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WHERE: Death Valley National Park, California and Nevada. The 3.4 million-acre site ranks as the largest national park outside of Alaska.

CLOSEST AIRPORT: McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, an easy, 2.5-hour drive via Highway 95 north out of Las Vegas. Take that for 90 miles, and then turn left on Nevada Highway 373 for 25 miles. Then turn right on California Highway 190, and drive 30 miles to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Find specific directions at the park’s website.

At 3.4 million acres, there’s a lot to see in Death Valley National Park. But Troop 19 makes the eight-hour drive here each year for one reason: sandboarding the dunes, even if it takes most of their energy just to get to the top.

single-age patrols. Older Scouts work with young Scouts as their mentors throughout. And keeping the inte- grated patrol method functioning smoothly requires some top-notch leadership from the top. Right after breakfast Isaiah shows

some of the leadership skills he’s learned. “Before we head out, every- one get full water bottles,” he tells the group. “Then we’ll do a police line before departing for the dunes.” Scouts spread out and sweep for

scraps, but a problem arises. They’re all rushing to finish, and haste means waste left behind. “Guys, it’s not a race!” Isaiah shouts. “Slow down!” Then, he has a thought, a proven

way to motivate the guys. “But it is a competition,” he says. “So let’s see which patrol can get more trash!” Meanwhile, Maheu breaks free

from the “chaos” for the first time on the trip to chat with the adults. They form a tight circle, most resisting the urge to turn around to determine if the Scouts are missing any litter. “Thank you all for coming. I

really appreciate it,” Maheu says. As the Scoutmaster talks, he makes eye

contact with each leader for several seconds. “What we really want to do out here is engage the boys to do as much as they possibly can. That said, your job is basically the safety officer. They’re going to drop food on the ground, spill things, or worse. Don’t worry about that. Trust our boy leaders to get it done. It looks like it’s going nowhere, but it gets better as the trip goes on. I promise.”

ALL THE THRILL OF SNOWBOARDING at a fraction of the cost. That’s sandboard- ing. But there are trade-offs when swapping white powder for tawny. On the upside, friction makes

sandboarders go slower, making it the perfect beginner’s sport. On the downside, sandboarders can’t use a chairlift. They have to walk back up, and returning to the top for another run conjures images of Sisyphus and the boulder. “It’s like a StairMaster with sand,” says assistant Scoutmaster Harry Delmer, who recommends an efficient, diagonal route up the dunes. After he catches his breath, Delmer

explains why he’s here. “My son got Eagle in 2004, but I’ve stayed in for

WHEN: The park is open year-round, but summer heat can be life threaten- ing. Death Valley holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on earth: a sizzling 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring is the most popular season, but visitors also flock during winter holidays. Reservations are helpful during peak seasons.

WHAT: Hikes, nature walks, living history tours, ghost towns, bicycling, bird-watching, horseback riding, scenic drives, backcountry camping, volcanic-crater exploring, and more.

CAMPING: Nine campgrounds, with four open year-round. Troop 19 stayed at Stovepipe Wells, a large area with a general store, tables, fire pits, and flush toilets.

SANDBOARDING: Sandboarding and sledding are prohibited at the more- remote Eureka Dunes. The Mesquite Dunes, which Troop 19 carved up during its trip, are OK for any non- motorized use.

DON’T MISS: Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America, which sits at 282 feet below sea level. Crystallized salts form a thick, crusty surface you have to see to believe.

DID YOU KNOW? Despite its remote location and the fact that it’s the hottest, driest, lowest place in North America, more than 1 million people make a visit to Death Valley National Park every year.



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