Our Trip Reports for 2000

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Vertical Dreams - Indoor Rock Climbing Trip Report

Crimson Acres - Horsemanship Merit Badge Campout

Vertical Dreams - Indoor Rock Climbing Trip Report

On Sunday, January 16, 2000, four of our Scout Leaders took ten of our Boy Scouts to an Indoor Rock Climbing Gym called "Vertical Dreams" in Manchester, New Hampshire. We left our church in Littleton at 3:15 PM and got to the gym just after 4 PM. By the time, we were all registered, which included handing in waiver forms for all climbers, it was 4:30 PM. Vertical Dreams is located on the fifth floor of an old renovated five story brick mill building on the eastern bank of the Merrimac River in downtown Manchester. The main feature of this indoor rock climbing gym is a 70 foot elevator shaft that is used to climb in. Two walls of the shaft have protruding foot and hand holds. A climber starts at the bottom of the shaft and is belayed by another climber with a rope and harness around their waist. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Our Senior Scouts thought it would be that's why we went there. But when we got there, paid our fee and had climbing equipment issued, we were told that they could not use the shaft until we returned for a second trip. This was very disappointing, especially to some of our Senior Scouts who are proficient in climbing and have already earned their climbing merit badge. We brought them there for this 70 foot challenge and now they weren't going to get it. Or at least not on this trip! Personally I look at this as a way for Vertical Dreams to get repeat business and to charge double the money to use ALL their facilities.

For 2.5 hours, until 7 PM, our Scouts climbed everything in sight, except for the shaft! Mr. Gehly and Mr. Nyer belayed the younger scouts and assisted them in learning to climb. They also managed to teach our younger Scouts the dreaded figure-8 knot as well as the basic belay-on / climb-on etiquette. Our Scouts also had fun trying to climb in the cave, a room that has hand and foot holds on all the walls and the ceiling too. Mr. Gehly, (the Scoutmaster), and I felt that the "Mill City Rock Gym" in Dracut (where we went on our last climbing trip) was a much larger facility and offered many more climbing routes, but our Scouts thought Vertical Dreams was neat and they want to go back again to take the elevator shaft challenge next time.

The cost per Scout, using group rate pricing was $12 each. This included a climbing pass, the gear rental and a basic lesson in tying on and belaying. Climbing shoes cost $3 extra. Maybe next time when we try to climb in the elevator shaft, climbing shoes would be good idea. They require 13 year olds or older for belaying, but climbing is open to any age.

As is customary in our Troop, on our trip home we took our Scouts to McDonalds, where they always proceed to order the largest meal they can get, plus go back for seconds.

You can find information about indoor rock climbing gyms on the "Scouts NewEngland" web site at:

Crimson Acres - Horsemanship Merit Badge Campout

On the weekend of May 19-21, 2000, Boy Scout Troop 1 of Littleton, MA camped at Crimson Acres Farm in Orange, MA, to earn the Horsemanship Merit Badge. Our three adult Scout leaders and ten Boy Scouts had a great time there and can't say enough good things about it.

Crimson Acres offers a complete scheduled program to teach all the requirements for this BSA merit badge. You arrive on Friday evening and set up camp. At about 4 am you hear the crowing of a half dozen rosters on the farm. Our ten scouts were divided into two groups for their training with rotating schedules.

The Whitemore Family, Sandy (founder and course director), husband Butch, Jenn, Peter and Philip along with six high school girls instructors did a FANTASTIC JOB of teaching, entertaining, and making our troop feel right at home on their horse farm. This was one of the most memorable and best-organized trainings I have yet to see. These people really know their horses and love animals. Sandy has been teaching for 25 years and has a degree in Animal Science. Sandy is also a certified riding instructor and has developed one of the only integrated blind rider programs in the nation.

Here's the tightly organized schedule that the Whitemore Family and their six well trained girl instructors took our scouts through.

7:00 Feeding Time (of 35 horses)
8:00 Breakfast (all the scouts eat)
8:30 Get Ready to Ride
9:00 Riding Techniques
9:30 Riding Techniques
10:00 Get Started
10:30 Choosing a Horse
11:00 Free Time
11:30 Lunch
12:00 Grooming
12:30 Get Ready to Ride
1:00 Riding Techniques
1:30 Riding Techniques
2:00 Equipment and Care
2:30 Safety With Horses
3:00 Barn Management
3:30 Set Up Barn
4:00 Feeding Time (of 35 horses)
5:00 Dinner
7:00 How Do I Put This Together?
8:30 It's a Fire!
9:30 Final Inspection of the Barn

