Local Boy Scouts follow the steps of Lewis and Clark in canoes

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Fifteen local boy scouts and their adult leaders now appreciate how hard Lewis and Clark had it when they went up the Upper Missouri River almost 200 years ago. Foster CityÂ?s high adventure Boy Scout troop, Troop 175, spent last week traveling almost 100 miles by canoe through MontanaÂ?s wilderness, an area almost unchanged since the Corp of Discovery came through in 1805. The trip was steeped in early American history, wildlife sightings, and unforeseen challenges.

Fifteen local boy scouts and their adult leaders now appreciate how hard Lewis and Clark had it when they went up the Upper Missouri River almost 200 years ago. Foster City’s high adventure Boy Scout troop, Troop 175, spent last week traveling almost 100 miles by canoe through Montana’s wilderness, an area almost unchanged since the Corp of Discovery came through in 1805. The trip was steeped in early American history, wildlife sightings, and unforeseen challenges.

The planning for the trip began almost a year ago when Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Hamilton asked parents and scouts if there was any interest in taking on a trip of this magnitude. “Every year we take a fifty mile backpacking trip in the High Sierras. I wanted to try something different and the upcoming Bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was the inspiration,” said Hamilton. Willing to take on the trip planning if he could have eight firm commitments, Hamilton was surprised when 21 scouts and adults committed to going.

The trip was more expensive than most because it required flying to Great Falls, Montana. Several of the scouts held a garage sale in April to help raise funds for the trip. Others worked odd jobs and asked for Christmas gifts of cash from relatives to help pay for the trip. “Our troop has a policy of making sure every scout can participate in any troop event. If there are any financial hardships, the troop provides camping scholarships,” according to Hamilton.

Because this trip was through a wilderness area, the scouts had to be familiar with canoeing. The troop set a requirement that all scouts earn their Canoeing merit badge prior to going on the trip. This entailed approximately 12 hours of training on the Foster City lagoon. The scouts also had to complete a five-mile qualifying paddling trip with a fully loaded canoe. Several of the adult leaders were also trained in wilderness first aid. “There was no cell phone coverage or even regular telephones in the area, so we wanted to minimize any problems,” said Hamilton.

Once on the river the scouts saw a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles, beaver, deer, antelope, and prairie dogs. “Most of us had never seen a bald eagle before. It was pretty cool,” said scout Matt Morris, 14 years old. Several of the scouts also hiked up to the “Hole in the Wall”, a wind eroded hole in a cliff almost 400 feet above the river that was mentioned in Lewis and Clark’s journals. The group also experienced severe thunderstorms with 60 to 70 mile per hour winds, something that is rarely seen in California. “We just got in our tents and hoped that they stayed up. It was really exciting with the wind, rain, thunder and lightning,” said Patrick Hamilton, also 14.

There was one important difference between this trip in 2004 and Lewis and Clark’s in 1805. “We were paddling downstream, while the Corp of Discovery was paddling, towing and poling upstream. One day we had what to us was a full day of paddling, then we realized that we had gone the same distance with the current that L&C did into the current. Those were some strong men,” said Hamilton.

Everyone who went on the trip has insight as to what it took to be an early American explorer, as well as memories that will last a lifetime.

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