By Greta Sowles
The Boy Scouts of America prides itself on being one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. What better way to show this development than by acting out the call and helping those in need? At least that’s what Waconia Troop 327 thinks.
The local troop, which includes boys from Waconia, Norwood Young America, Chaska, Chanhassen and St. Bonifacius, recently returned from a High Adventure trip to New Mexico. After leaving on July 15, 14 boys from the troop and four adults spent 12 days hiking through the Rocky Mountains with over 50 pounds of gear on their backs and made an important pit stop in Colorado Springs, where they donated clothing they had collected for the victims of the Black Forest fire that occurred earlier this summer in June.
The boys continued on to New Mexico where they trained at the Philmont Scout Ranch and capped their trip by successfully climbing Mount Baldy, a mountain on the edge of the ranch that rises to over 12,400 feet. The Philmont Scout Ranch is one of three High Adventure camps in the United States and celebrated its 75-year anniversary this year.
Troop member Ben Thew, who moved to Minnesota from Colorado nine years ago, came up with the idea of collecting clothing for the victims of the fire and suggested it to his troop leader, St. Bonifacius Mayor Rick Weible. Weible, who planned most of the trip, said some of the troop’s campsites in Colorado were relocated because of the fires.
The scouts were eager to help, collecting clothing from family members to fill a trailer for the Colorado community. The troop collected about 24 large bags full of clothing and dropped them off at a Colorado Good Will that was a large distribution center for those affected by the fires. A Colorado Springs news station also interviewed the boys before they dropped off their donations.
Weible emphasized that the Boy Scouts are supposed to be boy led with adult encouragement, and he was proud of the way the boys stepped up to the scout law.
“It’s amazing how something so quick and so small can have a nice impact,” Weible said.
The troop also spent a few days west of Denver and did some testing in the Colorado area, including a 20 mile hike at elevations over 9,000 feet to prepare for their later climb.
The actual climb of Mount Baldy was an extreme mental and physical challenge for the scouts. The climb is a 12-mile hike to a peak elevation of 12,441 feet. On the day of Troop 327’s hike, there were wind recordings of over 70 miles per hour. Additionally, one group of the scouts ended up veering from the trail and bushwhacking through the wilderness up the mountain.
“It made the experience more memorable,” said Thew, who mentioned that one of the biggest challenges was working with three burros, or donkeys, that the scouts brought along to carry some of their hiking supplies. One of the burros was young, new to the trail and uncooperative.
“It’s a real test of their physical and mental endurance and how they deal with different crises,” Weible said, adding that he believes many of the scouts’ struggles in life will not compare to climbing Baldy.
“We were able to push through pain and work through challenges,” Thew added.
Weible emphasized that the hike built the confidence of many boys in the troop and encouraged them to set their goals on higher things. For many, these goals include getting their Eagle Scout, which requires each of the scouts to obtain 21 total badges, including 12 required badges, and doing a service project in the community.
The trip to Philmont was just one step of the Boy Scout journey that Troop 327 was able to experience.
“There is definitely a difference when they come back that I’ve noticed,” Thew’s mother Dee said. “More relaxed attitude about things; a little bit more tolerant.”
Indeed, the mental and physical challenge of climbing Mount Baldy and the trip to Philmont and the donation pit stop in Colorado are sure to help the boys live out the scout law.