David Harper of Huntley was at work Tuesday morning when he received an email that gave him and the boys of Venturing Crew 1067 a renewed sense of excitement.
The email was from Summit Bechtel Reserve – a national training, adventure and Scouting center in West Virginia. The group had just accepted Harper’s request to let his venture crew partake in one of its high adventure Trek programs, after the cancellation of the crew’s previously planned trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico.
“We were all pretty excited,” Harper said, “especially since everyone was so let down about Philmont. It’s nice that we’re still able to get out and do something.”
Operating through the Venturing Boys Scouts program, Venturing Crew 1067 of Huntley plans outdoors activities for local Boy and Girl Scouts troops. The crew had planned to leave Wednesday for New Mexico as part of its high adventure summer camp trip. However, on June 4, a wildfire broke out in nearby Ute Park, destroying parts of Philmont in its wake.
Because of this, Philmont announced that all back country treks were canceled from June 8 to July 14.
The news was disappointing to the crew, which had prepared and trained for the trip for a year and a half, Harper said. The boys particularly were excited to go on the T-Rex hike to see one of only two confirmed T-Rex footprints in the world.
“I’ve liked dinosaurs from a young age, so I was really disappointed when we couldn’t go,” said Jack Harper, 16, of Huntley.
For the past year and a half, David Harper would simulate the arduous Philmont treks by going on weekend backpacking trips across northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Equipped with 50-pound packs, packing stoves, and camping gear, David Harper trained his crew for what life in the dry New Mexico mountain range would be like.
“Since we put so much hard work into it, I didn’t really consider not going to be an option,” said Alex Hardt, 15, of Huntley.
Although it’s not something that can be controlled, David Harper said it was frustrating to be told a week before the planned trip that they couldn’t go.
Because a lot of their backup plans were falling through, David Harper and the crew were prepared to stay home this summer.
“When we got the news about West Virginia, elation went through the roof,” he said.