DALEVILLE – Scouts from Troop 211 didn’t let the coronavirus pandemic stop them from an active summer.
Unlike some youth who seldom went outdoors this summer, members of the troop, chartered at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Daleville, hiked, canoed, backpacked and earned merit badges.
“I really thought we weren’t going to do anything” this summer, said Conor McFadyen, a 12-year-old troop member.
The troop’s original plans during the summer were slightly curtailed by COVID-19, including a week-long summer camp at Camp Raven Knob in North Carolina. However, the troop planned alternative outings that allowed for social distancing and adherence to the Center for Disease Control guidelines and related safety precautions.
In July, the troop camped for three nights in Fincastle and worked on the Pioneering, Art, and Personal Fitness merit badges with patrol cooking and evening campfires.
One Saturday morning in July, the Scouts learned canoeing skills at Carvins Cove Natural Reserve then hiked five miles that afternoon. Canoeing skills included the various strokes, safely launching and landing a canoe and paddling a straight line over a long distance. Merritt Taylor, 16, described canoeing as “relaxing, very calm.” So much so, he fell asleep in the canoe.
Later in July, the Cobra Patrol won a camping cook-off for the prized “Golden Fork.” The troop is divided into two patrols, Cobra and Lightning Phoenix. Both patrols prepared balanced meals for the adult leaders who served as judges. The judges ate well, joked the troop.
In August, troop members celebrated with Thomas Laughridge and his family during his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.
The following weekend, the scouts and adult leaders took their new-honed canoeing skills to the James River for an overnight trip from a point upstream of Springwood to Buchanan.
Then in September, Troop 211 backpacked 10 miles on Brush Mountain along the Appalachian Trail, camping overnight at the Niday Shelter and preparing backpacking meals. Each Scout and leader packed their gear, including an individual tent, cooking equipment, and warm clothing.
During a Zoom conference last week, Merritt Taylor said COVID tested the troop’s ability to remain active. “It’s definitely been a challenge, but it’s been a good challenge,” he said.
Two of the troop’s adult leaders, Darian Shields and Ken McFadyen, explained the youth planned and executed most all of the activities this summer within the CDC and St. Mark’s guidelines. McFadyen explained the adult leaders are responsible for the safety and health of the youths and ensure the opportunity to have one activity a month. The activities are Scout planned and led.
Conor and Merritt explained following those guidelines made activities a bit harder, especially during the camping trip. “Because of COVID we couldn’t buddy up in tents, we had to have our own tents,” said Conor, adding during the hikes social distancing was challenging and there wasn’t a campfire at their site. But his father added, the troop did practice “situational awareness” by respecting campers’ personal space.
Conor and Merritt said scouting is teaching them life skills that others their age may lack. “You learn a lot of skills for when you go out in the real world, when you’re independent,” said Conor.
“Scouting gives you a once in lifetime opportunity in the activities you do,” said Merritt. “It also teaches you how to be responsible for yourself and how to work in groups.”
Even though summer is gone, the troop still plans on being active, planning another backpacking trip Oct. 24-25.