first place. Taking second honors was the Underdog patrol, Troop 27, DuBois. The Angry Beavers of Troop 94 from Kersey garnered third place. Fourth place went to the Duck Tape patrol of Troop 20 in Bigler. Troop 27’s Baby John patrol earned fifth place while the Ranger patrol of Troop 40 from Brockway snagged sixth place.

After the awards ceremony, some troops began their dinner preparations in their campsites and another night in the “Arctic” while others packed up and headed for home. Campers experienced a warmer minus 3 degrees Saturday night. Religious services were held after dinner for the Scouts and leaders.

Catholic Mass was celebrated by Fr. Tyler of St. Joseph’s Parish in Force in the Walker Center. The Protestant service was led by Bucktail Council Scout Executive Gregg Bennett in Gilmore Lodge. An evening cracker barrel followed the services for all Scouts and leaders in Walker Center before Taps.

An “Overnighter” patch is earned by all participants who sleep outside over the weekend as well as an individual attendance card with snow depth and low temperature recorded. These are added to the commemorative patch awarded to all participants in the weekend events. Additionally, each troop is awarded a participation ribbon for their troop flag for attending the annual Polar Bear/Klondike activity.

Earning ribbons this year were Troops 2 and 9 from Clearfield, Troop 13 from Curwensville, Troop 20 of Bigler, Troops 27, 28 and 36 of DuBois, Troop 35 from Beechwoods, Troop 40 of Brockway, Troop 44, Philipsburg, Troop 46, West Branch, Troop 50 from Snowshoe, Troops 64 and 67 from Brookville, Troop 72 of Reynoldsville, Troop 77 of Luthersburg, Troop 83 of Johnsonburg, Troop 93 from Ridgway, Troop 94 from Kersey, Troop 99 from St. Marys, and Troop 245 of Punxsutawney.

The Polar Bear committee, headed by Dave Schwab, said next year’s event will be held Jan. 20-22.

Derrick Goode of Ridgway served as the weekend registrar and tabulated the day’s scores. Health lodge/first aid duties were handled by Patrick Cooley of DuSan. No problems were reported during the events. Staff meals were served at the Stackpole Dining Hall, prepared by Linda Ross and her staff.

The Bucktail Council participates in the Brookville and Ridgway United Funds, the Centre County, Clearfield, DuBois and St. Marys United Ways, the Johnsonburg-Wilcox Community Fund and the Cameron County Community Chest.

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