In recent years I thought we had lost one of the best opportunities for older scouts.....the Silver Marmot Treks. Since beginning the kayaking treks, more troops have been signing up for that instead of going hiking. I can understand why; there is the fact that there are no limits on who we take onto the canal (except for the number of kayaks that we have) and, well, you can sit and paddle. Don't get me wrong, it is a great experience wandering around the Hood Canal, but not really a "High Adventure" type of thing when you stay at State Parks or on private land. When it does become High Adventure due to weather we seldom let the boats go out....trust me, we have tried that and have been burned every time. First they scatter, then they flip, then we have a hard time getting them all back together. The hiking program is different in the sense that even though you are on well traveled trails, you get into areas which are days away from the trail head. Not only that, there are opportunities that pop up for cross country hiking in some of the best untouched wildernesses in the lower United States.
That may be changing as we have interest from several troops to go for a week of hiking and from other troops who want to do a few days hiking and a few days kayaking. This is great! It has been difficult to push for expansion of our hiking program as it is not cost effective to bring on folks who will only take out one or two hikes in an entire season. If this works out, we can expand our program and the rotation of staff that participate in this program.
In my experience, the hiking program has been one of the great adventures for older scouts, and when I say older, I mean 15 years and up. More importantly, the old program was designed for individuals, not scout troops. Why? Part of the reason is that with scout troops there already is a hierarchy amongst the scouts and adults; when they come individually, they start from scratch and make new friends. Each one is giving a position of responsibility that rotates on a daily basis. They choose where they are going to hike, who was carrying what, when to start, etc. Our staff tagged along as mentors instead of hike leaders. Of course, if the need came up, they would assume the leadership position and would never let our scouts get into a situation that they could not handle. This program lost some steam many years ago when all High Adventure was consolidated into one program based at another camp and when it came back, we had lost our drive of returning scouts who wanted to go. This was compounded by listening to adult leaders say, "well, our troop does a 50 miler every year, there is no sense in having them go into this program." I forgot there was a rule that a scout could only do one long term hike per annum.......wait.....there is no such rule. Despite my mashinations on trying to change this mind set, I cannot. So the next best thing is having troops come with a select group of scouts to go hiking. I'll take it.
There are few things that keep young people in the scouting program and one of them is hiking and camping on a level a little higher than what the standard scout troop can do. More importantly, the Olympic Forest and Mountains are one of the best places to hike. Although I haven't hiked my favored land in years, I can remember every foot step I took on each trail. It could have been windy, rainy, and even snowy when I was hiking.....but I couldn't think of a better place to be at the time.