High Adventure

Unique opportunity for Indiana residents

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Scouting is about citizenship. It is about citizenship in the Community, Nation, and World.

One of the requirements for citizenship in the world includes trying to speak to people from other countries. This is often hard for people in America because, especially in Indiana, we live so far from any borders. With one in five people now an immigrant to our land, it is becoming easier than ever before.

Even so, one of the best skills that a good scout can develop is the ability to communicate in more than one language. For residents of Indiana, we have a unique opportunity for incoming juniors, seniors, and recent graduates from high school. (The main target audience is incoming seniors). It is the Indiana University honors program in foreign languages.

My son and I are both alumni of the program. I studied in France and he studied in Spain. District Chair John Wiebke’s son also participated in Chile at the same time my son was in Spain. As a result we are highly conversant in our second languages.

They are preparing to close out their application season for the Summer 2018 trips. They travel to France, Spain, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Chile, China, and Japan. The students are required to speak exclusively in the host language for six weeks. This is a wonderful opportunity for a complete immersion experience.

Scouts make great candidates for this program because they must undergo an in person interview and demonstrate that they would be good ambassadors for America to the host country. Often this program is dominated by girls. There always eager to get good male applicants.

Well the program is expensive, there are ways to find financial help. Even if you doubt that financial ability will be possible, I still encourage students to apply. Being accepted into the program is an honor in and of itself. It helps raise the applicant’s self assuredness because they are capable of qualifying for such a respectable program.

If your child or a scout in your troop or crew is interested at all in international issues, I would commend this program to your attention.


Perception and Adaptation

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In some of my reading on other subjects, I ran across some scientific research from the mid-1800’s that I think is fascinating in its potential application to scouting. I am going to go down some complicated paths in this series of articles, so allow me to set the context first.

The View from the Eagle Board

For those of you who have sat on an Eagle Board of Review more than once, you likely can confirm that the following scenario is common.

A 17-year old in full dress scout uniform walks in the door. He is often clean shaven (although beards are increasingly common). He walks erect even if slightly nervous about what he is walking into. He firmly shakes hands with each member of the Board of Review. He answers questions about his Eagle project in great detail. He has pride in his accomplishments. He looks the part of an Eagle Scout already.

As he sits through the Board, the Board members ask the Eagle candidate to reflect on his beginnings in scouting and his growth. The candidate describes his first campout in the rain. He reflects on his anguish and discomfort. He laughs about how those deprivations are nothing compared to the later discomforts of camping in the snow of winter amidst the howling winds. He reflects on what he learned about overcoming obstacles, adapting, and accepting his circumstances.

He has learned that slight discomforts at home are nothing compared to facing the elements and the discomforts Mother Nature offers.

In my role as District Commissioner, the BSA charges me with the primary mission of encouraging Best Practices in our units. In other words, I am responsible for being able to explain to leaders why BSA policies are in the best interest of the unit, its leaders, and its scouts. That does not mean that I agree with each and every policy, but it does mean that I should be able to articulate the rationale in the light most favorable to the BSA’s intent.

For example, I should be able to articulate why units that camp the most are the more successful; why units that allow the boys to experiment with the patrol method with guidance and boundaries from the scoutmaster corps are more successful than units where adult leaders run the program; or why units with Senior Patrol Leaders who work the Patrol Leader Council are more successful than units where Senior Patrol Leaders acts as the patrol-leader-of-all. Read the rest of this entry »

Invitation to Join Crew 56 (and other crews)

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Tonight (Wednesday, August 2nd) at 7:00 pm, Crew 56 is holding its organizaitonal and planning meeting. The meeting will be at Luke’s Lodge, on the northeast corner of campus of St Luke’s UMC, 100 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260.

Crew 56 is the only Venturing Crew in North Star District within several miles of Meridian Street or our district’s side of Washington Township.

The crew will be electing its inaugural officers, planning the annual calendar, and discussing long-term high adventure options. Some of the high adventure items under discussion include the Boundary Waters canoeing, Sea Base sailing and scuba diving, World Jamboree in West Virginia in 2019, trips to Konderstag, Switzerland’s International Scout Centre, hikes on the Appalachian Trail or the El Camino (the pilgrimage route to San Juan Compestello in northeastern Spain), and many others.

Venturing Crew 56 is a co-ed unit for boys and girls aged 14 to 20. (Former girl scouts can wear their Gold Award on their Venturing uniform.)

Boy Scouts can be dual registered with a troop. They can continue their pursuit of Eagle Scout while in a crew, so long as their primary BSA registration remains in their home troop (meaning the unit that pays his BSA dues). The Crew welcomes scouts, friends, sisters, etc., from nearby troops such as Troops 18, 35, 56, 174, 269, 343, and 514.

Come join Crew 56 tonight.


