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  • Writer's pictureMesquite Nevada Stakes

70 Years of Scouting

Keith Belnap, Committee Chairman for BSA Unit 2640 sponsored by the Mesquite 6th Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has served in the scouting program for 70 years as of September this year. He is a recipient of the Award of Merit and the Silver Beaver Award. The Silver Beaver is the highest award a volunteer scouter can receive. He is currently also serving as the Assistant District Commissioner, the Training Chairman and the Membership Chairman for Virgin River Valley BSA.

Keith led the scouts on 27 different fifty mile hikes in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area south of Glacier National Park. They would hike 5 – 10 miles a day and pack all their food and camping gear and leave no trace behind. They cooked food every night only using only MREs at the end if needed. They even packed in fresh eggs wrapping them carefully. Another trip they took on horseback with explorer scouts riding 18 horses on steep trails. They were on the part of the trail that was shale and two grizzly bears came up the hill from the lake and Keith was sure the horse would bolt or rear up and their gear be scattered all over the side of the mountain. The grizzlies just kept coming up through a break between the horses and the horses just moved forward never breaking stride! What a relief that was to the explorers and leaders. The trail crossed the continental divide and went to elevation of over 8,00 ft.

The younger scouts wanted to go on the fifty mile also but he required them to have their camping, cooking, and first aid merit badges completed and he would take them on a shorter 35-mile hike. They hiked to Cave Mountain and saw signs of grizzlies everywhere. Keith was worried about their safety as they slept in tents. He had the scouts hang their food in the trees as usual to prevent losing their supplies. The scouts prayed for safety that night. There was a very bright moon that night, almost full moon and he saw a doe standing off to the side of the camp. He knew that she would warn them if a grizzly came near and that as long as she was there they were safe. He stayed up all night watching the doe knowing that she would signal them if a grizzly came near. When the boys started to wake up at dawn, she walked off and the boys were protected!

In the winter they went camping and held many Klondike derbies using their handmade sleds. They made snow caves in the snowdrifts and always dug the tunnel upward in the snowbank. They slept perfectly warm even when the wind was whipping up outside. One scout dug his cave downward and he was so cold he had to get out during the night. The Klondike is a race using compass and proceeding to certain points but if you lose your compass as they did on one trip you lose your way.

Keith led the scouts on float trips down the Missouri River in Montana camping along its banks. They would have rubber rafts holding 5-6 scouts or canoes. The trip would be 2-3 days and they would stop at one of their favorite places to cook and camp for the night. It was a small canyon with sheer walls and a wide area to set up tents and have a campfire. The river is about 600 yards wide and 10 feet deep in places but other places were shallow and you could see the bottom. A person would not want to swim in it due to the swift current.

He fulfilled many positions in the Montana Council in Conrad and Valier, Montana including vice President of the Montana Council, district Chairman of the Nu-ooh-ska District, Explorer coordinator in Great Falls, Scoutmaster for Troop 590, Roundtable Commissioner, Outdoor & Program Chairman, and Cubmaster for Pack 590. He has served at the Philmont Scout Ranch as the Mormon Leader Trainer.

As a youth he was in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts receiving his Life Scout Award. He was a member of the Explorers and the Order of the Arrow. As a youth he served on the camp staff at Camp Nebekker, Bear Lake, Utah, teaching archery. He was the Lodge Chief for the Order of the Arrow for the State of Idaho Lodge. He was a junior assistant scoutmaster for the 22nd Ward of the LDS church in Pocatello and later as their scoutmaster.

Keith began the scouting program in September 1946 in Pocatello, Idaho and has been continuously registered as a scout and leader for 70 years and is still serving the Virgin River Valley District BSA.

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