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Rockets and Rock Climbing with Troop 85:

Troop 85 isn’t the average Boy Scout Troop. For one thing, it is composed of both boys and girls. For another, this troop, located in Pacific Palisades, focuses exclusively on the outdoors.

This means rugged hikes, to desert and mountain locations. But Troop 85 has also distinguished itself with its rocket launches – launched using real rocket fuel. Recently, the troop launched a twelve-foot rocket, built from cardboard tubes, at Lucerne Dry Lake. The rocket traveled more than a mile into the air.

“We regularly hike to 14,000 feet on our week-long Sierra trips,” said Troop 85 Scoutmaster David Turner. “But the rocket only took seven seconds to get up there.” 

Turner became a Scoutmaster as a result of his own son’s involvement in Boys Scouts and Webelos (Cub Scouts). At meetings and events, he often wears the traditional Scout uniform, although the kids are allowed to dress informally.

“David’s son actually graduated from the troop three- years ago,” explains Joyce Ng, a troop members’ parent, “but David is such a booster (and such an invaluable part of our group) that he still leads the troop and goes on most of the expeditions. I’m sure there would be a revolt if he ever tried to ‘retire.’ ”

Recently, Troop 85 enjoyed a rock-climbing event held at Rockcreation in West Los Angeles. The facility features walls that one can actually climb via the “rocks” of different sizes that stud the walls.

The kids first chowed down on pizza and then began tackling the walls. This was, after all, only practice – they regularly climb during their hikes to places like Joshua Tree National Park.

Susannah Turner, 14, is Dave Turner’s daughter. While not a member of the troop, she has accompanied her brother for years. “I go along because it’s fun,” she says.  She participates in many of Troop 85’s activities and especially likes the rock climbing. “It’s fun to see how far you can go.”

Neil Davis, 16, whose father is one of the assistant Scoutmasters, adds that he has become really good at rock climbing and never considers it difficult. “I think it’s the only thing that works for me.”

Such self-confidence is what Troop 85 cultivates. In a letter sent to parents of kids who express interest in joining, Turner writes, “The goals of scouting are to promote personal growth, character development, and good citizenship.” These goals are pursued by teaching the young people to “take care of themselves and others out of doors.”

In addition to rocket launching and rock climbing,                  some of Troop 85’s other adventures have included climbing Mount Whitney, car-camping at Death Valley, and back-packing trips to Sequoia, Yosemite, and Mineral King.

Jim Suhr, an assistant Scoutmaster, points out that “Troop 85 has been a wonderful backpacking group.  We’ve learned about so many hidden trails and less-traveled parts of the local mountains.  And the annual Sierra treks, which last a week and cover 50 or more miles, are the best wilderness trips I’ve ever gone on.” 

Troop 85 is open to boys ages 11 and up and girls ages 14 and up.  Girls aged 11-13 are welcome with parent supervision.  Family members are welcome on all outings.  The troop meets every Tuesday from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. at Gabrielson Hall, Pacific Palisades Community Methodist Church, 801 Via de la Paz, Pacific Palisades. For more information visit troop85.net.

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