A group of Elmira Scouts are shipping off to the West Coast Saturday for scuba diving, axe throwing, and a whole lot more at the weeklong Pacific Jamboree.Held every four years in British Columbia, the event draws Scouts from all across Canada, out of the country, and even off of the continent to participate. Philippe Bertrand, one of two leaders going from the Elmira group, says it used to be a regional jamboree but they opened it up to the wider scouting community. This time around it’s being held in Sooke on Vancouver Island.
Five youth and two Scout leaders from Elmira are going – none of whom have ever been to a national level jamboree.
“Some of the youth, including myself and Scout leader Doug [McGee] have been to the cub jamboree that’s held in Ontario,” Bertrand said. “It’s a big step up. We have one Scout, Annie actually went to last year’s Canadian jamboree, so she’s the only experienced hand.”
He says Scouts is designed to be youth-led, and this trip certainly will be. The Scouts chose which activities they wanted to participate in and got most of their choices.
“We’re going to start right off the bat doing scuba diving,” Bertrand said. “And then there’s something they call log jam, which is kind of log sports, which includes axe throwing and log splitting and bucksaws and races. There’s an obstacle course in the woods. We’re doing dragon boat racing and we’re going to be doing kayaking.”
Also on the agenda are CFB Esquimalt, including the Naval and Military Museum, panning for gold, and fencing lessons. Then there’s a beach challenge, which involves log rolling, water trampolines, beach volleyball, and paddle boats.
“Most activities are either half day or full day. It’s one thing to say ‘oh we’re going to an obstacle course.’ It’s a half-day obstacle course – there’s going to be a lot of hiking and climbing,” Bertrand said.
The jamboree is being held at Camp Barnard, a 250-acre camp with a 17-acre lake. Other activities the Scouts could have chosen include rock climbing, mountain biking and canoeing.
After the week is finished they’re going to explore Vancouver Island for a few days. They’re planning to stop in Nanaimo and Tofino to camp ocean side, go whale watching and take a hot spring tour.
“They’re going to be really out of their comfort zone for a lot of them,” Bertrand said. “One of them has never been in an airplane before. One or two of them may have traveled without their parents before, but the rest certainly haven’t.”
Part of the preparation for the trip included one of the Scouts researching what they could do with their free days after the jamboree, and another Scout using their family’s connections to research places they could stay.
“Because we didn’t get our act together we didn’t really do a lot of fundraising. We did a bottle drive in January and the youth also, they sold popcorn and Christmas trees in December. The rest they basically have to earn some way or another,” Bertrand said.
The decision to take the trip was a little last minute. They decided to go in December, when typically they’d plan a year in advance. But so far everything’s looking like smooth sailing, as long as the forest fires hold off.
“I’m really hoping they get a sense of adventure and a sense of independence,” Bertrand said.