W.Va. Scouts make road trip to their own backyard
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BECKLEY, W.Va. -- The only downside to having the world's biggest camping trip in your own backyard is not getting to take a trip.
The vast majority of the 40,000 Boy Scouts converging on the Beckley area for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree are flying or bussing in from all over the country. And the travel, the getting there together, is an integral part of the Jamboree experience, Scout officials say.
"Part of the Jamboree experience is the travel experience," said Larry Wunderly, the assistant Scout executive of Buckskin Council, which represents troops in 19 counties in Southern West Virginia, as well as three counties in Virginia and one in Kentucky. "It gives the youth the opportunity to bond as a unit."
But the Scouts of Buckskin Council won't be missing out on that opportunity. While the Boy Scouts of America converges on West Virginia, the Boy Scouts of West Virginia are taking off.
Four buses filled with 162 Scouts from four troops and one Venture Crew left Beckley Friday afternoon, bound for Washington, D.C., for a weekend trip before the Jamboree kicks off Monday.
"Scouts from all over, on their way here, they do a two- or three-day tour. It's part of the team building, part of the camaraderie, is that pre-trip and we didn't want our Scouts to miss out on that," said Jeff Purdy, Scout executive for Buckskin Council.
The Scouts will visit the U.S. Capitol, the National Museum of Natural History, Ford's Theatre, the National Air and Space Museum, Arlington National Cemetery and the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
And it really is a pre-trip, as none of the Scouts will be going home between the D.C. trip and the beginning of the Jamboree on Monday. So they're packed, not just for a weekend in the nation's capital, but for a 21st-century Jamboree.
It was recommended that every Scout buy a solar-powered cellphone charger so that they can stay tuned-in while camping at the Jamboree. Their itineraries for each day of the Jamboree will be texted to them the evening before.
Michael Kawash of Charleston was one of many parents at the Beckley Crossroads Mall to see off his two sons, Michael and Timothy, ages 16 and 13.
"It's great that they get a trip, too, since it's in our own backyard," Kawash said. "They're very excited, even my oldest son, and he hardly gets excited about anything."
Kimberly Bennett of Fayetteville is a Venture Crew adviser. Venture Crews are like co-ed Scout troops and Bennett said this is the first time in the 103-year history of the Scouts that females will be participating in the national Jamboree.
Bennett said many Scouts who already have arrived in West Virginia are doing things like whitewater rafting and mountain biking as a pre-trip.
"It's traditional to do what's called a side trip before or after the Jambo," Bennett said. "We have access to this any time, so why not move and let them have access to that? Let people experience West Virginia. If they're doing day trips, that'll encourage people to come back."
Graham Moutz, 15, is part of Troop 5, based out of the First Presbyterian Church in Charleston. He was at the Summit Bechtel Reserve for the June ceremony when they laid the last plank in the Consol Energy Wingtip Bridge, making him one of very few Scouts who have seen the Jamboree site.
He's excited to go to Washington and is particularly looking forward to the Museum of Natural History -- but his face practically lit up when asked about the site of next week's Jamboree.
"It's amazing," Moutz said. "It's just endless wilderness."
Reach David Gutman at email@example.com or 304-348-5119.