Have you ever walked in snow that squeaks or camped under the brilliance of the Milky Way? How about snowshoeing among the fresh tracks of moose and rabbit, or seeing an otter dodge across a frozen lake?
Venture Crew 1345 from Burke, Virginia, experienced all of these and more on their recent Okpik Cold Weather Camping Weekend at the Northern Tier Charles L. Summers Canoe Base in Ely, Minnesota. The young men and women (and brave adult advisors) completed the Okpik Winter Camping Weekend trek over a recent long weekend in January 2022, where the daytime high temperatures were still below zero and the windchills hit below -30 degrees F.
The moment the crew arrived, the fantastic outfitters at Northern Tier made sure the Scouts were ready for the weather. With boots rated to -100 degrees, heavy fleece mittens, and ample layers to cut the wind and cold, the toasty crew was ready to take on the northern Minnesota winter. The crew collected cross-country skis and snowshoe gear, an auger and fishing poles, heavy-duty winter sleeping bags and tarps, and food/cooking equipment for the multi-day camping event.
The focus of the Okpik Cold Weather Camping Weekend is to experience all different types of winter/snow related weather activities that Okpik has to offer – from hiking out to a wilderness lake in 12 inches of snow, towing gear in sleds (pulks), set up a campsite and spend the nights camping in quinzhees, snow shelters or a Russian Tents. Venture Crew 1345 was no exception. They hiked with gear-filled sleds, snowshoed through the forest and skied across frozen lakes topped with several inches of snow more than seven miles each day. They did jumping jacks around the outdoor snow kitchen and held impromptu running races across the frozen lake. They even got to participate in dog sledding around a frozen island.
And through all of this, they worked together as a team to make the most of the experience.
Cold weather camping – especially when the temperatures at night drops 50 degrees below freezing – is not for the unprepared. Venture Crew 1345 knew that they needed to work together to plan, prepare, and practice even long before heading to Minnesota (ah! the first principle in leave no trace). They held shakedown cold weather camping weekends, carefully reviewed health and safety protocols, and double and triple checked their gear prior to the trip.
But they also worked together as a team during the trek – doing wellness checks with their fellow Scouts and working together to make sure everyone on the crew was healthy, safe, and getting the most out of the trek.
Venture Crew 1345 is now back in warmer Northern Virginia, but the memories of this high adventure trek will stay with the Scouts and Scouters for many years to come.
And, yes, the snow does squeak when you walk on it. The moose, rabbits and otters do share the forest trails and snowy lakes with the Okpik visitors. And the Milky Way nearly pops out of the sky when it’s 30 degrees below zero.
Venture Crew 1345 is a part of the Boy Scouts of America units chartered by the Burke Centre Conservancy in Northern Virginia. The BCC supports a family-focused Cub Scout Pack 1345, boys Troop 1345, girls Troop 1345G, and co-ed Venture Crew 1345. To learn more about Burke Centre’s BSA units, go to https://bsa1345burke.org/