Hollis Boy Scout Troop 12 conquers Alaska

Hollis Boy Scout Troop 12 troop embarked on yet another "Big Trip" this summer, spending a week hiking, fishing and sightseeing in the majestic Kenai Peninsula and Chugach National Forest in Alaska.

The trip began Saturday, Aug. 1, with a bright and early 3:30 a.m. wakeup. Scouts gathered in Hollis to take a shuttle to Logan Airport. They landed later that evening to a bright and sunny 82 degree day in Anchorage.

The group then embarked on a 2.5-hour drive south to the Kenai Peninsula, where they set up base camp for the next three days.

The troop had the fortune of being able to set up camp, cook and finally bed down all in the convenience of daylight. Alaska is four hours behind Eastern time, but given its location on the globe, daylight extends toward midnight at this time of year.

So, there’s no shortage of opportunity to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Eye masks are a good bet, however, if you want to stick to a normal sleep schedule.

The Boy Scouts hiked about 64 miles over the course of eight days. Some of the most memorable hikes were Exit Glacier/Harding Ice Field, Flat Top Mountain, the Wolverine Peak, the Winner Creek Trail and Ship Lake Pass, with the infamous ramp leading to a narrow peak that supported only a few Scouts at a time. Most of the hikes were roughly 10 miles round-trip, all with breathtaking views.

Bear and moose were prevalent along the hikes, as well. One small group of Scouts watched a brown bear not far away eating salmon from the river on which they were fishing.

Troop 12’s leaders decided to break up the week and offer a glacial boat tour while transitioning from the Kenai Peninsula to the Chugach National Forest. The boat tours left from a port in a small town called Whittier, which is only accessible via an old World War II train tunnel that stretches through a mountain. Autos can pass through the tunnel, but access is strictly controlled and only allowed at specific times.

Exiting the tunnel, you find yourself looking at an abandoned World War II community that was secretly built to avoid detection by the enemy. It’s a very cool place.

The boat tour lasted a few hours, and stopped at various glaciers and a very active salmon fish hatchery. The glaciers were massive, and getting up close to them and hearing the deep thunder crack of moving ice is simply an amazing experience that makes you feel very small in comparison.

Several of the boys ventured off to go fishing on a few occasions, and they caught and released a number of large silver salmon.

A small contingent of the troop did a 5-mile hike along the beach of Resurrection Bay to a beachhead where they set up tents and camped overnight. One of the Scouts caught a salmon that evening and shared it with the group, which turned out to be a delicious, healthy meal on a beach far away from civilization.

Some of the boys also fished the famous Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage on the last day of the trip. They weren’t as lucky on this day, but nonetheless had a great experience wading through the creek with the Anchorage skyline behind them.

This trip was the last trip for many of the senior Scouts who reached the rank of Eagle and were moving on to college. Many of these young men have been together since Cub Scouts, and leaving the troop behind with one last "Big Trip" was truly a memorable experience and a great way to cap off a great career in Scouting.

On the last day, the troop gathered for a wild fish and game dinner, hosted by local family who are friends of one of the Scouts on the trip. The boys were served moose, bison, caribou, haddock, salmon and sheep – a great way to end an amazing week of memories that will last a lifetime.