Sunday, April 27, 2014

Scouting for Wonder

Yesterday a small group from our Boy Scout troop went on a 6½ mile hike and I was inspired and reinvigorated. What encouraged me most was how they were so inquisitive and interested in the life of the forest. Far too often, a Boy Scout hike becomes a forced march where everyone is mostly oblivious to surrounding nature. I think it helped that we were a small group of only 8 total people. My wife, Beth, and I were the adults on the hike. We had five scouts, three young scouts and two older scouts with many years of experience and trail savvy. My son, the troop senior patrol leader, organized, planned, and led the hike. My son's girlfriend also joined the group.

Troop 17 Hikers
Equipped with map and compass, each of the three younger scouts took a turn navigating for the group. The older scouts taught the navigators how to use a compass to orient the map, and then showed them how to keep track of progress and verify the route at natural checkpoints, like intersections and road crossings. Most people think map reading is simple, but a good scout learns that navigation is a learned skill that must be practiced over and over again before real proficiency is gained.
Be prepared, and be careful where you step!

What encouraged me most is how the boys seemed genuinely impressed by the beauty and wonder of nature. Don't get me wrong. They spent their share of time discussing video games and arguing over silly things, but they were also excited by snakes and giant trees. They would stare up into the trees trying to spot a woodpecker chiseling out an insect breakfast. Several times I was asked to give the name of this or that wildflower. One scout even asked about some yellowing wildflower leaves and asked if I could show him picture later when he learned this one was already past blooming (Dutchman's Breeches). The moment that really did it for me, though, was when an excited scout pointed and exclaimed, "look at that!" Expecting to see cyclists on the road, or a deer, or maybe even a turkey, I was delighted when I realized he was pointing out sunlight filtered through leaves. "He's got it," I thought, and I knew I had helped a boy experience the wonder of nature.

Noticing the difference between Poison Ivy and Virginia Creeper

Trees are cool!

Scouts are always eager to come to the rescue

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