wanted: feedback on BSA Northern Tier

I will be taking a crew of scouts to the BSA Canoe base at Ely next summer (10 days) and would appreciate any feedback from anyone who has taken this trip! I have been on some campouts with the troop, but this wii be my first time to go on an extended high adventure trip…I’m looking for practical advice on logistics as well as working with a group of boys on this type of trip.

Also, any tips from other women!


I asked a former coworker
who’s been involved in the BSA Charlie Sommer’s Base for years if he’d provide you with some feedback and ask his stepdaughter, who worked as a guide their for several years, if she might help you too.

Sommer’s canoe base

– Last Updated: Nov-07-07 9:28 PM EST –

I went on 4 of their 10 day trips into the Quetico forty years ago as a scout. All were great experiences and every trip is still vivid in my mind. I have always thought highly of the Sommer's operation. I believe they are now handling up to 16 groups a day out of Moose Lake - departures in the morning and arrivals coming back in the afternoon; seven days a week. I heard their staff now has over 200 guides, both young men and women. I have found the guides to know their stuff and to know how to get the most out of the goup. They put in long days and cover a lot of territory in 10 days. We did trips up to 160 miles in that amount of time.

Today most of the groups that I bump into in the interior of the Quetico are from Sommer's. I had to chuckle on my Quetico trip this year bumping into a Sommer's group of boy scouts lead by a female guide on the rough stretch of portages between Isabella and Kahshahpiwi. It was 1:15 in the afternoon and the boys were whinning about a lunch break. Their guide was pushing on to get the last bad portage out of the way before lunch. She cracked the whip and held her course and I thought good for you. I was doing the same to my crew because I knew it would be difficult to motivate and tackle a bad portage right after lunch. But I also have a story from about 15 years ago when my wife and I and a paddling friend were doing a trip and picked up a Sommer's guide on the shore of Kahshahpiwi without gear or a canoe and who had lost his group looking for a portage the previous day. We found his group two portages back and delivered him back. This guy was relieved of this guiding duties shortly after that incident.

Respense to C-L-Sommers Trip
I am a member of the Northern Tier High Adventure Committee BSA which is the volunteer steering committee for the program at C.L. Sommers we have an excellent reputation of providing an exceptional program for the youth of the BSA. I have forwarded your message to our daughter Melissa Mills who spent two years as a guide at C.L. Sommers leading the backcountry experiences with groups both male and female. I am confident she can provide beeter information then I can.

Worked with them
As a professional guide, they hired me to go along with their sea kayaking trips to the Apostle Islands. I never saw their camp facilities or did anything for them outside of the Apostles but I was impressed with their organization. Their equipment was in good shape and the seasonal trail staff was always of good caliber.

Adive for 10-day Sommers trip
I guided there one summer and my NUMBER 1 bit of advice for you is this: get ALL your crew in GOOD physical condition. I worked with and observed all different kinds of people there, but the biggest issue I had on trips was participants who - like the average American today - were physically in horrid shape and were simply unprepared for this very physical experience. Most especially - the ADULT “leaders.” Get everyone on a fitness regime NOW so that when your trip rolls around - it will be easy for you, not a backbreaking nightmare as I saw it happen for some. It is a wonderful place to be. Good luck.

Boy scout trip

– Last Updated: Nov-23-07 8:25 PM EST –

I have taken three trips into boundary waters with scouts. Talk to the folks the other posters have suggested. Also go to canoecopia and talk with guides for ideas. At this time of year I would prepare a personal gear list. Relatives are looking for Christmas gifts and the scouts can obtain many of the items for christmas. I specify light weight gear. If you don't someone will buy the biggest baddest flashlight available. (AA or AAA LED waterproof flashlight) Also specify fast drying clothes, avoid cotton. I often copy sales pages of campmor or other sources for the kids to give to relatives. We have some "toys for tots kids" so start fundraisers early. If you are taking younger scouts, 13 or 14 year olds, specify #3 packs and get lighter weight backpack style tents if possible. Also specify Kevlar canoes with youger scouts. If you take Kelar Canoes, practice not hitting shorelines hard. Specify wet entrances to the light canoes,possible with canoe sandles. It is sometimes nice to have one large tent in case there is a day of rain from H---. The kids can play cards ect. A ghost story book for campfires is nice. Teach portage etiquette before you go. We have the scouts unload to one point on the trail so gear does not get lost. Talk with your guide before hand to see how they handle such things. We write out duty rosters before hand dividing the chores into the following: Getting Water and firewood, cooking, and cleanup. We rotate these chores for breakfast and dinner. Older scouts eat and eat. We take extra serving of lightweight mashed potatoes with powdered milk to satisfy them. Good Luck

I appreciate the feedback!
Being in shape for the portages is definitely in my thoughts…one of my main concerns actually.

Extra mashed potatoes sounds like a great idea!

Thank you for the voice of experience. It is a big commitment to get there from East Texas. The other leader and I are not new to camping…but we are new to high adventure trips with scouts.

I am all ears…thank you all!

Portage time
Having guided scouts on trips in the ADKs and having personally spent several weeks in the BWCA on my own, I can only repeat what others have said and add another point . With regards to portages, keep the length and number in mind when planning an itinerary . Even short ones can have a ripple effect on travel, as even in the BWCA many landings can only hold one or two canoes at a time . Add in the tendency of scouts ( and alleged scout leaders ) to dawdle, and even short portages can eat up a lot of time as an accordion effect sets in . Make sure that especially on days with a lot of portaging, canoe teams don’t “spread out” gear in the boat and spend five minutes at each portage lashing stuff to their pack that was lying loose in the canoe.

Another trick was to designate a fast team after lunch to paddle ahead and scout out sites that the group could use . Binoculars are a great tool for this .

One of these days I’d love to go back . You’ll have a blast .