Scouts spend week earning badges, camping

VERGENNES SCOUT TROOP 539 poses for a photo at the Mount Norris Scout Reservation summer camp in Eden recently. Pictured are, (left to right) front row, Rowan Neffinger, Connor Houghton, Cyrus Clair, Jackson Scribner and Emerson Morrill; and, second row, Jude Bragg, Evan Ambrose, Cole Gagnon, Carter McGuire and Liam McGuire; third row, Xavier Redmond, Gabe Roussin, Jackson Bennett, Chance Koenig, Spencer Adams, Brody McGuire and Gabe Scribner; and back row, Kaleb Stearns, Spencer Gebo, Grey Fearon, Zach Norris and Calder Rakowski.

VERGENNES/EDEN — Twenty-two Scouts from Troop 539 in Vergennes last weekend completed a week of summer camp at the Mount Norris Scout Reservation in the northern Vermont town of Eden. The troop attended the third week of the four-week camp.

Among many individual interests, Scouts earned coveted merit badges, took part in camp-wide activities and climbed through cool forests to scale the 2,579-foot-tall Mount Norris. “We sent 22 youth to camp this year,” explained Travis Scribner, the Scoutmaster for Troop 539. The participating Scout count exceeds the number of Scouts that went to camp in 2019 by one.

“We think it’s a new record,” he added.

After missing summer camp in 2020, Troop members were excited to return to the 1,000-acre camp owned and operated by the Green Mountain Council. Seven adults, comprised of parents and troop leadership, also took part in the weeklong adventure. “Missing a summer camp can impact a Scout’s ability to work on and complete merit badges not typically available to Scouts during the rest of the year,” said Troop Advancement Chair Randy Gates. “Examples of these merit badges include Swimming, Rifle and Shotgun Shooting, and Climbing,” he added. Indeed, now with verified records, Troop members completed 57 merit badges collectively.

Scouts that “crossed-over” from Webeloes in early March took part in a special program called First Class Adventure, or FCA. As Scribner noted in a mid-week note to parents: “The FCA Scouts are enjoying their first year camper program and learning a lot!” First Class Adventure focuses on topics such as camping skills, flag etiquette and safety with tools such as knives, saws and axes. Attending this special program allows new Scouts to complete requirements for the rank of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class.

“Requirements for those first four ranks can be done concurrently with others,” Gates said.

Among the many activities the troop took part in, one in particular brought both individual and troop recognition. The mile swim is as difficult as it sounds but four Troop 539 Scouts took the challenge and came away with tired arms and plenty of smiles. Grey Fearon set the all-time best Mount Norris completion time of 23:26. He was followed by fellow swimmers Calder Rakowski, Brody McGuire and Carter McGuire. The four Scouts did training swims in cold Lake Eden each morning at 6:30 a.m. The final qualifying swim took place on Friday, Aug. 20. Both Fearon and Rakowski swim for the Vergennes Swim Team and have shared in that team’s success this year.

This year both the Cub Scout and Scouts BSA summer camps were consolidated at the Mount Norris Scout Reservation as a result, in part, to the cost of holding two separate programs with two separate staffs. The Cub Scout program is normally held at Camp Sunrise, the other Council property located in Benson. Holding a camp during a time of COVID-19 response was also a factor.

“I think the Camp Planning Committee did an amazing job of planning a program that kept all Scouts safe and within guidelines for COVID-19 mitigation,” Scribner said. “The staff did a great job of executing the plan. The camp experience was invaluable this year. You could feel the enthusiasm.”

Troop 539 draws Scouts from Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Panton, Addison and Waltham. Parents interested in learning more about the Troop can call Randy Gates at 425-7890. The Troop will celebrate its 75th birthday in 2022.

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