If you live too far away from Crew 56 or your troop has a sister crew, please send Jeff an email about recruitment nights and other chances for new members to join you. We would love to grow our existing crews. We need information to be better serve those crews.  We will help you publicize your efforts, too!

Interest in Sea Base, May 2018?

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Venturing Crew 1121 has reserved a Coral Reef Adventure at Sea Base for the week of May 29, 2018. They are still building their unit, so they don’t have enough people to fill the berths yet.

There is room for 6 youths (scouts or venturers) and 2 adults (if female participants attend, at least one adult must be female, too).

If you are interested, contact Mike Helsel or Jeff Heck. We need to have some initial takers rather quickly, or else this trip will be released back to Sea Base.

Here is the description from Sea Base:

Your home for a week will be on a large sailing vessel over 40 feet long. During the adventure, you will be sailing the Florida Keys and have the chance to snorkel some of the most beautiful reefs in the Keys and part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

You will also have the opportunity to study astronomy, navigation, fish identification, and coral reef ecology. So join us for the Coral Reef Sailing Adventure, sharpen your navigational skills and enjoy snorkeling and fishing all in one package.  Crew size 6-8.  This is a seven day event.

Wilderness First Aid at Camp Maumee

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Hoosier Trails Council (our neighbor to the south and council surrounding Ransburg) is offering Wilderness First Aid Training at Camp Maumee (just a few minutes past Ransburg and just short of the Deem Wilderness fire tower).

This is required training for one or two persons on any high adventure trek. I highly recommend it for scouts, since they may be the ones needing to assist the adult leader(s) on the trek.

Farewell Message from Troop 191 Scoutmaster

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It is with a heavy heart that I announce that Troop 191 will officially close at the end of 2016. Long time Scoutmaster Lawrence Smiley has written me the following letter. I found the letter to be heart-felt and impassioned, so it was worth sharing with you. Mr. Smiley’s list of activities was very creative and worth considering in your troop or crew.

It has been an honor and a privileged to serve Crossroads of America Council for over a quarter of a century as Troop 191’s founder and scoutmaster.  So many great memories of Christ-protected and guided high adventures:
  1. Riding the narrow gauge train from Durango, CO to gain access to The Chicago Basis [twice]
  2. Climbing Mt. Harvard [twice] and Columbia [once]
  3. Canoeing a 50 mile loop in the Boundary Waters [once]
  4. Sailing a homemade tri-hull in the Florida Keys under the command of Captain DeTurk [once]
  5. White water rafting the Missouri River near Buena Vista, CO [twice] and the New and Upper Gulley Rivers in West Virginia [twice]
  6. Shotgun Shooting at private farms in Indiana [most every year]
  7. Rappelling in Red River Forest east of Lexington, KY [most every year]
  8. Snow skiing at Swiss Valley in S. Michigan [most every year]
  9. Hiking sand dunes and swimming at Michigan Dunes State Park
  10. Canoeing the Blue, the Tippecanoe, The Wabash rivers in Indiana [most every year]
  11. Caving Small-Dull Cave near Bloomington or Marengo Cave [most every year]
  12. Water skiing at Lake Lemon [once]
  13. Paint balling on private property [most every year]
  14. Ransburg Summer Camp [every year!]
  15. Hiking the Lincoln Trail from New Salem to Springfield, IL [once]
  16. Biking to Mounds State Park from Hamilton SE High School [once]
  17. Touring the Air Force Museum in Dayton [once]
  18. North Star District Camporees [a few]
  19. And many more adventures that have faded from the corners of my mind!
  20. Weekly Thursday night meetings, way too many too count, where life skills, servant-leadership and character were taught along with earning rank and merit badges and having a ton of fun.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I close down Troop 191 with both the pride of accomplishment of mentoring tons of boys along their trail to manhood and the sadness of closing out a huge chapter in my life as a part of the Boy Scouts of America – from the age of 7 as a Cub Scout to the age of pushing 70 (June 23[]).

* * *
It has been a great ride and fantastic life adventure; and I depart with no regrets and many, many great memories!
Thank you Jeff [Heck] (and Jerry [Simon]), for your service to the Boy Scouts.  I wish you, The North Star District and the Crossroads of America Godspeed, as you continue serving the youth of Indianapolis.
Thank you to Lawrence Smiley and his dedicated staff for their efforts for the boys from Troop 191 at Church at the Crossing.

Philmont 2017 Openings

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A Pathfinder troop is sending a contingent to Philmont this coming summer. Here’s information we received from their district director.

Troop 92 in the Pathfinder District needs 2 more people to fill a crew, with up to 5 open spots for a Philmont trek in 2017, adult openings as well. It is a 7-day trek from 7/9/17-7/16/17. We need to fill these spots quickly so if anyone or another troop would like to join up with us, it would be much appreciated. Travel arrangements have not been confirmed but we anticipate the cost to be $800-$1000 total prior to our fundraising efforts. Please contact Chris Padgett at (317)703-9753 or capadgett77@att.net ASAP if interested. Thanks!

