Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What We Do at Loll

As an explanation to those who do not know and a reference for the Park and others who need to consider, I will attempt to set down the steps of training and activity given to backcountry hikers participating in Camp Loll’s hiking program. I will do my best, although I am confident I will omit some aspects. Those of you who know better by service and experience, please feel free to add to my commentary.

A great deal of explanation can be found below in “Finch’s” entry under the post comments for “Letter for Yellowstone”

Camp Loll is operated by the BSA. Ernest Thompson Seton, one of Scouting’s founders, was one of the fathers of the modern environmental movement. He recognized the power of nature in shaping the character of youth. He also understood that for nature to be preserved, young people need to experience and understand it.

The values of Scouting, as presented in the Oath and Law, are the reason for the program at Loll. These values are inseparably linked to nature, conservation, and environmentalism. One learns of God by observing His creations in the wilderness. A boy or girl involved in the BSA’s scouting or venturing programs learns to reverence God by experiencing the wonder of creation and shows that reverence by accepting their stewardship in protecting the wilderness as God has created it.

A scout recognizes the greatness of our country by experiencing the natural treasures they hold in trust with their fellow citizens. Nowhere in time or place have a people so richly benefited from the wisdom of self government as here in America. Preeminent among the rights given American Citizens is the joint ownership or our National Parks. Once such treasures were the purview of Kings, but in this nation they are the pleasure of all. As a young person is given the opportunity to experience the wonder of nature they learn the awesome responsibility that comes with so great a birthright. They come to understand by instruction and experience how to protect their precious wilderness heritage and how to insure it is passed on to generations of Americans yet to be.

As Ernest Seton foresaw, it is in nature that a boy or girl will test their limits and find and develop their bodily strength, their wit, and their character. As they work together on the trail to ensure the success of the troop or crew, as they defend and improve the environment through which they pass without a trace; they learn the joy of service to others that is the foundation of happiness and success in life.

With these high goals and values in mind, Camp Loll, as a Boy Scout Camp and Venture High Adventure Base, is dedicated to providing the wilderness experience which is the core method to reach all of Scouting’s aims.

For years Camp Loll and its staff have worked with the Forest and Park Services to develop a wilderness ethic that will enable them to introduce campers into the wilderness while preserving that wilderness for generations yet to come. Our “Rangers”, backcountry guides, and youth leaders, who are young adults ages 18 to mid twenties, are trained by the Forest Service in No Trace Camping and travel to the Bechler Station for in depth instruction and certification by Park Rangers to receive their Frequent User Cards. They are also required to complete Red Cross Wilderness First Aid and CPR training courses. They are certified in climbing according to BSA standards by a certified instructor who has completed a week long course in climbing technique and safety, and many are certified BSA Life Guards. Forest Rangers visit camp during Camp Loll’s training week. For most of a day they watch training films and listen to instruction. There are hours of hands-on training experiences with the Forest Service representatives. The Parks service also is given the opportunity to meet with the entire staff and train them in the nuances of Park use and the specifics of the rules of the Yellowstone Backcountry. Our camp Nature Directors are also specifically trained by both the Park and Forest Service and given responsibility for training the entire staff on wildness ethics, no trace camping, and rules and procedures. All members of the Camp Loll staff are actually taken on all the hikes so they can learn the trails, or in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, how to hike without trails. They know the routes and the destinations, how to safely get there and back again. They are fully trained in the use of maps, compass, and GPS. At every step the rules of Park and Wilderness are demonstrated and practiced.

Once the staff is ready, the scouts arrive. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the example of the staff. The young campers who come to Loll will immediately idolize their camp friend and other staff members. These young men and women are who they want to be, and their instruction and example has enormous influence on all the campers.

From the moment they arrive in camp, campers are taught the proper way to live in the wilderness and the need and desire to protect it. Camp Loll is beautiful and clean. There is never any litter, and scouts are taught to always stay on the trails. They are shown the wonders at the trailside and it is explained to them that only by following the trails can such beauty be maintained. They are taught to pitch their tents only on designated impact areas. Not just told to do so, but given reason and example. They are taught not to tie ropes to living tress, not to pick the flowers; not to damage any living thing. They see the wonder of wildlife all around them: deer, birds, small animals, and are taught how to treat them so that they can coexist.

Bear precautions are necessary, and the scouts learn to place all scented items in bear resistant containers, to keep an absolutely clean camp, with no litter – not even a waste basket. They are shown the garbage disposal processes; by which every bit of rubbish must be burned to dry ash, and that which will not burn, taken immediate out of camp after each meal to be placed in the bear resistant cage. At the end of each day the cage is emptied in bear resistant dumpsters a mile out of camp. They are taught how to dispose of dish water and reduce the impact of cooking.

Strict fire precautions are taught and practiced as well. A fire guard chart designates a daily Fire Marshal and delineates everyone’s duty to protect the forest from any type of flame. They are taught that the Camp and the National Forest in which it is located are their national treasure, their possession, and by word and deed shown how to love and protect it as their own.

Their Camp Friend stays with them as they explore the camp for the first time. He explains how not to get lost, how not to cause harm, and how to avoid it. While the youth campers are being instructed and setting up camp their adult leader is being checked in. Each leader is given careful instructions and a check list to cover with their young people. When they return to camp, they also begin to instruct and reinforce the message of environmental awareness already imparted by the staff.