7:00 Feeding Time (of 35 horses)
9:00 Riding Techniques (horse riding exam)
10:00 Barn Management
11:00 General Knowledge (a written exam with 100 questions)
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Trail Ride (around he farm's trails)
1:30 Clean up
2:00 Clean up (pack up the troop gear and get ready to head home)
3:00 Say Farewell (get final exam results and signed blue cards)

On Sunday afternoon, Sandy's son, Peter showed us trick riding, he could stand on a horse's back and ride it around, jump hurdles, jump off a galloping horse and remount it leaping from side to side, and mounting a horse by jumping on it from behind and landing in the saddle, just like you've seen Roy Rogers and circus acts do. Peter is a great rider and really impressed our Scouts with his skills!

It's simply amazing how fast our Scouts learned horsemanship. They have never been on a horse, but by the end of the second day they could put their horses through their paces.

For the final riding exam or Scouts had to, on verbal commands by Sandy, had to lead (walk horse with reins) their horse to a starting point, mount up onto the saddle without any help, ride their horse in a walk, then have it trot, lope/canter (a three beat run), emergency dismount (jump off the horse while trotting), navigate their horse around cones in a large arena, stop when told to do so, then back the horse up, four paces, in a straight line.

On Sunday, our Scouts took a 100-question exam which covered everything they've been taught. You could only miss 30 questions or you don't pass the merit badge. If the scouts pay attention during class this isn't difficult to do. Sandy printed a guide book and put them in binders for each Scout. Our Scouts stayed up late on Saturday night reading their horse study guides to make sure they knew all the answers for their written test. One of the nice things is each boy was given his study guide and his written test back to keep upon completion of his merit badge course.

Another test our Scouts took, on Saturday evening, was fire rescue. Our Scouts were blindfolded and tested one at a time. They had to crawl on their hands and knees into the barn as if it were on fire and filled with moke, find their horse in it's stall, open the stalls locked gate, find the horse's bridle and lead, put them on the horse's head and lead the horse out of the barn. Sounds easy? No it isn't it's a very challenging test to watch. It's not easy to bridle a horse blindfolded while it's head is moving around or it's trying to eat hay and grain. This test took an average of 10 minutes per Scout, but some of them did it in as little as 2.5 minutes, depending on how well the horse stood still while they were bridling it.

Our Scouts were taken through every aspect of owning and caring for a horse, not just riding it. Including knowing different horse breeds, medical health exams of horses, cleaning and grooming horses, selection and care of tack, stall maintenance, barn management and safety.

All our Scouts passed their riding and written tests and were thrilled with the weekend, and all of them want to go back again!

The weekend merit badge course cost $50 per rider and you supply your own camping equipment and meals. Our troop charged a total of $60 per person including meals, and it was worth every penny of it!

Now we're thinking of planning a weekend campout for all the Scouts who earned their horsemanship MB, so that they can ride horses out into the woods for an over-night horse-packing campout.

You can have up to 20 riders (youth and adult) on this weekend merit badge adventure. They limit the number so that each Scout and Scouter will get the personal attention needed to learn all that is covered.

Crimson Acres also offers a summer camp for youth and adults.

Beginner $125 - (Hours 9 am - 1 pm) - June 26-30, July 3-7, July 17-21, August 7-11
Intermediate - $150 - (Hours 9 am - 2 pm) - July 10-14, July 31-Aug 4, Aug 14-18
Advanced - $200 - (Overnight) - July 24-28 (Hosted by 4-H families. Camp Out Mon-Fri, Bring your horse.)
Adult Weekend - $100 - (Camp Out of Day Camp) - July 28-30
Deposits: $50.00 per session (balance due upon arrival)

Crimson Acres
16 Daniel Shays Highway (Just about a mile off of Route 2)
Orange, Massachusetts 01364
TEL: (978) 575-0341
E-mail: sandy@crimsonacres.org
Web Site: http://www.crimsonacres.org/

The camp office is open 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. weekdays.

Sandy offers four Boy Scout Horsemanship Merit Badge weekends per year during the spring and summer. So if you are interested book now for next year.

SPECIAL RECOMMENDATION: If you go here try to take a video camera with you to film in all. Still camera's are nice, but with all the action you'll see here still pictures don't do it justice. You'll want to capture all your Scouts riding and doing their barn chores. If we knew what we know now, we would have video taped the whole adventure! If you don't have access to a video camera from one of your unit's families, you can rent a camera from a video store for the weekend for about $25-30. You can duplicate the tape when you get home with two VCRs, so each scout can have a copy. You'll be glad you do when you see what fun they have.

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