Masters of MOHAB

Jim Durfey

“That was a lot of fun.” 

That’s how Scoutmaster John Yeager summed up the adventure Scouts and leaders of Livingston Troop 516 had in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in late June.

The trek is called MOHAB, an acronym for Montana High Adventure Base. The Boy Scouts of America have half a dozen high adventure base locations including the Boundary Waters near Ely, Minnesota and Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. Each base features a unique adventure.

The MOHAB outing consisted of lots of hiking and water travel via inflatable one-person rafts. It’s part of the Continental Divide Trail System. The adventure started at the Benchmark Trailhead and took troop members to places like the Sun River, Pretty Prairie, Indian Point and Prairie Reef Lookout Tower. They also went part way into the Scapegoat Wilderness Area.

The Scouts and leaders started preparing for the experience in February when a representative of MOHAB attended a Scout meeting in Livingston. He showed the Scouts and leaders the equipment they would use and how to load their backpacks with the minimum amount of gear.

Troop members also went on many hikes while earning Hiking Merit Badge in order to get into shape for the adventure. Treks of five, 10 and 20 miles are required to earn the badge.

They practiced maneuvering their watercraft and used their new camping gear on a weekend campout just before they left Livingston for the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Tents were not part of that gear. Lightweight tarps were used instead. Mosquito netting covered the heads of the sleeping troop members at night. Their ground cloths were made from Tyvek House Wrap material.

Meals were mostly the freeze dried variety, but some of the Scouts and leaders caught rainbow trout which were cooked and savored at two different meals.

Troop 516 members had completed a week-long canoe trip in the Missouri Breaks National Monument several years ago. When he was asked to compare the MOHAB experience with the canoe trip, Assistant Scoutmaster Nick Currie said, “It was 20 times better.”

“My favorite part of the trip was when we got to the top of Prairie Reef Lookout because of the view,” said 14-year-old Christian Nielson. “We could see for miles. It was majestic,” he added.

The smallest Scout, Charlie Yeager, tips the scales at 95 pounds. According to a chart in the Boy Scout Handbook, the ideal pack weight for him would be 33 pounds. But his pack weighed 50 pounds. That didn’t dampen his enthusiasm, though.

“It was very scenic and peaceful,” the 15-year-old said of MOHAB.

Sam Voss, 17, said the adventure required him to learn new skills.

“We’re used to canoeing so the rafting was a new experience,” he noted. 

Each participant used a kayak-style paddle. 

“It took some practice before you didn’t turn in circles,” Voss said with a chuckle.

“I learned how to use the (water) purification drops,’ he explained. “You add two kinds of drops, shake it and wait a minute. Then the water is safe to drink.”

The intrepid Livingston group was the first MOHAB crew to go up the West Fork of the South Fork of the Sun River so they could see the Chinese Wall, one of the things the “Bob” is noted for.

While MOHAB was fun for all the participants, it was physically demanding. Troop members traveled 25 miles by hiking and over 18 miles by rafting. 

“You pay the price if you’re not in shape,” cautioned Currie.