Prof. Dan White
It must have been six or seven years ago now that would put me at age twelve so thats about right. It was the trip that heralded the end of my days as a Boy Scout. You have to understand that this wasnt the only reason to leave the scouts there are numerous other reasons, its just that this was the last straw. It was my first year as a Boy Scout, but I knew what to expect because I had come up through the ranks of the Cub Scouts, or thats what I thought.
It was the first camping trip of the spring and the entire troop was there. So it was about sixty Scouts and five leaders that made their way up into the Blue Ridge Mountains that weekend. We arrived at the campsite early in the evening on a Friday. We ate dinner, set up camp, and got to bed early because the plan was to take a hike all day Saturday. I think this was the one camping trip I managed not to have a large rock under my tent, so I wasnt too sore when I had to get up at 7:00 am to help fix breakfast. There is something wrong about crawling out of a nice warm sleeping bag into the freezing mountain air, especially at that hour of the morning. I was very tempted to say screw it and go back to bed; however, in about thirty minutes, fifty other boys would be getting up and wanting their food, and you dont want to have fifty guys mad at you, especially when most of them are bigger than you, much bigger.
After an uneventful breakfast we all packed our backpacks for the day hike. I think for the most part all the packs contained was food and water; no one thought we would need much else. We must have started out around 9:00 or 10:00 on the hike; all through the morning things went great, we hiked through the forests down ravines and back up other ones. It was great, well until I stopped looking at the wonders of nature around me and noticed the sixty other people with me. I have always enjoyed the peace and serenity nature provides; however, its hard to find that when there are that many other people around you, especially when half of them show no respect to the wonders around them. Every time we would stop for a short rest, dozens of candy bar wrappers would suddenly appear on the ground and it really ticked me off. I know I should have said something, however, some of those guys were twice my size and were not the type of guys to take any shit from some twelve-year-old kid. Anyway, it was around 11:30 am that we came across a river; everyone was getting tired and hungry by this point and in need of a lunch break. So it was decided that we would cross the river, it was quite shallow and easy to cross, and continue up the river until we found an open area to have lunch in. It was about an hour before we came to a clearing that was deemed good enough for us to have lunch in. Had that clearing been another fifteen to twenty minutes up the river the leaders very well could have had a mutiny on their hands. It was then that the boys began to realize that the hike had not been planed out very well.
The first real signs of trouble began at the end of lunch, or should I say the lack of an end to lunch. The plan had been for a thirty-minute break for lunch; after about fifty minutes people began asking questions. I was not too worried at that point in time; I was enjoying the extended break, my feet were killing me. After it had been a full hour I decided I wanted to know what was going on too. I wanted to get back to camp so I could lie down. I stopped a guy and asked what was going on, why hadnt we started back on the hike yet? Thats when I found out that all the leaders were all hunched over the map, they had gotten us lost. My first reaction was to be pissed. My feet were hurting, I was tired, and I hadnt gotten enough to eat for lunch. After a few minutes of cursing at the leaders I decided that these are the people who teach the scouts, the people who bestow, on the scouts, their knowledge of the natural world and all other things about scouting, they had to know how to fix their errors. A few minutes later it seemed as though I was right. They told us that they had found a new route back to camp; the only problem was that we were on the wrong side of the river. Well in the time it took to find a place to eat lunch the river had grown considerably in size, crossing it would be no easy task. A little further up the river we found a place to cross. I must say we did an amazing job crossing that river, we had to jump from stone to stone to get across. In the middle of the river the stones had to have been eight feet apart and its not like you could get much of a running start for your jump. Im still not sure how but we managed to get everyone and all the bags across the river with out getting anyone wet. There was one jump in the middle that I just knew I couldnt make. I saw several guys make the jump but I was just dreading my turn. I was going to be the first one to jump and not make it, I would be humiliated not to mention soaking wet for the rest of the hike. When my turn came I said, "fuck it" and just jumped without hesitation and landed it with room to spare and never looked back. That, of all things, is one of the strongest memories I have of the trip.
We all got across the river safely and continued hiking back to camp. Then night fell. Once the sun had completely gone down, another halt was called and we found out that we were still lost. The leaders tried using cell phones to call for some assistance in getting us back to camp, but of course there was no signal. They tried the same with some hand held radios, but again got no response. It was somewhere in here that I fell into a walking sleep. I think a lot of us did; we were all exhausted and hungry. I dont recall many of the details from hear on out, but I know we stopped several more times and tried the radios again and again to no avail. Also, apparently at some point the leaders had a disagreement on which way to go, one of the leaders and one scout left the rest of us and tried going another route to find help. At some point after that it started to snow, but I hardly noticed, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and thats all I could do. Some time later, we heard a lot of yelling, but not me or anyone around me could make out what was being yelled nor did we really care. (We found out the next day that the scout that had gone off with the other leader had slipped and fallen down a cliff and broken his arm.) All that I remember of the rest of the night is everyone walking in silence, with only the sounds of falling feet and falling snow to prove we were still awake. At about 2:00 am I saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, our tents with a quarter inch of snow on them. I stumbled the last hundred yards to my tent, striped off my clothing, and curled up in that warm sleeping bag and immediately fell asleep.
After that ordeal, I decided that my local branch of the Boy Scouts was a fraud. The people who were supposed to teach you how to do all these things to survive in the wilderness, who give you tests on it, and who give you badges saying that you know how to do these things couldnt even do them themselves. I am sure that many, if not all, other troops in the Boy Scouts are run by people who actually know what they are doing. Its just sad that my troop was a disgrace to the Boy Scout name. And so it was that within the week I quit the Boy Scouts and joined 4-H.