What the Boy Scouts mean to me

It saddens many people to hear of the “Goblin Valley Vandals” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/18/goblin-valley-boy-scout-leaders-destroy-rock_n_4122488.html )…both those who have been associated with the Boy Scouts of America, and those who simply love the natural wonders of our parks. It’s unfortunate that the headlines in the press say “Boy Scout Leaders”, versus “random idiots who filmed their antics”. I hope the Boy Scouts of America can do some damage control and loudly denounce this situation, taking appropriate steps to distance the Scouts from this behavior.

I have such wonderful memories of my time in Boy Scouts that I still occasionally tell anecdotes to my friends with a big smile on my face. I hope this blog post will help reinforce the good points of Scouting…either with a few friends who read my blog, or maybe it will go viral to thousands…

Scouting to me is the selfless time spent by my troop leaders to help me shape what I am today, even when their own sons’ interest in Scouting waned. Jack R, Jack K, and Bill B.: you guys were awesome Scout leaders who brought me great experiences during my formative years in the late 1970s, including:

– The (now comical) lesson of not securing your food from animals: one of the Scouts left his backpack leaning up against a tree, just outside our tent, with all his food inside, including an aerosol can of Cheese-Whiz. The late night “gunshot bang” of a bear biting into the can, then howling and charging away through the woods, would not have been believed if we didn’t keep the can with the teeth marks for show-and-tell.

– Sleeping in a big old canvas tent, on a cot, above a wood platform, for a week each summer at Camp Saratoga (http://www.wiltonpreserve.org/the-lands/camp-saratoga) and waking up to hear some crunching noises under my cot. I grabbed my flashlight and peeked over the edge and saw a skunk happily eating my Pringle’s, just two feet from my face. “Please help yourself. I will hide in my sleeping bag until morning!”

– Burying Dan’s pants near the top of Tabletop Mountain (http://www.summitpost.org/table-top-mountain/150619 ) after he failed to properly lean against a tree to relieve himself. It wasn’t environmentally friendly, but not even our leader, Jack R., was willing to pack out a pair of pants full of poo.

– Waking up in a collapsed tent, covered with 4 inches of snow, at Crane Pond (http://www.loonyaboutadirondacks.com/crane_pond.html) during an early season storm. We were wearing canvas sneakers and the cars were 2 miles away. Cold, wet, nobody got hurt.

– Standing-up in our canoes on Long Lake during a windstorm, to deploy our orange poncho “sails” and watching one of the other canoes tip over as a result, with all their gear on a cold and blustery day…

– Being a young Scout at the annual winter campout in the “Rabbit Hole” cabin, where the older scouts pushed the troop to see how hot we could get the cabin to be, using the 2 wood burning stoves. Normally the top bunks were favored for their warmth, but on this night it was 20F outside and 95F on the top bunk.

– Terrorizing the McDonald’s in Lake Placid several times after a long weekend of sweat, poor hygiene, and campfire smoke. This once included stomping on ketchup packets in the parking lot and decorating at least one unsuspecting car.

– Standing on Wright’s Peak, near the bronze plaque, memorializing the B-47 crew that perished here during a training flight (http://www.adirondack-park.net/history/b47.wright.html ). And, having our summer camp rifle range instructor (“Gunny”, as in “Gunnery Sergeant”) show us the line of bullet holes on his thigh and stomach he received during his time in Vietnam as his opening “attention getter” for every annual safety lesson. These two events caused some thinking about mortality, as young teens rarely do.

– Completing half of the Adirondack 46ers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adirondack_Forty-Sixers) before my 18th birthday. I still treasure my collection of hand-typed acknowledgement letters (with a green typewriter ribbon!) from the ADK 46ers famous Grace Hudowalski (http://www.mackenziefamily.com/gracepeakcommittee/bio.grace.html )

Much of this is what we used to call “boys will be boys”. We exuded youthful energy, and a bit of naivete, as we clumsily made the transition from children to adults. We were mostly on the correct path, and always under the watchful eye of RESPONSIBLE leaders who often allowed us to make small mistakes as part of growing up.

My grandest memory of the selflessness of our leaders was Jack K. volunteering to be our summer camp leader for a week, despite his ailing health. He enabled us to attend Summer Camp, when no other leaders were available and our camp week might have been cancelled. It was remarkable that he slept on a cot, in a drafty tent, like the rest of us, while breathing on an oxygen tank and barely leaving his tent the whole week. He entrusted the senior Scouts, myself included, to guide the younger ones, as well as interface with the skeptical camp administration. I’m quite sure he would have been more comfortable at home, but that’s not what he chose.

All of these little stories are the highlights of about 8 years as a Cub Scout and Boy Scout, teaching and working selflessly with our leaders and other Scouts, to build and reinforce what I’ve become today: A responsible adult (I think), as well as one who loves and respects nature and those who came before me with their selfless contributions.

With or without my strong and wonderful memories of growing from a little blue Cub Scout (who couldn’t figure out that weird belt buckle), to an Eagle Scout, Scouting will continue to evolve through various twists and turns and controversies. It is my hope that the local volunteer leaders, which make up the core of Scouting, continue to give selflessly. It is also my hope that the Boy Scouts of America distances themselves from the “Goblin Valley Morons” as soon as possible. Every group of people has a few “bad apples” that need to be pruned. Let’s then focus on the other 99% and the positives of what Scouting is all about. I know I do!

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About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
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