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Boy Scout Troop 135’s dramatic rescues

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 | Posted by

Troop members on their recent 106-mile Yosemite backpack trip. (Photo courtesy of Allen Kezer)

By MELODY KARPINSKI / Santa Rosa Correspondent

It began with the news of a missing backpack.

Five boys from Santa Rosa-based Boy Scout Troop 135 were on day 10 of a 16-day backpacking trip in Yosemite in July, along with their scoutmaster and two other adults.

News of the missing backpack filtered down the trail, as did news that the hiker who owned the pack had also been missing for three days, after disappearing from the camp he shared with two others.

The boys were eager to help and kept a lookout as they went, alerting scoutmaster Allen Kezer to the situation as they set up camp for the night.

Later that evening, scout leader Doug Lewis hiked down the trail and stumbled upon the missing hiker. Dehydrated and delirious, he lay flopped across the trail. The man was unsteady but could still walk, and Lewis quickly helped him back to camp.

The boys rushed over to give him food and water from their supplies. Kezer and former scoutmaster Bill Cummings walked out of camp to call the rangers via satellite.

“He was very dehydrated,” said Kyle Heien, one of the scouts on the trip, “but the rangers came out pretty fast.” They took over the hiker’s care, freeing the boys to continue with their trip.

A few days later, the boys were told that the hiker suffered another collapse and was evacuated from the park by helicopter, but suffered no permanent damage.

“I’m very proud of the boys. They did a great job,” said Steve Sapers, assistant scoutmaster.

The Boy Scout oath includes the pledge “to help others at all times,” a sentiment Troop 135 takes seriously. Since 1995, members have had three chances to assist hikers in trouble.

That year, a group of scouts hiking on a trail above Calistoga encountered a woman who had injured her leg. The scouts and adults on that trip placed an emergency splint on the woman’s leg to immobilize the break. Soon after, further help arrived and she was evacuated out of the park.

In 2000, the troop was hiking in the Trinity Alps and found a woman who had broken her ankle.

Santa Rosa boy scout Troop 135 at their Fall Court of Honor on October 1. The scout in the front row holds the Yosemite 2012 Youth Volunteer Group Award. (Courtesy of Troop 135)

“I had never used a signal mirror before, and that day I used it twice,” said Cummings, who was on both the 2000 and 2012 trips.  After he successfully signaled a horseback ranger, the woman received medical assistance.

“The kids just loved having the chance to go into rescue mode,” he said. “The lady was nice enough to send us a check afterwards.”

The troop primarily focuses on backpacking and outdoor wilderness trips, although no one really knows how it started.

“Boys decide to join a particular troop for many reasons, but most who join Troop 135 expect a backpacking theme,” said Kezer. “When you realize something works and the scouts thrive on it, you don’t change it. (You) only expand on it.”

Since 1992, members have volunteered at the park’s museum and Indian village and have worked on conservation-themed Leave No Trace projects.

“It’s nice to get away from society and get out into the back country,” said Heien, 15, a Montgomery High School football player. “I have a pretty busy life, so it helps me slow down.”

Heien recently completed a term as the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader.

“I think it’s a great thing for these boys to be exposed to the beauty of the outdoors, to begin to get this in their DNA,” said Sapers. “The boys become more than tourists. They become part of the park, and it becomes part of their lives.”

The scouts just returned from Yosemite, where they were awarded Youth Volunteer Group of the Year for 2012. That award puts them in the running for the national Youth Volunteer Group of the Year award, which will be determined later this year.

“Yosemite National Park loves us due to our low impact and respect for nature and the trails,” said Kezer. “I can truly say that our scouts leave every campsite better than they found it.”

  • Sheri

    Great story about a group of young men and their leaders who are making a positive impact on communities and others. It isn’t just an oath, it’s a mindset that we all benefit from. I’m proud to say my son is a scout with Troop 135.

  • Louis Azevedo

    Thank you for the article about our boys of Troop 135. I am a long time member of Troop 135 with over 20 years in the Troop..

  • Herb Williams

    As President of the Redwood Empire Council, BSA, I wish to congratulate the boys and leadership of Troop 135. They are a great example of the ethos of the Boy Scouts. We are proud they are a part of our Council.

  • Robin

    I too am a proud mother of a Boyscout and wife of an Eagle Scout from Troop 135. Thank you to the adults who work with these boys, they are better people because of you.

  • Martin M. Webb

    Great Job troop 135!

  • Charlie Abel

    I’m proud to see my old troop is still going and doing good things – Charlie Abel, Troop 135 Eagle Scout 1974

    • Jon Abel

      Charlie, glad to hear that you still support Boy Scouts, USA.

  • Cameron Christmann

    Way to go, guys. Coming from an Eagle Scout from Troop 68! in Rohnert Park, 1992.

  • Joe Berry

    I find it hard to believe everyone in the Mount Diablo Silverado Council knows about this and it hasn’t changed. I’m going to contact them and see if they know. If you want to contact them also, here’s the names, phone #s, and email of people in the different districts – http://tinyurl.com/9fb2d8b

  • Rick Ziesche

    Nice to see our old troop finally get the recognition it deserves. I think the accuracy of facts of the Calistoga and Trinity trips reported in this article needs a little work, but all-in-all, the community gets the idea that our Troop 135 is more than ceremonies and merit badges. My son learned skills and gained confidence in himself that will help him the rest of his life.

  • Daniel Pulon

    When I was a scout in 67′ and 68,’ I went on many backbacking trips; I know exactly how the scouts of 135 feel that backpacking is part of their lives. It is a great euphoric feeling that I recommend that try it at least once. That feeling of mine carried into adulthood in summer of 79,’ when 3 friends and I went on 3 month backpack trip through national forests. To this day, I recount each day that brings a wonderful euphoric smile on face. In 2009, we had a trip reunion. We showed the highlights of the trip on film. Needless to say, I, again, felt euphoric feeling at the grandest scale with my lifetime friends. The moral of this story: try it, you might like it!

  • Kevin Turner

    Glad to see Troop 135 is still going strong. The lessons I learned back then from the many backpacking adventures still get frequent use to this day.
    -Kevin Turner, Troop 135, Eagle Scout (1996)

  • Scott Wimmer

    Sounds just like the troop 135, I was in in the 1985. Keep it up,

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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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