Scouts Experience “High Adventure” with Church History

Contributed By By Sharon Shull, Church News contributor

  • 6 August 2013

Matthew Flanagan, left, Justin Andersen, Palmer Turley, and Malachi Richardson are among riders embarking on a bike trek.  Photo courtesy of Troop 96.

Article Highlights

  • BSA Troop 96 of the Gallatin Ward, Liberty Missouri Stake, rode their bikes along the Mormon Pioneer Trail (auto route) from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Winter Quarters, Nebraska.
  • The group began and ended their 306-mile trip by doing baptismal work in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple and the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple.
  • This High Adventure gave the Scouts a greater understanding of the sacrifices of early pioneers whose trail they had just biked.

“Perseverance pays off.” —Matthew Flanagan, BSA Troop 96


Months of planning and preparation preceded the departure of the early Saints from Nauvoo in 1846.

Members and leaders of Boy Scouts of America Troop 96 of the Gallatin Ward, Liberty Missouri Stake, spent about a year planning and preparing for their 2013 High Adventure. Their goal: bicycle along the Mormon Pioneer Trail (auto route) from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, a trip of 306 miles. They began and ended their trip by doing baptismal work in two temples.

Leaving Gallatin on May 27, 21 Scouts and five adult leaders traveled by van and truck to Nauvoo, where the Young Men attended a baptismal session in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple. Some of the young men had family names, which brought a special spirit to the group. They also talked about the importance of the temple ordinances to the pioneers as they left Nauvoo. Their bike trip that day began at Montrose, Iowa, across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo. They rode about 20 miles that first day and then camped for the night.

Then the rains began.  

Early pioneers struggled through the rain and mud of that early spring in 1846. The Scouts also met varying weather conditions. Some days started off sunny and calm but ended with a brisk wind and rain. Others started with cold rain and wind and ended with sun and calm. When the weather was sunny and the winds were calm, the riders made good time. Miles covered each day ranged from 50 to 90. Late afternoon on Tuesday, May 28, severe thunderstorms moved in quickly. Groups sought shelter from the rain and lightning in local businesses and homes. The community of Centerville, Iowa, gladly opened the local National Guard Armory, where the Scouts were able to sleep in safety. 

On Wednesday they stopped at Garden Grove Historic Site for lunch. This historic site is where many early pioneers stopped for a season to replenish their supplies. Pioneer groups were encouraged to plant crops for the next group of travelers who would follow them.  

Across the river from Nauvoo, Scouts are in Montrose, Iowa. In foreground are Malachi Richardson, left, and Jesse Bundy. Photo Courtesy of Troop 96.

Members of Troop 96 learned to help and encourage each other. One bike seemed very prone to flat tires. One Scout did not have a lot of experience in riding a bike. His fellow Scouts put him in the front and encouraged him “to just make it up this one hill.” He rode his bike 50 miles for two consecutive days. He said that he learned he could accomplish a hard task. Another young man is a Scout with special needs who did not have the muscle ability to ride a bike. A tandem bike was procured, and the Scouts took turns riding with him. This gave him the opportunity to be together with his priesthood quorum and to earn his cycling merit badge.  

Thursday brought wind and cold rain. To make matters worse, this wind was a headwind. Kaler Melhberg described their ride that morning: “We formed a wind tunnel, which is like a flock of birds flying in a ‘V’ formation. The lead bike takes most of the wind, breaking it for all the others in a single line behind him. When he is exhausted, the next in line takes his place and he falls to the back.”   

Nicholas Flanagan stands near a plaque on a monument at the pioneer cemetery in Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Winter Quarters was the destination of a 306-mile bicycle trek from Nauvoo, Illinois. Photo Courtesy of Troop 96.

By Friday evening, they had reached Council Bluffs, Iowa, and stopped to take a tour of the Kanesville Tabernacle; the building is a replica of the log structure where Brigham Young was sustained as President of the Church on December 27, 1847.

They then went to their campground near the Missouri River, where a dinner of pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, and corn from a local restaurant was the reward for accomplishing their task.  

On Saturday, June 1, the troop ended the trip with a baptismal session in the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple. Touring the pioneer cemetery and the Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters gave the Scouts a greater understanding of the sacrifices of those pioneers whose trail they had just biked.  

This high adventure trip had been chosen, according to Chris Flanagan, Young Men president of the Gallatin Ward, to “do something that could be both a true High Adventure experience but also a spiritual experience … including relying on the Savior.”  

At Winter Quarters: Kaler Mehlberg, left, Mason Dias, John Gibson (local deacon), Jesse Bundy, and Nick Dias. Photo Courtesy of Troop 96.

Several young men from Gallatin shared their thoughts about the bike trip. Matthew Flanagan said that he “learned that perseverance pays off.” Justin Andersen, who just received his mission call to Brazil, learned how much the Savior cares for each person individually. He and several others were given shelter in the home of an older couple near Centerville, Iowa. He said that as they visited with the couple he felt how much Heavenly Father loves each of His children. Andy Carder said he learned to feel closer to others in the priests quorum.  

Members of Scout Troop 96 biked along the same route as the early pioneers. They did not have to cope with swollen streams, muddy roads, sickness, or lack of food. But, like the early pioneers, they learned to feel the joy of accomplishing a hard task, to cope with the challenges of nature, to depend on the kindness of strangers along the way, to find unity and strength in their priesthood quorums, to help and serve each other, and to understand the power of the blessings of the temple.   

Young Men president Chris Flanagan and Andy Carder work their way up a hill together during the 306-mile bike trek of Scout Troop 96 from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters. Photo Courtesy of Troop 96.