Garden Ground Mountain has always been an oddity in West Virginia history. Formerly a large ridge, it was sheared down for coal mining in the early 20th century. Legend holds that coal miners used the rare flat land to grow vegetables for their families, leading to Mt. Jack’s eponymous nickname, “Garden Ground.”
This week, Scouts at the 2017 Jamboree will become the second group of Jamboree participants ever to undertake the Trek to Garden Ground Mountain. On any of the six days in which treks occur, up to 18 percent of participants at the Summit may be experiencing the program.
After a troop is met in its campsite by a guide from the Order of the Arrow’s Operation Arrow on their assigned date, the Scouts will embark on a three-to-five mile hike up to Garden Ground, using one of four specified trails. After they arrive, Scouts will have free rein over the 1.7 miles of peak, including seven program villages. Information about each program available on the Mountain is in the Activities section of the Jamboree app.
Some Scouts will enjoy the challenges of the Spartan Race village, a Tough-Mudder-type athletic obstacle course. They might also have fun at the Field Sports village, featuring flag football, soccer, basketball, Frisbee golf and a new addition — bubble ball. Others might enjoy the Highland Games village, featuring traditional Scottish feats of strength, like the hammer throw.
The historically rich Garden Ground area won’t lack for historical interaction. The Silver Bay village will feature a full reenactment of the first American scout camp. Participants will jump back to 1910, taking in the food, games, dress, campsites, and even the BSA advancement structure of the time. The O.A.’s American Indian Village will take participants on a trip through the history of the Ohio River Valley, where the Summit is located. According to Jamboree Vice Chief Matthew Watson, “the village incorporates elements from throughout Shawnee migration, including a powwow to symbolize the change in culture brought on by forced integration with the Plains Indians.” Arrowmen will recognize elements of dance teams from conclaves and call-outs all across the country.
Other attractions include the breathtaking view along the eastern flank of the road, where parts of the Summit are visible from 1,000 feet above, and three outpost tents on the peak, where visitors can relax, eat lunch or even sing karaoke.
One characteristic common to all villages, Program Lead Jeff Kosik said, is the passion of the staff members. Pioneering village staffers, for example, have had to hand-whip their rope and strip their own spars before they can create their wooden masterpieces, like Merry-go-rounds and trebuchets. Highland Games and O.A. Indian Village staffers will be sporting full costumes, whether Scottish kilts or Native American regalia. Buckskin village staffers have painstakingly inspected each of the 65 rifles participants will have access to, according to staff member Jose Garcia.
Around 3 p.m., troops will gather for a closing campfire, featuring music and entertainment. Then, they’ll walk to the Old Saw Mill, choosing either to hike back to camp or take a bus.
Kosik and his team encourage Scouts to try as many of the activities as they can. From crafts to tomahawks to rifles to sports to branding, the Trek to Garden Ground Mountain will have something for everyone, and enough for an entire day of adventure.