One of my favorite memories from camp was teaching Wilderness Survival Merit Badge. (The worlds greatest merit badge!). As a camper I took wilderness survival merit badge and for our over night camping trip our counselors walked us several miles through the woods eventually spending the night at the old outpost. (now a campsite in White Pine).
When I started working in Chippewa in 1996 I jumped at the chance to teach this awesome merit badge. The days of long outpost treks were gone and scouts were at times allowed to do their wilderness survival campout in their troop campsite. I felt it was important that changed.
With the help of my good friend Devin Johnson and many other staff members over the years, we were able to create a truly unique and challenging experience. The campout was moved from Thursday night to Wednesday evening. We were then able to leave before dinner and better able to simulate hunger. The hikes were often 8 to 10 miles long. And most importantly, scouts were no longer able to bring a bunch of camping equipment with them. They were required to fit everything they had in their front two pockets. (I did have one scout sew tube socks into the bottom of his pockets…awesome creativity!)
One week Devin and I decided to do our campout on the island in-between Chippewa beach and foxfire. This ended up being the week we had 51 scouts in the merit badge. On Wednesday evening, a full regatta of 26 canoes headed out from Chippewa beach. The trip was only about a mile so at one point there were canoes stretched from the beach to the island.
The landing on the island was made to handle 3 or 4 canoes but with time and creativity the guys were able to get everyone to fit. It was awesome to see all these guys working together and sharing this great and crazy experience.
During these hikes we were all challenged to do more and achieve more then what we thought was possible. There were hard times and difficult hurdles but we worked hard to ensure every scout felt they had achieved more then they thought possible. The most rewarding part of the hike was the day after the hike. Hearing the scouts talk to their friends and leaders about the awesome trip they had taken, the long hike they had conquered, and the challenges along the way they were able to navigate and learn from. They were proud of their achievements and that was by far the most rewarding aspect for me.
Haha! I would love to spend just a couple more weeks teaching wilderness Survival at Tomahawk! : )