A Review of Chisholm Trail Adventure
Reprinted from Scout Camps USA, 2nd Ed. by Paul Fairbank. From their visit to Chisholm Trail, June 22-25, during their 2001 Camp Tour.
Chisholm Trail Adventure, Longhorn Council
West of Fort Worth, Texas. Alongside the gravel road leading into Sid Richardson Scout Ranch we observed a sign that warned: Caution – Watch for Deer, Cattle, and Scouts. This sign more or less set the tone for our visit, as we saw plenty of all three and other wildlife, including sidewinders, centipedes, and more grasshoppers than you can imagine.
Sid Richardson Scout Ranch is home to a conventional summer camp, run by the Longhorn Council, and the unconventional Chisholm Trail Adventure, which can be experienced by members of Troops attending SR2 or any of the other Council's camps, or Troops, Crews, and Posts may come to SR2 solely for the high-adventure program.
The high-energy Chisholm Trail Adventure is designed and directed by Jeff Peters, an old friend of Scout Camps USA and the Council's Program Director. The trek includes five land outposts and five water outposts, with an optional sixth unmanned land outpost where groups may do their own program. Groups begin their journey on the pontoon boats assigned to them for the entire week, putting into a different landing each evening for a land outpost adventure that stretches into the middle of the next day, after which they enjoy a watersports outpost.
Upon our arrival, Jeff met us at the former Ranger's House and promptly immersed us in the spirit and energy of the Chisholm Trail Adventure. We visited some of the outposts several times, so, rather than give you a chronologically correct summary of our trip, we'll, instead, describe each of the outposts we visited and the activities we enjoyed.
At the 1872 U.S. Cavalry Outpost, Scouts are met by Cavalry NCOs, outfitted in historically correct uniforms, and promptly "inducted" into service. The Cavalry camp is atop a high hill overlooking the main camp and lake. We were greeted Major Ed, who explained that Scouts and Scouters are drilled in battle tactics and weaponry beginning the moment they arrive at the encampment in anticipation of the always "possible" Comanche attack. The Major and his men fired their cannons for us, and the boom echoed through the hills and the main camp. We sampled the vintage hardtack that yesteryear's, and this year's, soldier existed on. We observed the Major's men at work cleaning weapons under the shade of a tree, and for once they were able to shed their Cavalry-issue wool jackets and work in shirtsleeves. The encampment is historically correct from the period Cavalry tents right down to the water barrels.
At the 1800 Comanche Village, adherence to history is loosened a bit, so that participants can learn to use weapons that were not available to the Comanche warrior in 1800, including the atl-atl and blow dart. Groups stay in the 20 or so Comanche teepees in the village and enjoy a dinner of roasted corn and sweet potatoes, in addition to any group provisions supplied at the beginning of the trek.
Dinner is quite substantial at the 1841 Texas Rangers Outpost (all-you-can-eat beef stew and cornbread), and it's certainly a good idea to eat all you can in case you need your energy should bandits steal the ranch's payroll necessitating your assault on a nearby hill to rout the outlaws.
Captain Bryson greeted us, fed us, and even allowed us to tag along on a morning trail ride through the mesquite and cactus surrounding the outpost. At this outpost, as well, participants are trained to fire period weapons (black powder) in order to fulfill their peace-keeping mission having been sworn in as Texas Rangers volunteers and given badges along with good-guy white hats.
At the climbing outpost, Jeff allowed us to choose the hard way or the easy way down the hillside to the five climbing stations. It should be noted, that Jeff's definition of the "easy way" is never particularly easy, and the hard way always offers an extreme challenge. After scrambling through a narrow vertical rock passage (the easy way), we observed a Troop climbing the sheer rock faces coached by extremely capable, talented, and experienced staff. It was at this outpost that we observed a brightly colored centipede making its way along the rocks; the centipede seemed to do better than the Scouts, but then it had the right number of feet for the job.
The mountain biking outpost lies in a valley near a field that drips with color at sunset. Again, this is another area where staff has been chosen specifically for their expertise and skill. Scouts enjoy an evening with staff at this camp and can even watch mountain biking and other extreme sports videos. Too, the first night of the trek is spent nearby the mountain biking outpost and includes a visit for dinner – all-you-can-eat hotdogs and hamburgers and traditional Texas pecan pie.
The watersports outposts afford Scouts the opportunity to learn or improve their wakeboarding, skiing, sailing, and windsurfing skills, as well as spend free time at Captain Kidd's Escape Fun Dock, which sports a frequently used Blob. These outposts are designed to take Scouts off the land and put them on water during the hottest parts of the day, saving the cooler mornings and evenings for land-based activities. We spent a good deal of time on the water in either a ski boat or pontoon photographing wakeboarders and sailors. The lake has a number of wind-sheltered coves and plenty of open, uncrowded water. The watersports staff demonstrated their outstanding wakeboarding skills for us, performing flips and twists that left us dizzy. SR2 is located on a peninsula stretching into the lake; the protected side of the peninsula is used for wakeboarding and skiing, while the windy side is used for sailing and windsurfing.
When we arrived Friday evening, we had been a little road weary, but when we left Sid Richardson and the Chisholm Trail Adventure we were plumb tuckered out! Troops should expect some hard work during their trek, including a fair number of fast-paced hikes up hillsides. The hard work is worth the payoff of participation in historical reenactments and afternoons of pure fun.
Jeff Peters and his staff work harder and longer hours than any camp staffers we've encountered so far. Their days begin well before dawn and stretch into the wee hours of the night. Nowhere else will you see the old phrase "if you have time to lean, you have time to clean" so evidently in action. Staffers have little time between crews, and they spend that time cleaning weapons, loading powder charges, and just generally tidying up. If their work does run out, it's a sure bet that they'll be pressed into service in another outpost that could use more bandits or Comanches.