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A predawn departure gives Troop 223 its first look at the eerie fog that rises from the river each morning (left). The steamy surface appears whenever the air temperature is below the river’s temperature, which is usually about 64 degrees Fahrenheit in June.

area. Using an outfitter, they said, just let the young guys enjoy the experi- ence of rafting the Rogue without piling too many tasks on them. Scouts had time to bond with

troopmates, invent new games, and check off requirements for the Whitewater merit badge. Matt Klein, 14, had that badge on his mind after dinner on the first night in camp. While the group toasted marshmal- lows for s’mores, Matt turned to Helvey and said, “There are a few vocab words I was hoping to go over with you. Like ‘downstream V.’” Helvey defined “downstream V”

as the arrow shape that water makes when it flows between two objects, pointing to the fastest and safest route through a rapid. And he prom- ised to point out other river features, like strainers and eddies, as they made their way farther down the Rogue the next day.

BACK IN THE BOATS an hour after breakfast on Day Two, the group real- ized the river’s channel had narrowed and its pace increased. At its most- difficult points, the Rogue ranks as a Class III on the six-level International Scale of River Difficulty. (Find out what the different classes mean at Class IIIs suited the Scouts just fine.

They had built confidence in the rafts on their first day and were ready for a tougher test—a perfect challenge for a group with little rafting experience. “O.K., this is it!” Helvey shouted

as the first set of rapids approached. Paddles were held at the ready as the Scouts’ backs straightened. Each wave brought a wall of water into the boat, and the biggest ones drew a “Yes!”

from the guys. The chilled water soaking into clothes only seemed to inspire everyone to paddle harder. After sloshing through three hours of tricky Class IIIs, the guys were ready to call it a day. Running the rapids had put them

in good spirits, initially, until they faced the task of unloading the rafts. They were more than willing to help move the dry bags from the boats to the campsite but disagreed about the most effective way to handle the chore. Adult leaders and the river guides

suggested they form a fire line: stand within arm’s reach and pass the bags along from the boats to the camp area. No way, said 13-year-old Otis Jones. He argued that each individual find his personal bag and haul it to his own area. That way, each bag would be handled only once.

Assistant Scoutmaster Brown made

a pitch for teamwork. “Everybody takes care of each other; that’s the bottom line,” he said. During the debate, Helvey also chimed in: “Even bears use fire lines. Just the other day I saw them fire-line a salmon to a baby bear” “Oh yeah?” Otis responded. “And

it took so long, the baby starved to death.” More laughter, but even Otis finally

gave in. Everyone formed the fire line to unload the rafts, where assistant Scoutmaster McAndrews, who had been quietly observing the discussion, had time to discover a lesson lurking in the debate. “A lot of times, the kids don’t realize the life skills they’re learning in Scouting until they get to college or start a job,” he said. “That fire line is a perfect example.”

AS FLAMES BLAZED in the fire pit on the group’s final night on the Rogue, the boys and adults engaged in the time-honored tradition of sharing their favorite memories of the trip. Brown said that seeing his son,

Alex, catch his first fish made the trip worthwhile. Matt said he enjoyed

As father-son bonding activities go, it’s hard to beat a game of boccie on a sunny day. Just ask assistant Scoutmaster Michael Brown (above), as he watches his son, Alex, take aim.

paddling a Ducky with best friend Thomas Yaegar, 14. Thomas said he enjoyed paddling a Ducky with Matt. So much for “divorce boats.” Matt’s dad, Howard, said the

outing gave him a warm reminder of a high-adventure trip he’d taken down the Bighorn River in Montana when he was a Boy Scout. “Getting to relive that kind of adventure with my son is something I’ll never forget.” And how did Brown, coffee-com-

pany CEO, fare without his iPhone? “It’s incredibly liberating to discon- nect from the outside world for five days and be able to focus on Alex, the beautiful surroundings, and the rest of the Scouts, assistant Scoutmasters, and guides,” he said. “I don’t need to be on the cell phone. I don’t need to be on the computer. This right here is what matters in life.” ¿

Eagle Scout BRYAN WENDELL is Scouting magazine’s senior editor.


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