BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The first frigid rays of daylight sparkled between the long-striped shadows of Pennsylvania woodland. A few bright-colored tents scattered in the snow stirred or snored, oblivious to the clunks and clangs of Scouts fetching stoves and pans for breakfast. The thermometer confirmed what squeaking footfalls suggested – zero degrees Fahrenheit. That solitary, magical digit signaled an accomplishment not seen for several years: the occupants of the tents were true “Zero Heroes.”
On a weekend when most of New Jersey huddled indoors, Scouts from Troop 368 of Berkeley Heights enjoyed their annual “Winterfest,” along with visiting Webelos Scouts from Cub Scout Pack 368. Most of them slept in the heated cabin, but a few intrepid Scouts and Adult leaders slept outdoors to earn the coveted “Zero Hero” award. Scouts Alec Duswalt, Greg Federico, and Andrew Fennell slept outside, safe and warm, despite the thermometers dropping to 0 the first night and 9 degrees on the second night.
The Troop also celebrated its youngest ever Zero Hero: 5th grader and incoming Scout Anthony Federico braved the Arctic temperatures with his dad, Assistant Scoutmaster Pat Federico. Adult leaders Bhaskar Chundru, Howard Lee and Ken Good also preferred to sleep outside rather than in the warmth of the cabin.
“It’s much quieter than the cabin,” said Ken Good, “so I fell asleep listening to the Eagles game!”
“Be Prepared!” is the Scout Motto and also the secret to staying safe and warm despite frigid temperatures. Only experienced Scouts who have earned the First Class rank and above, and who are prepared with the right sleeping bags and layered clothing, are allowed by the troop to attempt the frigid feat. But it helps to have a good old-fashioned hot water bottle! Scouts fill a ‘Nalgene’ water bottle with warm water just before they go to bed help them stay ‘toasty’ all night.
“Next time I want to try sleeping in a snow quinzee,” said 11th grader Andrew Fennell. And his wish may come true because every winter NJ Scouts have an opportunity to participate in “Operation Zero,” a cold weather camping experience in quinzees that the Scouts make for themselves, in the Adirondacks.
Boy Scout Troop 368 is offering an open house at Mountain Park School at 7:30 PM on Tuesday Jan 21 to showcase the real-life adventures, like sailing the Bahamas, SCUBA-diving, robotics, canoeing and many more, on offer for any boy aged 10 to 17, even if they have no previous Scouting experience. For more information visit www.bhtroop368.com.