Timothy Treemont, asst. scout master, Troop 125
Special to the Record

Boy Scout Troop 125 from Orangefield recently set out on what they thought was going to be a typical hike in the Big Thicket on a beautiful Saturday morning.

Remembering that Troop 125 is a boy led troop, Scout Master Mark Milligan asked the boys if they checked the weather reports for the day. 

“Of course we did, there is an Arctic front coming in tonight and only 20 percent chance of rain today.” 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, we have our raingear, water, and a snack for the trail.”

The boys set off on what they thought would be an uneventful hike through the woods, until…

Someone is missing, where’s Justus? Pat, David, Caleb, and Colton are gone too. They told the scout master they knew a short cut and would meet the rest of the troop at camp. “Do what?” I said. Five boys with no adult supervision were wondering around in the woods. Knowing them, they’re lost; and lost they were!

This is the scenario that was set up for “Survival Camp 2009 – Hike Gone Wrong.”

There were five boys (Justus Milligan, Patrick Tremont, David Blanke, Caleb Spruell, and Colton Robbins) willing to meet this challenge; knowing that in truth, an Arctic front was coming in and the temperature was going to drop below freezing.

They would be in the woods with no tents, no sleeping bags and only a makeshift shelter constructed from what they could scrounge up. After a couple miles of hiking into the wilderness, I informed the boys they were indeed lost. 

The decision was made to hunker down for the night.

The boys have been taught the ‘Rule of Threes’ for survival: Three minutes and you could die without addressing medical emergencies, three hours and you could die from exposure without shelter and/or fire, three days and you could die without water and three weeks you could die without food. The boys realized that the most important tool they could bring into the wilderness is a calm, positive outlook and their brain brimming with practical survival knowledge.

Just as if they wrote the book on survival, or at least watched all the episodes of ‘Survival Man,’ they came together and evaluated their situation. 

Step one: Make sure everybody was medically secure. All were in good health. Now they wanted to know just what everybody had with them so they would know what they had to work with: five pocket knifes, one multi-tool, three camp hatchets, magnesium fire starter, a ball of twine, four ponchos, eight liters of water, snacks, lots of sunflower seeds, and one leftover MRE (meals ready to eat) from Ike.

Step two: Build a shelter big enough for all five boys and their two adult leaders. Ponchos formed the roof as dead tree limbs formed the walls. Between the limbs the boys stuffed pine straw as insulation hoping to keep the cold night winds from tearing through their bodies.

Step three: Gather enough firewood to last them through the night. A heat reflection wall was also constructed in hopes of reflecting the heat back into their shelter.

As night fell, the chill in the air turned bitter cold. A fire was started using the magnesium starter (This is not a lighter, but a crude fire starting mechanism where you scrape magnesium on to tender, then flick sparks toward the scrapings hoping they will ignite.)

For the next three hours or so, they spent their time feeding the fire, dealing with boredom and finally eating their snacks, realizing this was the only food they would eat until making their way out of the woods or were rescued. 

Many stories were told and each scout was given a nickname that represented an experience they had earlier that day. (Their names will not be published in hopes of preserving some of the boy’s dignity.)

Sleep came at a minimum. It seemed they could only sleep for about two hours, then they had to warm themselves by the fire. 

Scout Master Milligan and I, as scheduled, woke all the boys at 3:45 a.m., telling them it was time to use their skills to get out of the woods. Cold, dark, hungry, sleepy, and tired (no, these are not their nicknames), the boys started the hike out of the woods, emerging just over two hours later.

As a reward for surviving Survival Camp 2009, the boys got to enjoy a hot breakfast at a local diner and the satisfaction of knowing, that on their own, they could survive in the woods without any camping equipment, if they had too… and yes, the scout masters finally got to drink their fill of well deserved, hot coffee.