By Steven Sutherland
Nov 14, 2015

UNPC High Adventure and Black Diamond Experiences

The Utah National Parks Council is excited to announce that we are adding new high adventure programs at both of our Scout high adventure bases and three of our full-service Scout camps. Traditionally, high adventure experiences have been relegated to specialty high adventure outpost and Philmont-style Scout camps. They represent a part of a BSA camp experience that is often separated from the traditional mainstream Scout camps, which focus more on merit badge instruction and related activities.

Introducing Black Diamond Adventures at High Adventure Bases & Traditional Scout Camps

Scouting gives youth confidence

At the Utah National Parks Council (UNPC) we are building on the successes of our two high adventure bases (Beaver, and Entrada) by providing new program adventures at these camps, and introducing exciting new Adventure Tracks that we call Black Diamonds, at three of our mainstream Scout camps—Tifie, Thunder Ridge, and Scofield.

A vitally important characteristic of high adventure programs is to provide life changing experiences that allow participants to be challenged, stretched, learn new technical skills, develop teamwork, and experience a level of adrenaline and awe from the activity that it leaves a permanent imprint.

We want the memories from these experiences to provide youth with a passion and zest for life so that they will always feel that there is an exciting new adventure around the corner as they journey throughout their lives. Other outcomes that we want youth to take away from their high adventure experiences include reverence for God and His creations, confidence in themselves, a desire to achieve, and, a constant quest to help and lift those around them.

The rising generation are the hope of our future. It is vital that they can find joy in living as they journey throughout their lives, touch the hearts of others to this same end; and, to truly make a difference in the world.

Outdoor Adventures Provide Profound Life Experiences

Let me share three examples with you about how such outdoor adventures made a significant and profound difference in my life. And, the link here with BSA high adventure that can have such a powerful influence on shaping lives.

Growing up I had three special outdoor experiences that left significant imprints on my life–fishing trips with my dad, my 8th grade week-long field study trip up at a mountain lake, and, my participation in a 4H organization called High Country Backpacking Club.

Although they were not specifically Scouting related, they accomplished some of the same outcomes that we look for in the BSA. And they were powerful. They were powerful when I experienced them. They continue to be powerful and shape an important part of my heart and perspective on life today.

fishI grew up in southern Oregon between Crater Lake in the Cascade Mountains and the Redwoods on the Oregon coast. It was a land of tall timber and pristine fishing streams. For my classmates and me, coming home from school meant going outside into the meadows and forests literally right outside our homes. Every day was a new adventure.

My family’s favorite past-time was fishing for Rainbow Trout on the Rogue River or one of its many tributaries. Its headwaters originated at the base of 2000 foot deep Crater Lake. My dad and I would get up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays and make a day of it fishing our favorite fishing holes. More times than not we’d both reach our daily limits of ten fish each.

These were days never to be forgotten: winning battles with trophy Rainbow Trout and Steelhead; and spending innumerable days out on wilderness streams with my dad. The frosting on the cake was driving back home after a long day on the river sharing fishing stories with each other, and then being taught by my dad as he shared fatherly wisdom and insights on life with me. Insights that still guide me to this very day!

As an 8th grader, at the beginning of the school year during the crisp autumn days of late September we eagerly anticipated the annual, rite of passage—for all 8th graders—of embarking on an exciting, week-long, school field study excursion up at Lake of the Woods, high in the mountains between Klamath Falls, and Medford, Oregon, with 9,500 foot Mount McLoughlin standing nearby as a guardian and sentinel.

Botany, forestry, animal study, Indian lore, fishing, canoeing, hikes through the forests, and treks up the side of Mount McLoughlin were the order of the day. We looked forward to hot, delicious meals, sleeping in warm, cozy, cabins, and waking up to the sounds of chattering squirrels, wood peckers knocking, singing birds and the evergreen scent of majestic Douglas Firs, Ponderosa Pines, and Cedars. All these experiences set the stage for a week’s worth of perfect days.

201108_timpHike1I participate in a special 4H backpacking club called High Country. We were a hip hop, energetic group of high school students from half a dozen different public schools who had affiliations with the Sierra Club, Pacific Northwest backpacking and hiking circles, and shared a common love and interest for exploring the great outdoors. We were led by Jim Martin, our wise sage and community figure head. Jim, in his 70’s was a friend to all, and a genuine salt of the earth man. To us, his 4H kids, he taught both words of wisdom and wood’s wisdom—planning, hiking, survival skills, nature awareness. This resulted in a great love and appreciation for the outdoors, and the creator of those outdoors. We spent many a night around blazing campfires, sharing, learning, and listening to old Jim dramatize stories of Indians and mountain men in the Pacific Northwest.

During the summer time we all worked for the Jackson County, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as outfitters and hiking guides. With Jim Martin as our leader we would take the general public on two and three day backpacking trips each week. We were able to bring the joy of the lakes, streams, forests, mountains, and wildlife into many other peoples’ lives.

Reconnecting the Rising Generation

All three of these noteworthy experiences in my life would never be forgotten. There is a soul-touching connection here with the types of Black Diamond high adventure experiences we are developing in the Utah National Parks Council. One of our objectives is to help our youth—the rising generation—not become a lost generation that has no grasp of reality because they have become lost in the cyber-world of virtual reality that substitutes artificial stimuli for an exciting treasure trove of real world experiences.

* What are Black Diamond Adventure Tracks?

Entrada High AdventureBlack Diamond high adventures bump Scouting experiences up to the highest level of BSA adventure, focusing on multi-day, outpost campouts, and activities. They are unit-based activities, where the entire Scouting unit (adults and youth) experiences a multi-day (sometimes weeklong) high adventure.

Black Diamond programs (coined after the most exhilarating and challenging ski runs on a mountain) are for highly experienced Scouting units and provide significant challenges.

They are tactile, and holistic—combining technical skills and teamwork in an outdoor environment that provides exciting, multi-faceted experiences for each participant. These multi-day tracks emphasize fun and thrill-seeking, while experiencing the great outdoors in a structured learning environment. The earth is the classroom and laboratory… a perpetual field trip.

Click here to see a list of our black diamond adventure tracks.

Contact us today at! Let us discuss with you how we can bring a high adventure experience to life for your group in one of the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in the country. The backcountry of Utah in the Utah National Parks Council. Together, we can create memories and noble characters that can last a lifetime!

What Black Diamond adventures have you had with your Team or Crew?

Steve Sutherland


Author:  Steve Sutherland | Camping Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. 801.361.2508


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