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Snowcapades

Kai McIntyre sat atop the steep icy chute channeling his inner Clark Griswold with nothing but a cracked plastic saucer between him and a snowy wipeout.

He pushed off and sent his 8-year-old body careening down the run through banked turns before his fate was sealed. The spinning saucer hurtled through a turn and over the scrambling arms of an older Boy Scout trying in vain to keep the Cub Scout on course.

But what appears as a crash is actually high entertainment.

“When I went on the side, that was completely awesome,” says McIntyre, of Klamath Falls. “I love this place.”

This place of awesomeness is called Snowcapades, an annual event along the banks of Lake of the Woods at Camp McLoughlin, where Boy Scouts teach younger Cub Scouts how to have fun in the snow while learning a thing or two about the backwoods.

Over three Saturdays this winter, Cub Scout packs from throughout Southern Oregon and Northern California will descend upon the Scouts camp for a day of saucer rides, a little snowshoeing and even some personal pyrotechnics — all under the tutelage of Boy Scouts, complete with cheers and homemade soup and cookies.

“The main thing about this, though, is it’s fun,” says Sharon Watson, who has run Snowcapades events here the past 28 years. “You can’t go anywhere else in the county and have this much fun on a snow day.”

Snowcapades has been a staple of the Scouts’ Crater Lake Council, which runs as many as 600 Cub Scouts through the camp in waves of 200 or more each of these Saturdays, with the crowd doubled from parents and Boy Scouts.

Several Boy Scout troops descended upon the camp Jan. 18 to build five saucer runs, an obstacle course, a fire-building clinic and a snowshoe course — complete with handmade snowshoes fashioned largely out of bent PVC pipes based on a formula Watson lifted from the Boy’s Life scouting magazine more than 20 years ago.

“We’ve probably got 50 or 60 pairs of snowshoes,” Watson says.

The packs, along with a few younger siblings, carpool to Lake of the Woods, where they hike about a half-mile through groomed snow to reach camp.

At camp, most of the hands-on work is done by Boy Scouts who all wear multicolored elf hats to stick out in the crowd.

Trevor McNally of Klamath Falls ran the zipline part of a winter obstacle course, helping youngsters slide down the wire strung between two trees. Parental supervision comes from outside of the red tape closing off the zipline area to outsiders.

“This is more of a Boy Scout-led idea, so they want the Boy Scouts helping the Cub Scouts more than the adults,” McNally says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Most of the Boy Scouts helping run the show have already been here as Cub Scouts, “so they know the drill,” Watson says.

“We’ve had 28 years to perfect it,” Watson says.

The saucer runs were clearly the crowd favorite during last Saturday’s Snowcapades, with different runs catered to different levels of mettle.

“Some are slow and tame and some are wild and wicked,” Watson says.

Explorer Post 131, which is run by Mercy Flights for teens to explore possible medical careers, are on hand for those whose wipeouts don’t go as well as McIntyre’s. But injuries are very rare.

Tucked away from the saucer shenanigans was the fire-starting area, where Boy Scout Thackery Moreland of Klamath Falls held court, setting up younger Cub Scouts with sage advice on how to build a fire should they find themselves lost in the woods.

The trick, Moreland opined, is dry wood and perhaps some homemade fire starter fashioned from candles.

Moreland took his charge seriously.

“If one day they end up out in the forest with a box of matches and need to build a fire, they’ll know how to do it,” Moreland says.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwriterFreeman.

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