Starting Tuesday morning, the Senior Patrol Leaders and Crew Leaders within each of the three Commissioner Areas meet their respective Commissioner. They then inspect all the campsites in that area. The Commissioner models the process, the camp friends have been with the troops since early morning helping them prepare. The campsite is cleaned, all bear and fire precaution requirement checked, and the compliance with efforts to reduce impact and the spread of impact noted. The inspections are fun and positive, but they teach important life lessons in responsibility and wilderness behavior.

At flag ceremony the need to reduce litter, stay on the trail, and in general follow low impact camping ideals are presented in entertaining but meaningful ways. Then the campers are off on their adventures. Younger scouts attend merit badge classes. Many of these classes relate directly to wilderness ethics: Environmental Science, Mammals, Nature, Bird Study, Forestry, First Aid, Emergency Preparedness, Orienteering, Wilderness Survival, and more, explain, model, and give hands on experience in environmental responsibility. Older campers are taken to beautiful climbing locations, and everywhere are taught to leave no trace, They see the most beautiful of natural wonders, are taught the names and roles in the system of plants and animals, while having more fun than they have ever dreamed of.

While the youth campers are involved in program activities, their leaders are invited to a “Round Table” training meeting. The theme for Tuesday’s Round Table is hiking. Inspirational and relevant stories and information is shared, the visiting Forest Ranger is introduced, and the group divided for a discussion on wilderness safety and etiquette. “How to keep the boys safe in the wilderness and the wilderness safe from the boys” is the theme. The two groups report to each other the list of tips they have developed and then the Camp Director and Forest Ranger present all necessary information to fill in any gaps. All the hikes offered are presented with the pros and cons of each. Leaders are encouraged to review all the information with their scouts.

The next morning, before leaving camp, all hikers, youth and adult, are assembled for a check out briefing by the Nature Director and other adult staff members. Each unit is guided by their camp friend who carefully organizes them to prevent them being lost and insure they follow all Park policies.

Adult staff members have been dispatched and are waiting for the groups as they arrive at the destinations. At Terraced Falls the “Camp Ranger” insures the groups stay on the trail at the top of the fall, and approach the lookout a few at a time so as not to increase the impact on the overlook. Hikers do not climb down to the bottom of the waterfall, and once they have enjoyed the view they hike out of the Park. If they stop for lunch, they stay on the trail; they do not go off into the woods at anytime. Groups often swim at Tillery Lake in the National Forest, along the trail back to camp. However they only enter the water at the hardened entry point. Life guards are posted and all points of safe swim defense are enforced. The rules for hiking are enforced the same in the Forest as in the Park. Scouts stay on the trail and are taught plants and have special views pointed out to them. The staff ranger hikes out with the final group, making sure that a final sweep removes every trace of the hikers and that all hikers return safely to camp.

At Union Falls, two adult Loll Staffers are on duty. As groups arrive they are asked to wait at the hitching post area next to the ranger cabin. This is a high impact point, not because of the Loll hikers, but because of the necessary impact of horse groups. At this hardened site, meals are eaten, packs and garbage hung as bear precautions and the hikers change into their swimming outfits. The camp carries in a privacy structure which is put up and taken down at the end of the day. This is to preclude any need to leave the trail to find a “private” place to dress and undress. Groups are staggered between those hiking up to Union Falls and those headed for Scout Pool. As troops and crews are already staggered in their hiking times, there is a minimum of waiting and overlap. Every group is responsible for policing their on litter and watching out for any left by anyone else, whether from Loll or otherwise. Group sized is limited at the pool. Our average troop size is eight youth, two adult leaders, and the Camp Staff Friend. Very small groups are combined, and large groups are divided, half sent to Union Falls and half to the pool and then switched. Time limits are set for scout groups in the pool, life guards are on station, as are lookouts. The jumping rock is within BSA standards, and is the only place scouts jump, not dive, into the pool. After all the groups have finished their activities, the Camp Staff Rangers make a last “litter” sweep to make sure everything has been removed from the area and no one is left behind. They then “sweep” the trail as they hike back to the trailhead. For much of the hike, groups are in touch with each other and the trailhead by radio, in case there is any problem and to alert the camp management of trouble and as to time of arrival for groups.

Once all groups are safely returned to camp, in-camp program continues as before. Hikers are debriefed and lessons reflected upon to be permanently instilled into the values and ethics of the hikers. Throughout the remainder of the week, backcountry lessons are reinforced and after the final clean up on Saturday morning, Loll returns to its near pristine condition.

The important thing is that over a hundred youth and adults have had their lives infinitely enriched, Yellowstone Park has made life-long friends and supporters, and the values of Scouting, the Oath and Law, have been forever tied to the greatest adventure any youth could have. They have seen the pristine work of their Creator as He crafted it, they have experienced the rights and responsibilities of Americans, they have served each other, and have tested their bodies, minds, and characters.

It is this wonderful synergy of the goals of Yellowstone, Scouting, and of America, that makes the partnership between Loll and the Park so precious and so irreplaceable.


Anonymous said...

Ah, This is great! Puts to bed
several contradictions I've been hearing.

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