Glenwood Springs High School students Savannah Puckett, 16, and Lindsay Gilliam, 15, are taking scouting to a new level. First, these young women officially belong to the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Secondly, they participate in something called Venturing.
Venturing is a branch of BSA that includes boys and girls ages 13 to 21 and, according to the BSA website, is the organization's fastest-growing program. Venturing focuses on leadership, high adventure and developing life skills and emerged as an alternative to the more career-oriented Explorer Scouts in 1998.
"We do everything the Boy Scouts are doing plus a little bit more," said Puckett. "We just have to work harder," added Gilliam.
Puckett and Gilliam were involved in Girl Scouts for four years. "We advanced to Cadets," said Gilliam. But they were dissatisfied with the activities. "We tried to change it, but it was so restricting," explained Puckett.
The girls made the jump to Boy Scouts two years ago when Puckett and friend Acacia Carmichael joined Glenwood Springs Venture Crew No. 225, also known as the 225 Yetis. "We were the only girls," said Puckett with a laugh, "and we kind of took over." Gilliam joined the crew later.
Now, there are 11 members, but not all are active. "There are four or five girls and one boy," said Gilliam. The main problem is finding a meeting place and time that works for everyone. "Most of the members are held up by school schedules," said Puckett.
The 225 Yetis are also reorganizing. "We used to be more of a patrol, which is not as active as a crew," Puckett said, adding that patrols tend to be more connected to the BSA. In 2012, the crew went out on its own, which meant having its own meetings separate from the Boy Scouts.
The crew elects its own officers every January.Carmichael is the current president and Gilliam is one of two vice-presidents. Puckett and Gilliam share the office of secretary. A treasurer and a quartermaster, who is in charge of equipment and archives, round things out.
The girls, who have become like sisters since joining the Yetis, agree that administrative work is tough. "It's a bit of a slow process to get everything together," explained Puckett.
But they keep their eyes on the high adventure prize. "With Venturing, I can go on outings and experience things," said Puckett. "I went shotgun shooting and camping my first week."
They're excited about the adventures they'd like the Yetis to take on. "Extreme white-water rafting," said Gilliam. Puckett prefers archery. "Lots and lots of archery," she said. "I'm super into it."
The crew is also into shooting sports. Both girls earned their hunter safety cards (with perfect scores, noted Gilliam) and their pistol safety cards. "We know how to work pistols," explained Puckett. "We know when and where to shoot." The crew also goes spelunking at the Glenwood Caverns and enjoys snow and motor sports.
Members participate in competitions with a handful of other Venture crews from around the Western Slope. Three of the Yetis will compete later this month in the Klondike, a winter sports and survival skills competition at Sylvan Lake near Eagle. "It's a biathlon with eight [rifle and archery] stations," explained Puckett. Crews compete for points and must come up with a special team cheer. "We also have to build a sled and make snowshoes," added Puckett.
Venture crew activities are a step up from scouts and more extreme, explained Gilliam. "But we always have leaders who know CPR," she added. "Safety is the first priority." That means no flipping snowmobiles, and helmets are required. Besides, said Puckett, "We learn life skills and how to survive in the world."
She plans to use those skills on a global backpacking trip in a few years. Gilliam, who wants to become a nurse and an international translator, said she's going along to make sure her friend comes back in one piece.
Gilliam also said that Venturing has made her a different person. "I used to be a bystander," she said. Her confidence level has increased, she added. "I can do things I couldn't do before," like going mountain biking on slickrock near Moab, Utah.
Puckett's mother Debby Langford, a crew leader for two years, said Venturing has also changed her daughter. "I've watched her blossom," she said. "She trusts herself now as a teen in the role of leadership, and she's learning things and exploring new ideas."
As for the global backpacking trip? "We'll see where she's at when she's 18," said Langford. "But I think it's a great dream that she has."