School is back in session and kids have been swapping tales about what they did on summer break. Many went to Cedar Point, up north, or maybe took a canoe trip on the Au Sable River. Not many can say they trekked through the Alaskan wilderness for 11 days, saw amazing wildlife, and lived through an earthquake — but Northville, Michigan students belonging to Scouts BSA Troop 777 can!
In July, 13 Scouts and 8 adults left Northville and headed to The Last Frontier with heavy backpacks and light-hearted spirits, prepared to hone their survival skills and appreciate the great outdoors. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ben Sussex, a freshman at Northville High School and proud Scout, to learn more about their adventure.
The Scouts arrived in Alaska late at night and headed to the base camp at Lost Lake Scout Camp, 58.5 miles south of Fairbanks to get some much-needed rest. From there, they took a four-hour scenic drive to the Kesugi Ridge trailhead in Denali State Park. The next few days they hiked to the Kesugi Ridge and down Byers Lake Trail. One day they hiked a grueling 12 miles.
“Our troop had several practice hikes before we left to prepare us,” Sussex said. “Each night we found a stream where we could purify water and set up camp.”
When asked if mosquitos were an issue, Sussex shrugged. “Not really. The worst part was the caterpillars!”
Caterpillars? That wasn’t the answer I expected.
“There were tons of them. They were blackish brown with yellow spots and were everywhere. They’d fall on our heads and arms. It was gross!” Sussex explained with a shudder.
Next, they drove north to Denali National Park and were treated to a wildlife bus tour. “We saw a mother grizzly bear playfully swatting her cub, a moose and her calf, and off in the distance, there were bighorn sheep,” Sussex said, his eyes shining bright with the memory.
From there, the Scouts journeyed from land to sea and took a boat tour to Aialik Bay. “There were lots of sea otters and sea lions,” Sussex said. “We even spotted an orca whale!” Adding to the perfect day, they took an Aialik Glacier kayaking tour. They paddled by the large glacier and Kenai Fjords National Park.
As if the trip weren’t exciting enough, with just a couple days left to explore Alaska, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake struck at 10:15 PM, prompting a tsunami warning. Erring on the side of caution, the Scout leaders guided the troop to higher ground and evacuated the area. “I didn’t really feel anything,” Sussex said, “but it was one of the biggest in Alaskan history.”
The Scouts BSA Troop 777 of Northville made plenty of memories this summer. “I loved Alaska,” Sussex said. “I can see myself living there someday. I definitely want to go back.”
Listening to his stories made me long to visit the “Land of the Midnight Sun.” Scouts have sure come a long way since my day when the Soap Box Derby was the highlight of the year!
If you’ve been to Alaska, I’d love to hear what you enjoyed the most in the comments!