English Scouts pick Wyoming for eclipse


British invasion took three years to plan, costs thousands

Gordon Baird thought it would be a great experience for his Scout troop to see the total solar eclipse in Wyoming. So he tried to make a reservation at the Camp Buffalo Bill — the Boy Scouts of America adventure camp on the North Fork — for some fun before heading to Jackson for the astronomical event.

There was a problem: The camp normally doesn’t take reservations two years in advance.

“I penciled him in,” said Andrew Allgeier, Senior District Executive for the Boy Scouts of America.

Baird had been planning for his troop’s trip for nearly three years. The British Airlines pilot with a degree in astronomy knew the Scouts from Salisbury, England, would need to start planning early to make the long trip happen. So, for more than two years, his Scouts have been doing fundraisers and dreaming of seeing America.

The troop cleaned cars, sold baked goods, bagged groceries, cleaned golf clubs and did sponsored rides and hikes to raise enough money — about 2,200 pounds (currently just over $2,800) per person — to make the trip.

“There are more clean cars in Salisbury than anywhere in the world,” Baird said.

Salisbury is a small city of about 45,000 English citizens — just a little smaller than Casper — in a country of 53 million people on an island about half the size of the cowboy state. It’s 9 miles south of Stonehenge, the iconic prehistoric stone structure, and the Salisbury Cathedral, the city’s center, broke ground in the year 1220.

The group arrived in Denver and then drove straight to the North Fork in 15-passenger vans. Scouts were wide-eyed as they passed through the Wind River Canyon and eventually into the Shoshone National Forest.

“It’s so much bigger than anything we’ve ever experienced,” Sam Shaw, a 16-year-old Explorer, said.

“It’s ridiculous!” Tobias McNicol added.

Scouting originated in England in 1907 with the publication of the first installment of Robert Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys. By 1908, troops were started across the country. Boy Scouts soon spread to America in 1910, and then Girl Scouts started in 1912.

Scouting is coed in England. Catherine Labdon, 21, is a Scout leader and did a great deal of the planning for the trip.

“The eclipse was the main reason to come to the area,” Labdon said. But she said everyone was excited to see the wildlife of Northwest Wyoming. From a distance that is.

“I don’t want to encounter a grizzly, but I do want to see one,” she said.

For most of the Salisbury Scouts, this is their first trip abroad. For Labdon, it was her first airplane trip.

“We wanted to visit somewhere they’d never have a chance to visit. So we chose this location because of its proximity to Yellowstone (National Park),” Baird said. Baird’s two children are in the troop, and his wife is also a Scout leader. The trip cost him more than $12,000, he said.

The Scouts were split into three groups, taking turns visiting the park, fishing, learning water sports like canoeing and their favorite activity — shooting guns.

“We only have pop guns in England,” Baird said.

The groups took turns target shooting with .22 rifles and participating in archery.

“We don’t hunt in England, and activities like fly fishing are very expensive,” Baird said.

Buffalo Bill Camp hosts about 1,500 Scouts per year, serving about 30,000 meals to Scouting groups from as far away as Australia. The Salisbury Scouts made the longest trip to the camp this year, Allgeier said.

Allgeier and his staff work from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week during the summer camp season. Allgeier is the only full-time member and is in his 12th year on the staff.

“It’s constant work from June 1 through mid-August, and then it’s back to my normal 60 hours a week,” the Eagle Scout said.

The group will head to the Cody Nite Rodeo Friday, then leave for Jackson for the eclipse.

“Time is accelerating right now. The best part is the flexibility of the camp to meet our needs. The welcome here is incredible,” Baird said.

Agreed Scout leader David Waspe, “It’s brilliant!”