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Merit badges to prove it

Scouts gather at Camp Olmsted to talk, sing, get dirty and, well, camp

As scouts acquire skills in the Scoutcraft area they are etched into wooden pucks. There are about 20 skills to master during the week of Scout Camp.

Ask anyone to close their eyes and envision a group of young people gathered together, and then ask them what they see. Chances are, they’ll describe a scene with minimal direct interaction as each person stares at a smartphone– possibly interacting via text or social media.

That’s probably not inaccurate some of the time.

But, this week, it was clear that young people still talk, yell, sing, and get wet and dirty — and they’ve got the merit badges to prove it.

The annual Chief Cornplanter Council B.S.A. Scout Camp took place this week at Camp Olmsted in Elk Township. Approximately 206 people –101 scouts and 105 volunteers — gathered for a week of camping, learning and lots of fun.

A multitude of activities and games give scouts the chance to earn merit badges in many categories.

Times Observer photos by Lorri Drumm Scout Camp volunteer Jake Devereaux uses a dried yucca spindle to create fire by friction, one of the skills scouts learn during Scout Camp.

The Scoutcraft area often attracts young scouts during their free time to learn how to create fire by friction, according to camp volunteer Jake Devereaux. He quickly assembled the dried yucca used for a spindle and with some quick and forceful elbow grease, formed a cloud of smoke that would turn to fire once it touched the dried material.

As skills are acquired in the Scoutcraft area they are etched into wooden pucks. There are about 20 skills to master during the week, according to Devereaux. Roped off areas form safety circles where scouts learn how to safely use an ax, knife and saw. Scouts typically make tent stakes from tree branches and also create the hammer needed to pound them into the ground.

Just a short jaunt up the hill is a building where scouts were taking part in metalsmithing and wood carving. By mid-week, many scouts had created rings, pendants and other items from metal. They were also carving wooden fish to mount on a plaque.

Patrick Taylor was busy working as a youth staff member in the wood carving area. Taylor, 16, first came to camp when he was 11. He looks forward to camp now as a way to contribute and “see all his friends.”

Right outside the building scouts was taking part in a traditional game commonly known as Hoop and Stick. Volunteer Bill DeVlieger tossed the hoop as each scout tried to throw his stick through it as it rolled across the grass. Those who miss losing

their stick and anyone who is successful collects the sticks of those who weren’t as fortunate. In the end, the scout with the most sticks is declared the winner. The game was played by Native Americans as a way to enhance eye-hand coordination and hunting skills.

Patrick Taylor, Scout Camp youth staff member, assists scouts in creating wood carvings during the week-long event held at Camp Olmsted.

A trek down the mountain leads past archery, shooting and trap shooting areas to a myriad of water-related activities in the Allegheny Reservoir. Polar Bear is a favorite way for some scouts to wake up and maybe even freshen up a bit.

Storm Sivak, a six-year camp veteran, said it’s called Polar Bear because typically early in the morning the water is cold. This week, however, Sivak said he was only cold when he got out of the water.

Sivak added that there really isn’t a comparable place to be as the sun comes up and the fog lifts off the reservoir. “It’s beautiful,” he said.

Approximately 31 miles of waterfront provide scouts the chance to take part in water-skiing, motor boating, and sailing, in addition to swimming, lifesaving, snorkeling, and BSA Lifeguard. The water area includes a buddy board where scouts hang their identification tag while they are in the water.

Back atop the mountain, scouts can challenge themselves on a team-building course. In fact, when camp isn’t in session the course is open to businesses and organizations, according to Jim Cowan, assistant camp director.

The course includes a climbing wall, a row of hanging tires, wires and beams to walk across, a swinging log and lots of obstacles to challenge even the most nimble.

Cowan said the course isn’t intended to be competitive but to instill teamwork. “It’s all about trust,” he said.

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