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Exploring together

Members of the Boy Scout venture crew -- made up of boys and girls -- took a trip to Boundary Water Canoe Area, their official first voyage as Venturers.

In 1975, Charlie Ramstad took a 10-day canoe trip through the Boundary Waters with an Explorer Troop, a Boy Scout's offshoot, and had a terrific time.

"That stuck in my head," he said.

When he and wife Karen Skoyles had their son Dylan, now a senior at Detroit Lakes High School, he kept that memory in mind, prompting the couple to start Dylan on the Boy Scout track.

"We joined when Dylan was in first grade," Skoyles said, adding that she and her husband have since carried titles from Den Leaders to Cub Master and Scout Master.

But when their daughter Berit, who will enter DLHS as a freshman this fall, hit Boy Scout age, it was slightly more complicated since she was a girl.

"Berit had been going to Boy Scout Camp with Karen and acting like a boy for years," Ramstad said with a chuckle.

Searching for an organization for Berit similar to the one Dylan enjoyed, the couple discovered that Boy Scout Venture Crews had the same motive Ramstad's Explorer Troop had -- to give kids the chance to undertake their own outdoor explorations -- and welcomed both genders.

"I think that girls and boys need adventure," Skoyles said, adding that learning to cooperate with the opposite sex at an early age is an essential life skill.

After completing the paperwork, rounding up interest and acquiring approval from the Boy Scouts Northern Lights Conference, Venture Crew Troop 673 came into being.

"The idea here is basically to try to interest older kids to undertake outdoor adventures," Ramstad said, adding that his Boy Scout experience made him feel "an obligation to do for other kids what others had done for me."

With the group's focus on adventuring activities, Ramstad, Skoyles and fellow parent Jeff Leitheiser took five girls and four boys to the Boundary Waters on their first official voyage as Venturers.

For five days, the group's schedule followed a pretty predictable pattern.

"You get up, you boil your water and eat your oatmeal, then you pack everything up, you tear down, you canoe for a bunch of hours and you find another campsite," Skoyles said of the trip, which was the first such outing for everyone but Ramstad, Dylan and Leitheiser's son, Tyler.

After five or more hours canoeing each day, the group fished, swam and enjoyed the open air.

"There was no complaining," Skoyles said. "There was much laughing."

"It proved to me that (the girls) can do it just like the boys can do it," Ramstad added, impressed by 14-year-old females carrying packs half their weight.

A fun time for all involved, the trip was also a learning experience in the troubleshooting the ways of the wilderness, skills easily transferable to other areas.

"My goal is to teach them so they can do it on their own," Ramstad said, adding that Dylan and Berit are capable of going solo after many trips with Dad.

"You meet adversity and you conquer it," Skoyles said, "And when you become a leader."

Both the guys and the girls grew over the course of the canoe trip, showing that each gender can benefit from adventures and the lessons they teach.

The trip's success is evidenced by future venture plans already in the works.

"The girls, of course, want to go to Valley Fair," Skoyles said, adding that one also requested a return trip to an island they camped at on Cherokee Lake.

Ramstad is planning a backpacking trip for next summer, calling Montana's Anaconda-Pintlar wilderness the first location on his wish list. He also mentioned the possibility of practice hikes on the North Shore of Lake Superior, a sight several of the kids hadn't seen until the Crew stopped for a tour of Split Rock Lighthouse on their way home.

"Venturing gives you an opportunity to focus on things that are interesting to the group as a whole," Skoyles said. "It enables you to do things you wouldn't ordinarily do."

"You see the kids bloom," Ramstad added.

"I like being fertilizer," Skoyles said with a smile.