Philmont Contingent June 2016 Vacancies

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While it is late in the Spring Semester to make big summer plans, I wanted to let you know about a big opportunity.
Del-Mi’s Troop 120 has a troop contingent going to Philmont and following Trek #16,  departing Indianapolis on June 12th and returning June 26th. The contingent will travel primarily by AmTrak train to New Mexico. Philmont “tuition” is $870. Train fare is separate and based on the cost on the date of booking, which would be at least $269 as of today (more added-cost options are available). Total estimated cost is $1140.Philmont logo
Camp scholarships for Philmont “tuition” are available in principle (some roadblocks to camperships are likely due to the late phase of planning this trek is insee pg. 9, but we can find a way in most situations). In all circumstances, a scout must cover transportation cost out of pocket.
In other words, a scout could have the trip of a lifetime for $270. (Some logistical planning would be necessary to make the campership work.)
According to the Philmont website, the minimal requirements for participation are:
  • Philmont trek and cavalcade participants must be 14 years of age OR completed 8th Grade and be at least 13 years of age prior to participation.
  • Participants must have a valid BSA Health Record with all parts, A, B, and C. Especially important is the Body Mass Index compliance.
Three members of North Star District’s Troop 56 have expressed interest in participating in the contingent. This would leave two (2) remaining vacancies in the contingent. We will compile a wait list, so put your name in if there is any interest! Please email Jeff Heck immediately if any scout, scouter, or scout/parent combo would be interested in participating.
Troop 120 already has several adults committed. While additional adults are welcome, as I understand it, adults are not necessary to make the required safety-ratios.
North Star scouts who have aged out are welcome. We will just have to make sure we find a BSA registration status for them (many to choose from, so not a major problem).
I hope we can send some more North Star scouts to Philmont this summer!

Philmont opening

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Greg Hoyes from our Troop 804 has forwarded this message from an Iron Horse District Troop:

Scout leaders on Philmont waiting list:

My troop was selected for a Philmont trek in 2016, expedition # 626A.   The date is June 26th to July 8th , leaving Indy on 6/25 & returning 7/8.    We are a small troop, 40 miles southeast of Indy in the Iron Horse District.  The troops in Iron Horse have not filled up my crew and I currently have three spots open for scouts aged 14-20.    I requested a waiting list from Philmont for the Crossroads of America council and your names were provided.   We are planning on flying into Albuquerque and are having Blue Sky adventures provide ground transportation, meals and hotel with some sightseeing in Albuquerque, where we will spend one night to help get acclimated to the altitude.   Total estimated cost of the trek, including transportation is $1775.00 ,  (Philmont: $870;  Ground package: $465; Airfare (estimated at $440.)   This will be my 5th trip to Philmont, so I am familiar with the Philmont adventure.

Contact me if any scouts in your troops are wanting to go to Philmont in 2016 and might be interested.  I will be happy to provide any additional info and will sign anyone up on a first come, first serve basis.   I can add scouts up February 22nd, as the final Philmont payment must be received by March 1.

Thanks for considering.


John Bitner
Scoutmaster, BSA Troop 28
Iron Horse District
Arlington, IN   46104

 Cell: (765) 561-4182

Filling a High Adventure Contingent

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High adventure (loosely defined) is one of the most important parts of retaining older scouts along with true youth leadership of the troop through use of the Patrol Method. If the older scout feels he is needed and wanted while having fun and challenging himself, his biggest enemy to continued scouting is his 18th birthday.

Many troops and crews struggle to run effective high adventure programs. There are many impediments: youth participants’ interest, adult participants’ availability, costs, logistics, program availability, etc.

For troops and crews that do make it through the planning stages and schedule a high adventure trip, they sometimes struggle to fill a contingent (that is the group that will do the high adventure activity together, usually 6-12 scouts depending on the activity). Some of our troops field multiple contingents on any one trip. This offers many savings in economies of scale, especially with travel and lodging.

For others, the biggest problem is having enough scouts to fill out a complete contingent.

The District is making an effort to help fill contingents. We already have several troops with plans for 2016. If all goes well, all scheduled scouts will attend. However, life happens and vacancies may occur for a variety of reasons. The trip is most likely to achieve its goals of adventure and citizenship development if the contingents are full. To help overcome obstacles, the District is working as a clearing house at Roundtables to discuss where units have vacancies on existing contingents that already have scheduled departure dates.

If your troop or crew has a known vacancy or is willing to accept names for a waiting list, please contact District Commissioner Jeff Heck or your assigned Unit Commissioner. Similarly if your unit has an eager scout who wants to go but cannot find the right trip for him, contact the Commissioners so that we can help place your scout(s).

In a future article we will look at some opportunities for District to offer high adventure trips, including Order of the Arrow contingents, that might help units who have struggled to make high adventure a part of their program.