Almost Heaven, West Virginia
As I have traveled throughout America, I have discovered much that is wonderful and special about our country that we can all be proud of. It is always my hope that you will be inspired to explore and experience the places that I have shared with you and make lifelong memories with your own family and friends. Though there is much to explore in America it is not often that I find a destination that is as unexpected and intriguing as I found emerging through the mythical mist in the mountains of West Virginia.
Located in the southern West Virginia Appalachian Mountains a quickly emerging family adventure and group function venue that will surely satisfy both intimate gatherings like weddings and reunions as well as large corporate functions and events. The location I am speaking of is the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve located near Beckley, West Virginia adjacent to America’s newest National Park, New River Gorge National Park & Preserve. Though it has ‘scout’ in its name, this is not your father’s scout camp; and you do not have to be involved with scouting to experience this amazing piece of West Virginia. The location of the Summit Bechtel Reserve property was once the site of extensive coal mining, a key industry for which the state of West Virginia is known. The remnants of long abandoned surface mines created a manageable terrain to be reclaimed for future generations and a boon to the region’s fledgling tourism industry as a property that can accommodate a wide variety of high adventure, education, and gathering uses. The Summit Bechtel Reserve or more affectionately known as the Summit is a property that reminds me of the beauty and spirit of J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle-earth with frequent misty mornings and epic sunsets that beckon visitors to join the adventures at the Summit.
The Summit is a vast 10,000-acre facility with 4,000 additional acres of outpost campsites along the nearby New River. Being near the river also offers visitors access to whitewater rafting and kayaking through miles of rapids and tranquil stretches of the New River Gorge. The Summit is not your traditional outdoor experience; the site offers a unique and new vision of environmental activities, sustainable tourism, and accommodations by the Boy Scouts of America. the Summit offers a single destination with high adventure activities and a variety of gathering, lodging, and food service facilities that can accommodate any size group that wants to immerse themselves in this truly beautiful and unique environment. It presents itself as a living ‘pick your own adventure’ destination that can customize just about any outdoor experience that you would like to make into a family memory. It is one of four High Adventure facilities managed by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The others are Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, Northern Tier National High Adventure base in Minnesota, and Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in the Florida Keys. The Summit Bechtel Reserve stands apart as a facility that encompasses many more adventures, learning, and gathering opportunities than some of the other locations as it is home to the Boy Scouts of America’s National Scout Jamboree, the Paul R. Christen National High Adventure Base, the James C. Justice National Scout Camp, and the J.W. Marriott Jr. and Rex W. Tillerson Leadership Centers. The facility’s inaugural event was the 2013 National Scout Jamboree attended by close to 41,000 Boy Scouts, Venturers, volunteers, and staff.
It’s About Adventure
High Adventure is where the excitement is at when visiting the Summit; which includes feature action venues that are available year-round, seasonally, and exclusive to camp or large event programs. The action is everywhere around you at the Summit; the many locations include:
Family Adventure Camping
So, how do you and your family sample all that the Summit has to offer? A trip to Family Adventure Camp is an opportunity that is open to all families; no BSA or Scouting affiliation is required. Your family can enjoy camping in style or even stay at the Yamagata Lodge as the base for your adventures like scenic hikes on miles of wooded trails and the many adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities.
Uniquely The Summit
Discover and explore the unique features and iconic locations that make the Summit Bechtel Reserve a truly special travel destination.
High Adventure Scouting
Now if you are involved with Scouting, the Summit offers abundant opportunities for high adventures that will create lifelong memories for you and your unit at a facility that is designed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences in mind.
Your scouts can gain a unique sampling of many of the action elements of what the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s High Adventure has to offer with the Summit Experience but if an immersion into high adventure is more your scout’s appetite, try one of the many treks that provide for more in-depth adventures.
Treks such as The New River Experience whitewater paddling and camping along the New River or The Polaris® ATV Experience with a week-long trek of ATV trail riding and camping at remote encampments. Those are not the only unique treks at the Summit; how about mountain biking and camping with The Bikepacking Experience or backpacking and whitewater paddling with The Pack N’ Paddle Experience? The Summit also has a shooting and camping adventure with The Marksman Experience that is right on target. Like I said before, the Summit offers many choices for a ‘pick your own adventure’ experience.
Traveling America as a nomadic photographer offers me the opportunity to engage in projects that speak to me as an artist and that fit with my personal mission and interests. This summer I believe that I was given the jackpot of artistic opportunities to serve an organization near to my heart and that has had a significant impact on me and my family over the years; the Boy Scouts of America. Serving the BSA at the Summit Bechtel Reserve, one of their national high adventure bases has also checked off a major artist bucket list item for me. I spent the summer engaged as a seasonal staff photographer as part of the Summit’s Digital Media Team along with an amazing group of photographers and videographers to share the adventure of covering this summer’s activities of camps, treks, and events. Though I was part of a team, I felt the freedom to create images that resonated with me and it felt more like being an artist-in-residence with a vast 10,000-acre canvas at-the-waiting. My hope is that the hundreds of polished images created will be useful in serving Summit Bechtel Reserve’s future marketing and presentation efforts. Please check out a sampling of the images that I created while at the Summit. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve the Summit and to get to know some fantastic people that have a heart for scouting, the outdoors, and the Summit. Much of the summer was accented with a cleaver catch-phrase that I believe is more of a call-to-action for gritty perseverance; so as I depart for my continued personal journey and next adventure, please join me to… Summit On!