The Value of Northern Tier – A Letter From a Scoutmaster

Good afternoon Don;

I wanted to provide some feedback on our troop’s Northern Tier experience.  First let me say I am the Scoutmaster for Troop 125 in Rochester Michigan and have been so for the past several years.

As far as anyone knows in our troop we have not been to Northern Tier in over 20 years and we had not been on a high adventure canoe trip in 10 years.  I started campaigning for a canoe trek when my son joined in 2009 and I was an Assistant Scoutmaster. There was quite a bit of pushback in going to Northern Tier for several reasons. First and foremost was that it was “too far” (800 mile drive). Second reason was that it was “too expensive” ($700). And the third reason “three to a canoe”. None of the reasons seem in the least reasonable.

I became the scoutmaster several years ago and have pushed hard for our troop to utilize all the BSA high adventure bases. I have pushed for this because I believe the programs offered are both highly focused on Scouting and an outstanding experience for our young men.

This year’s trek to Northern Tier I believe paid off in spades. We fielded two (2) full Crews and our Scouts had a blast. And it wasn’t just the great Minnesota sunsets, the glasslike lakes, or the call of loons. Much of it had to do with the Interpreters that Northern Tier provided. These young men were able to connect with our Scouts on multiple levels. They have the experience, patience, willingness, and most important the interest in passing on skills and leadership to the Crew members.

As we did have two crews and I could only go on one, [when] I returned I spent extra time talking to the other crew members. And just like ours they had a phenomenal time. And again not just because they were able to see eagles, loons, and gorgeous sunsets. The entire trip home consisted of discussions of what they saw what they did and how “tough” the various segments of the trip were and who caught the biggest fish.

Also, our base camp experience was equal to the on water experience. Everything that occurred from the time of arrival to our departure was well orchestrated and choreographed to maximize our enjoyment. The discussions, the training, the preparations, and guidance that we received before stepping off was focused and purposeful. Our Scouts had the opportunity to learn several skills quickly which made our trek easier and more enjoyable. And I can speak specifically for Travis’ ability and understanding of the process because he got us through both departure and return quickly and efficiently. And did a phenomenal job while we’re on the water.

As well, the capstone Voyager campfire was an unbelievable success. Both Scouts and Scouter’s in both of our crews truly enjoyed the experience. As a note on how impressed and excited our Scouts were with Northern Tier, and how much our Scouts enjoyed the trip, several talked about coming back as Interpreters after they turned 18. I think if they were closer to 18 you may have had several applications before we left.

While I’m sure we could have found something cheaper, I strongly doubt we could have found something better. I believe the value in the program is because it’s designed specifically for Scouts. The Northern Tier Interpreters are focused on teaching Scouts canoecraft, woodcraft and leadership skills which is not something available from the other outfitters.

In closing I would like to say that Northern Tier provided a lifelong memory for Scouts which was the equivalent if not better than Philmont. I applaud you and would like to sincerely thank everyone working at Northern Tier who make this an unbelievable Scouting adventure.

Yours in Scouting

Bill Berklich

Rochester, MI