MOUNT AIRY — Each Wednesday during the summer, Camp Raven Knob fills with parents and families visiting their Boy Scout campers for dinner, and then many staying for campfire and the Order of the Arrow ceremony. For Elkin Troop 648, last Wednesday’s potluck dinner included a special guest speaker and a special patch presentation.
Troop 648 of Elkin First United Methodist Church took a special trip earlier in the summer, earning the 50-Miler patch in the process. Seventeen scouts and eight leaders spent five days and four nights paddling the Yadkin River from Kerr Scott Reservoir to East Bend, camping each night in a different location along the river banks.
In the end, the scouts had completed a 56.5-mile trip, said John Hawkins, assistant scoutmaster, as he prepared to hand out the special BSA 50-Miler patch, a certificate, a laminated picture and map of the trip and a small tag-sized patch to those scouts who completed the journey.
“That’s a pretty big accomplishment, and the boys should be proud as should the parents,” Hawkins said.
“Life is an adventure,” he told the scouts. He encouraged them to put the small tag patches on the strap of their backpacks to remind them “every time you pick up the backpack, ‘hey, I’m on an adventure and I know I can do it because I made it on the 50-miler.’”
Not all of the scouts and leaders or parents were able to participate in the whole trip, due to it being five days, but several also were recognized for participating in at least part of the journey.
Also, the troop leaders, including Scoutmaster Mike Powell, recognized the donations from the community that allowed the scouts to take the trip at a cost of only about $35 per person. Those included camping sites at VFW Post 1142 North Wilkesboro, towns of Ronda, Elkin and Jonesville, and Yadkin River Adventures in Rockford, food from Royall’s Soda Shop and Dodge City Steakhouse, transportation outfitter Hometown River Company and shirts and bandanas from Rag Company.
Parents, leaders and scouts were able to secure enough kayaks to avoid renting any, also helping keep the cost of the trip down, Hawkins said.
“It was a big deal,” Powell said. “If it looks like it was a big deal, it really was. There was a lot of work that went into this.
“I think the kids had a lot of fun. There was a lot of rowing going on, especially that last mile,” he said.
Scout Hunter Flay, who was accompanied by his father, C.J. Flay, on the trip, said everyone was very excited about the idea of the trip when it was introduced. “Everyone was really excited about the idea — kayaking 50 miles on our own little river,” Hunter said.
“At first, I was a little iffy because these things kind of fall through, and yeah it was tough, but when the planning started getting serious, I hopped on board and was ready to do it,” said Hunter, who added it took about three months of planning to make the trip a success.
The trip wasn’t without a hitch or two though, as heavy rain at Kerr Scott the first night had water seeping into the bottom of tents and wetting everything, Hunter said. “The second night was nice because we had a big open field and threw out our tents to let them dry,” he said.
“Actually surprisingly along the river, there were only a few flips and incidents, and that wasn’t even from horseplay, it was just inexperienced kayakers. We just put them right back in their kayaks and sent them on their way,” said Hunter, who is an experienced kayaker on the Ronda to Elkin stretch of the Yadkin.
“My favorite part of the trip was the Ronda to Elkin section, because that’s where we go kayaking all the time. Because I go there all the time, I know it like the back of my hand, I know all the little rapids,” he said.
The trip also allowed for a test of one of his personal kayaks as he and his dad had patched a hole in one, which they said held up for the entire trip.
In addition to the paddling, the scouts had to fulfill community service projects as part of teh 50-Miler award. Those included a flag retirement ceremony and building steps to access kayaks from the river at the VFW Campground on Kerr Scott, a conservation project and clean-up at Ronda’s town park and an erosion project at Jonesville Greenway.
Powell said the troop is looking into planning another high adventure activity for next summer.
During their week at Camp Raven Knob, Troop 648 had guest provisional campers and leaders placed with them for the week, including Retired Sgt. Maj. Hector Santos and his 14-year-old son from Clarksville, Tennessee.
Santos spoke to the parents, families and scouts of the Elkin troop prior to their award presentations about the importance of Boy Scouts in his own son’s life as it provided stability while he was deployed every two years as he was growing up.
“It’s a journey you take with your kid,” said the former member of the 101st Division Screaming Eagles, which were some of the first on the ground in Afghanistan following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. “Depending on where you are on the journey, depends on the challenge. It is fun and interesting. For him, it was stability; for me, it saved me.”
Since 2014, Santos has been coming to Raven Knob as an instructor on the gun and rifle range. “It is a challenge. In one week, I have to gain the trust of a scout I’ve never seen before, and gain his trust so I can build the confidence in him so he can qualify and get scored to get his merit badge.”
He emphasized continuously the family element of scouting. “Scouting is a family event. Scouting gave my son the stability he needed to grow up without a father,” he said fighting back tears.
Through the years, he and his wife would rotate as leaders depending on whether Santos was deployed or at home. Since his last deployment in 2014, he has spent his time giving back to scouting, he said.
“Thank you so much for your hospitality,” he told the 648 leaders and scouts. To the parents, Santos said, “Thank you for taking this journey with your kids.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.