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On Day 1, Anthony Beaudette (above) shows the result of months of training as he helps power Bogalusa, La., Venturing Crew 785’s Advanced team to a first-leg finish. Most crews began practicing in March for the July race.

Lilly says she and her fellow crew

members practice a couple of days a week, going out to paddle for two hours, and then they practice or race on the weekends as soon as the Minnesota weather permits. At Calico Rock, the local Chamber of Commerce has set up a table with sandwiches and homemade cookies— lots of homemade cookies—on the riverbank beneath a huge bluff, one of the race’s scenic highlights. Paul Dauterive and Pete

Fortenberry paddled the first leg for the Bogalusa Open Cruising team, and Paul, 17, the team captain, lobbies Miller to go right back and paddle the second. It’s Paul’s fourth year in the race, and he’s determined to win. “I can do it again [another leg],” Paul says. “That’s what we train for.” Because the top-tier race is

tight, though, Miller denies Paul’s request—this time—but Paul will per- suade Miller tomorrow to let him do back-to-back legs on the final day. Miller wants his charges to win,


but he wants them to win the right way. “We win with humility, and we lose with dignity,” he says, words printed above the door on the inside of the school bus the crew rode in from Louisiana. “We’re not excitable when we win. We don’t come up with excuses when we lose.” Miller left two of his veteran pad-

dlers behind, he says, because they violated team rules. Their pleading to make amends didn’t sway him. To Miller, building character through lessons learned is more important than winning the race. To celebrate another day on the river, Miller pulls the Bogalusa bus up to the Family Shoe and Dry Goods Store on Main Street where, in an annual tradi- tion, the team orders sundaes.

BY THE END of the second day, the Boys’ Novice, Boys’ Advanced, and Coed Cruising classes all contain comfortable leaders. But the Open Cruising class has turned into a battle. Less than seven minutes separate the three teams, with Russellville holding a 2-minute, 35-second advantage over New Brighton and a 6-minute, 45-second edge over Bogalusa. That night, the teams and their

leaders gather at the Sylamore Creek Campground for a cookout featur- ing burgers and a talent show with songs and bad jokes, ending with a ninja pantomime. The night also gives leaders a chance to talk. Three years ago, the race fielded 38 teams, but organizers say a conflict with the national Scout jamboree and the economy reduced the 2010 field. Ideally, they’d prefer that about 50 teams participate. John Murphey brought his Crew

84 from Rolla, Mo., for the first time. “I heard about the race five years ago, and I’ve been trying to get a group to come down,” he says between bites of a burger. “This is the first group of guys who had it together to come.” Murphey brought a team of six

who have canoed the Boundary Waters, hiked 75 miles, climbed rocks, and floated rivers. Only two of the Venturers had been in Scouting before this year, but they were lured by the promise of adventure. While veterans of multiple races comprise some other crews, this is their first race, and they’re

All that water weight will slow you down, so Venturing Crew 785 empties its canoe at Buffalo City before swapping paddlers for Day 1’s final leg, a 12.3-mile sprint to Norfork.

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