The Nelson scout troop took part in last weekend’s Kootenay Night Trek that tested campers of all ages and abilities.

The Nelson scout troop took part in last weekend’s Kootenay Night Trek that tested campers of all ages and abilities.

A test of nighttime mettle

For more than 300 Scouts and Girl Guides, last Saturday night was a late one.

For more than 300 Scouts and Girl Guides, last Saturday night was a late one.

The 23rd West Kootenay Night Trek, held in Kokanee Creek Park, brought out groups from Montana, Alberta, Idaho, Saskatchewan and Washington, as well as local troops.

Though it’s surrounded by a weekend of camping, the main Night Trek event (pirate themed this year) takes place over the course of four hours on Saturday. Groups of four Scouts and Guides are sent out 10 minutes apart, starting at 7 p.m., with the last groups heading out around midnight.

“We mix them up so nobody knows anyone in their group, and normally we try to send out two males and two females together,” explains organizer Kim Colenso.

Campers as young as nine and old as 18 also get a chance to mix and work together.

The groups have to follow a set path through the park, and encounter obstacles and activities along the way. While most stations are completed with the aid of a flashlight, three are done in the black, with no light at all. To keep things running smoothly, troupe leaders circulate through the area doing security checks. Because Kokanee Creek opened early for the 2011 trek, there’s also no worry about disturbing other campers.

With piracy setting the tone, this year’s participants staged woodland sword fights, used rope swings to board mock ships and tested their resourcefulness with other nautical challenges.

“We’ve actually got them hoisting a sail in a tree, but they’re not given ropes,” adds Colenso. “They’re given a jumble of junk, basically, so they have to figure out how to get a real sail up. There’s other ones where we are doing rope courses where they have to pretend they’re boarding a ship.”

While staying up late and meeting new people are half the fun, Scouts area commissioner Gilles Beauvais says there’s also an educational component to the event.

“They’re challenged, they learn leadership skills, and a lot of them will conquer their fear of the dark.”

There’s even a Night Trek grading system, used to award prizes at the end of the weekend.

Points are given for participation, enthusiasm, skill, and whether campers are willing to try new activities that go outside their comfort zones.

“Then they really have to learn to work together,” says Colenso.