Troop 868 in Action

Summer Camp at Skymont Scout Reservation (July, 2002)

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The camp's handicraft area proved popular with many of our scouts; and our older guys also flocked to the Nature Lodge for an array of ecology related merit badges.  The shooting sports area was outstanding with separate ranges for rifle shooting, shotgun shooting, and archery.  But the camp did not have a pool and the lake was murky.  Our guys taking aquatics merit badges found the staff to be excellent but disliked swimming in the lake.

Patrick weaves a chair seat for Basketry Merit Badge. Jonathan shoots a qualifying round for Archery Merit Badge.
Aaron, Paul, and Philip are among the scouts in a Reptile & Amphibian Study Merit Badge class. Officer Gulley of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency talks with scouts in a Fish & Wildlife Merit Badge class.

The acoustics in the camp dining hall were terrible and (for some reason???) the staff did not use the installed public address system.  Our assigned tables were off to the side and we were unable to hear most of the prayers and announcements that were made during meal times.  The food itself was adequate in quantity and average in appeal.  Menus were similar to school lunches and tended to be heavy on meat and bread; and light on vegetables!  Seconds were offered at nearly all meals and fresh fruit (along with peanut butter & jelly) were always available at a central serving table for scouts who wanted it.  Boys only left the table hungry by choice.

A climbing tower was located near the center of camp.  Climbing, rappelling, and a zip line were open to ALL scouts age 13 and over --- not just those in the COPE program.  There was also abundant open range time for all the shooting sports.

The camp's "high adventure" activities included the on-site COPE program; a Cumberland Adventure Program which was also conducted by camp staff; and a white water rafting trip down the Ocoee (pronounced Oh-co-eee) River offered through a local outfitter at a very reasonable fee.  Mountain bike rides were offered several times each day.

Campsites were located fairly close to each other but forest provided adequate separation and privacy.  We shared a site with Troop 7 from the Cherokee Area Council and didn't have any problems or complaints.  The site was large with tents at two ends and a latrine in the center.  Troop 7 took one end and we took the other, so we didn't get into each others' way.  The camp's tents were in good repair, but their steel cots and mattresses could stand replacement.  Latrines were better than average and the camp had two shower houses which always had plenty of hot water.  Numerous trails provided shortcuts over having to walk the main camp roads to get to the various program areas.  Despite being located on top of a mountain, the camp itself was nearly flat.  Wildlife were abundant.  Numerous deer roamed about and were frequently seen feeding throughout the camp.  Mosquitos were surprisingly few.  Poison ivy was not a big problem, either.  The soil was quite sandy and the ground was dry within minutes after a rain.  Trading Post prices were reasonable.

Troop 868 scouts in formation for flag raising in our campsite before heading to the parade field for morning assembly.
Patrick and Shane peer out from the shelter they constructed for Wilderness Survival Merit Badge.

Two aspects of Skymont really set the camp apart:  (1) attitude of the staff and (2) the Chaplain program.  The camp offered scheduled merit badge classes, but allowed scouts to begin work on a badge anytime during the week.  This was especially helpful in areas such as handicraft where many badges don't really require more than 1~2 days to complete.  The staff was uniformly knowledgeable in their program areas and respectful and cooperative with the campers.  They really went the extra mile to help scouts complete badges.  The camp also had an ordained minister serving as a full-time chaplain.  He was available to counsel scouts who were homesick or had problems with discipline or other issues.  Prayer was offered before every meal and every morning at the flag pole.  A vesper service was conducted on Wednesday night.

Scouts and leaders from most of the troops in camp attended  Wednesday night Vespers in the camp's chapel.  Chaplain Owen Smith (in Venture uniform) led the service with assistance from Camp Commissioner Jim Bolin.  Troop 868 scouts can be spotted by their distinctive red neckerchieves. Mr. Meek (far right) waves for the camera during a break in the action of a Friday afternoon "Staff versus Scoutmasters" volleyball game.  Despite a valiant effort by the scoutmasters, the camp staff won 2 of 3 games.

A total of 14 scouts and 3 adult leaders from Troop 868 made the trip to Skymont.  The boys earned 63 merit badges at camp plus several partials.  Not included in this number are badges or partials completed with counselors other than camp staff during the trip.

Pictured (L to R) are Mr. Freeman, Tyler, Alex, Stephen, James, Jonathan, David, Tim, Paul, Philip, Shane, Ben, Aaron, Chris, Mr. Guzman, and Patrick.  Mr. Meek is on the "safe side" of the camera!


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