PENFIELD – The Bucktail Council, Boy Scouts of America, held the 49th annual Polar Bear campout from Friday, Jan. 19 – Sunday, Jan. 21 at Camp Mountain Run in Penfield.
When troops arrived Friday evening, they were greeted by seven inches of snow to run their dog sleds during the Klondike competition the next day.
The thermometer drifted down to a seasonal 20 degrees. Scouts avoided the rollercoaster highs and lows of winter so far. Scouts and leaders erected their tents and tarps after which they started their campfires.
Sleds were also prepared for the next day’s Klondike competition and loaded up with the necessary supplies.
For this, supplies included lashing ropes and staves, a Boy Scout handbook, a hand ax with its sheath, a first aid kit, a stretcher blanket, one-gallon of water, a backpacking stove, a bow saw with its sheath, lunchtime food with cooking utensils and a Patrol flag.
The Polar Bear Chairman Greg Kunselman of Punxsutawney and his Vice Chairman Ryan Sayers of Clearfield had 50-plus volunteers on staff to run 10 competition stations.
The stations were strategically located both east and west of Mountain Run Road. On Saturday morning, the opening ceremony was held at the flag pole in front of Walker Center.
Scouts from Troop 245 of Punxsutawney performed the flag-raising. From there, the patrols reported to their starting stations. This year’s registered totals were 202 scouts, 73 leaders that made up 23 troops and 32 patrols.
The duties of the registrar and scoring were completed by Kaitlyn Goode and her father, Derrick of Ridgway. The competition trail started at Erie campsite with Kent Smith of Luthersburg.
This station was a Moon Ball competition, a team-building exercise. It required each patrol to keep a beach ball off the ground by hitting it upward without consecutive hits for as long as possible.
The second station involved skills in wilderness survival. Each patrol brought a fanny pack loaded with a poncho, two AA batteries, steel wool, birch bark, matches, a candle, a pocket knife, aluminum foil, light-weight rope, tape, a first aid kit, a drinking container and a compass.
Armed with only these supplies, they were able to overcome survival problems. The survival skill problems were developed by Bob Hrin of Falls Creek and his Order of the Arrow crew.
The third station, under the direction of Frank Zore of St. Marys, involved the southern end of camp in a geocaching course.
The fourth station was at the rifle range and gave each scout the opportunity to demonstrate his marksmanship skills with a .22 rifle.
Scouts were under the watchful eyes of Bernie Snyder of DuBois and members of the DuBois Central Catholic rifle team.
The final morning station had the scouts headed to the eastern side of camp to the Eynon pavilion. Here, the scouts were tested in tree identification knowledge by Jim Davis of Clearfield.
Each patrol then had an hour to prepare a lunch that was also scored based upon timing, temperature, teamwork and presentation. The required basics were a toasted cheese sandwich and soup.
After lunch and clean-up, the patrols proceeded to the sixth station to begin the afternoon competition. Here, they were greeted by Terry Detsch and his team from St. Marys.
The scouts were tested on a first aid scenario at the Health Station/Gilmore Lodge. The tomahawk throw was the fun event at the seventh station behind the director’s cabin.
Each patrol was given 15 throws at a wooden square 24 inches to a side at 20 feet. Keith Wolfe and members of the Order of the Arrow led the event.
The eighth station was a dog sled/obstacle race that was over the river and through the woods, starting in the Blackhawk campsite. This event was led by Craig Ball and his team from Troop 27 in DuBois.
Onward to the Happy Jack campsite, scouts faced ropes and lashings challenges that were developed by Dean Ball and other leaders from Troop 27.
Finally, the 10th station was set up by Don McNutt of Brookville. The scouts were tasked with building a fire from materials gathered in camp.
Additionally, scouts could only use one match to achieve the maximum score and to melt through a suspended baggie of water.
After the last event, the patrols headed back to their campsites to drop off their sleds and supplies. Their next stop was the Stackpole Dining Hall where everyone gathered for the awards ceremony.