This summer our Troop went on a great adventure. We backpacked in the Olympic National Park. We.. the whole Troop. We broke up the Troop into three crews, that way we could maintain Wilderness area policies of no more than 12 heartbeats and good leave no trace principles. As we began the process of planning for the adventure we were met with resistance. The first was the issue of our new Scout Patrol. 11 year Scouts, what will they be doing? Backpacking was the answer. 11-year-old boys can not do a 50 mile backpack trip I was told. I believe that they can was my reply.
I searched the age appropriate guide lines, the guide to safe Scouting, and other BSA policies and could not find any thing that would suggest that a new Scout patrol could not complete a 50 mile backpack trip.
So we started training. Three backpacking trips that would increase in length prior to the big trip. We began tearing apart backpacks and looking at detailed packing lists. We looked at getting pack weights down to accommodate the little bodies. Menu planning and setting the course for a “doable” adventure that would accomplish the 50 mile goal and ensure success for every one in the troop.
The plan was to allow the three crews to determine their miles. The older Scouts wanted to move fast and far, the middle group wanted to stay around the 50 mile mark and the new Scout Patrol decided that 50 miles would be enough. I believe in them.
We decided on 7 days on the trail. This would allow us to spread the miles out over more days keeping our daily mileage around the 6 to 8 mile mark. That would put us in camp daily earlier allowing us to provide some program. The New Scout Patrol would focus on the trail to First Class while they were in camp, the middle group would focus their time on leadership development, and the older group was in it for adventure.
The plan was set, we used the Philmont meal plan, and got busy mapping our course. The three training outings went well and prepared us for some of the challenges we would find on the trail. Map reading, adapting to changing plans, and working as a crew.
As we prepared we made major changes to the way we would prepare meals and how we would rotate leadership within the crews. We also found which Scouts worked well together and based on their performance on the practice trips we set the crews. I believed that they could all do it.
Watching the Scouts do the practice trips gave me more and more confidence. I knew that they could all do it.
Fast forward now with me to the end of the trip. 7 days backpacking in the Olympic National Park. The First year Scouts did 51 miles and not one Scout failed to complete the adventure. On the 7th day the Troop met at a large camp ground to spend our last night in the Olympic together. There were nothing but smiles all around. I took time that night to talk with the new Scout patrol. They all shared the same attitude, “Lets do it again”! The middle crew ended the trip at 52.4 miles and saw some of the most beautiful country in the Northwest. It was an epic adventure. The older Scouts ended up backpacking 70 miles and found a great place to base camp where they dropped packs and went on a 20 mile day hike. They placed themselves close to the group site on the 6th day and got a jump early on day 7. They hiked so fast that they had time to jump in the cars and head into the nearest town and take showers. That last night we had an awesome campfire, singing songs and sharing stories of our adventures.
I knew we could do it.
Since we got back I have shared our story with some Scouters. They think that we stepped way out-of-bounds taking first year scouts on this adventure. I disagree.
Before the trip I called out those adults that seem to think that it was ok for us when we were kids to have adventures. Drink from hoses, stay out till the street lights came on etc. I still believe that the reason our kids today “can’t” do it is simply because we don’t let them. Well We let them and they proved me absolutely right! They can do it. More so though.. they WANT to do it. We need to believe in them.
For the past three weeks I have completed 9 Scoutmaster conferences, mostly with the new Scout patrol. They all remain excited about their accomplishment and can not wait for the opportunity to do it again.
I believe in them. It is that belief that allows me to let them seek and find adventure. It is that belief that gives our Patrol leaders council the ability to plan the next great adventure. It is a visible attitude that sets these young men apart. Sitting on their butt is not an option for them. They want to get out there and explore their world.
I read about troops sharing their summer camp score about this time each year. 20 Scouts, 99 merit badges etc.
Well, here is our Score for this year. 23 Scouts. 23 merit badges. 31 50 miler awards. An adventure that they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
I believe that we offered them this thing we call SCOUTING!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Note: I hiked with the middle group. These guys impressed me to no end. The leadership that they developed over the course of the trip was great. I believe that they will be outstanding leaders for the future of our troop.