Okpik Cold Weather Camping program at Sommers Canoe Base
Paul Meyermann (paul.meyermann@UNI.EDU)
Fri, 13 Feb 1998 11:47:18 -0600
Our group of nine scouts and four adults just returned from a two night
three day Okpik High adventure. Like all scouting programs, it is not for
everyone but we had an excellent adventure.
We were treated well from the first moment on the base. The focus on the
program as symbolized in the Okpik symbol of the 'Snowy Owl' is to
'thrive' in the cold, not just to survive an ordeal. Their training
program followed the scouting guideline of KIS MIF.
Our guide, Charles Kirkland, hailed from Louisiana which is proof that warm
weather scouters have the mettle to enjoy this type of adventure.
Supplemental cold weather gear was plentiful and effective. Base cabins
the first night were cozy warm. Shower and sauna facilities were first
We packed our gear, skis and snow shoes onto the gear sleds, harnessed up
and headed out. We hiked across two frozen lakes with a portage between to
our wilderness camp (1 1/2 miles). Our large group dictated that we divide
into two groups and two campsites. Two existing Quinzees, (snow huts) were
at site #1 which were sufficient to house half of our contingent. Site two
was about 300 feet away across the lake. There we erected (in about 5
minutes), an authentic Russian military tent which utilized ski poles for
perimeter supports. We also built a 'Polar Dome' from snow (3 hrs). Snow
is piled into a canvas 'mold', the snow was settled in lifts by walking on
the snow like 'stomping grapes'. Once all the snow was piled up, the Dome
was left to 'settle for about 20 minutes. The mold was stripped and like
magic it stood firm. Another hour to hollow out a cavity the size of a
four man Eureka tent and we were in business. The polar dome was
considerably warmer than the tent. The scouts were thrilled with the polar
The food was plentiful and appropriate to the temperatures. The base
specialty is Hudson Bay bars which were excellent. MREs were tasty and
vastly superior to freeze dried trail food in my opinion.
Day two was spent exploring the area on skis, preparing to sleep well the
next night and some ice fishing. Scouting fellowship was the order of the
A veritable heat wave was underway in the area. The first night low was
zero and the second night low was 10. The daily highs were about 30 which
made it a challenge to stay dry due to sweating when active.
One night out will provide the thrill of sleeping in the snow, but in my
opinion two nights out is necessary to effectively to partake in outdoor
As we returned to the base a pair of dog sled teams went by heading across
the lake, which evoked memories of the "Call of the Wild" and other books
from my youth.
Turning in gear, hitting the showers and picking up souvenirs from the camp
store and loading up the vans took about 2 hours.
As far as facing a challenge and meeting it successfully,
Okpik is the 'real deal'.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City