The Wilderness of Scouting: Introduction

It was the last day of camp in the canyons of West Texas. The sun rose to illuminate the brilliant red and brown textures of the canyon walls that rose around our camp. Despite the wonderful scenery that surrounded us, it had been a fairly average camp. It was at a colder time of year, so there was the usual grumbling at the coldness in the evenings and mornings. We went for a long trail hike on the second to last day, and most of the Scouts and Leaders were pretty worn out of hiking.

It was the last day, and I was a bit bummed. After coming all this way, I barely felt like I got the opportunity to experience the beautiful West Texas landscape. I wanted to go on just one more hike before we packed up and headed home, so I tried to stir up some interest among the other Scouts. To my disappointment, most decided that they wanted to hang around camp until it was time to go. There were, however, a couple of more-or-less enthusiastic volunteers that wanted to go with me. So we grabbed our hiking staffs and water bottles and headed off.

This time, I didn’t want to follow any hiking trails or paths. The other Scouts and I agreed up a very compelling mountain peak some ways off, and decided to try our luck in that direction. We didn’t regret the decision. That last hike was the highlight of the camp for us. We got to scale bright red canyon cliffs, we scrambled over large boulders, and we followed the winding paths of dry creek beds.

We never made it to the peak we had set out to climb, be we discovered lots of cool spots tucked away among the rock. There was one spot in particular that made it all worth-while. It was a flat patch of sand about ten feet square which was nestled high up into the side of an enormous canyon wall. Upon reaching that spot, we took a short break. Turning around, we could see the rugged landscape which we had just traversed stretched out before us like a picture. Miles and miles of patterns of red and brown and green mixed together like brushstrokes upon a canvas and delighted our vision and imagination.

I felt as if I could stay there all day, but the camp was coming to a close. So we reluctantly made our way back down to help load up the vehicles. That night, I slept in my own warm and safe bed at home, but I was just imagining how beautiful the stars would’ve looked if I were still up there on that cliff, sleeping with nothing but fresh air and the open sky above me.


Screenshot from 2013-03-14 23:44:02Throughout the history of Scouting, the outdoors has been considered a vitally important part of the whole program. While most Scouters these days would agree with me when I emphasize how important camping and outdoor activity is, I find that the way most Scouts consider outdoor camping to look like is very different from the picture that is painted for me by the writings of Scouting’s founders.

Inflatable air mattresses are laid down upon soil that is packed down hard by the hundreds who have traversed it before. Fires are giving way steadily to the ‘safer’ propane camping stoves. Compass and map exploration is being replaced by GPS’s and marked hiking trails.

I could continue this list for some time, but I think it is clear where I’m headed. This topic definitely isn’t a stranger to the circles of Scouters world-wide. But instead of making progress on the subject of technology in Scouting, I see the definitions becoming cloudier and more muddled, and the true wilderness in Scouting is becoming a thing of the past.

This is a subject which I have pondered for some time now, and I have come to realize that the answer to the disharmony between advancing technology and traditional Scouting can be found by a clear look at Scouting’s history and its basic principles.

I have never read this view of things anywhere else on the internet, and I would like to share the results of my studies with the Scouting world through this blog. This is the first introductory post in a series on this subject, and I very much hope that you will follow along this series and even contribute your own thoughts with a comment or two.

Please stay tuned and help me get this message out to as many Scouters as possible by sharing this blog with your friends. I am really excited about this post series, as I think this is one area that is so misunderstood these days yet is related to the life or death of Scouting.

Thank you for reading this post!

Scout On!



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3 Comments on "The Wilderness of Scouting: Introduction"

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I agree with you-to an extent. I’ve been in scouts for a while now, and my troop has truthfully never really done anything without our propane lamps, our tents or sleeping bags, and we’ve never really hiked or camped anywhere “off the beaten trail”. I think it’s partially because it’s a troop, and partially because that’s how we operate. It would be really interesting, though, to go on a campout in the wilderness with maybe some matches, food, a change of clothes, and a sleeping bag: you could sleep under the stars, travel light, and get closer to nature. Apart… Read more »
Thank you very much for your comment, Michael! I really encourage you to follow this series. I will be making a new post every couple of days. I will address several of the things you mentioned in more depth than I can do here on a comment. I will say that a lot of discomfort experienced when ‘roughing it’ can be overcome by skill and experience. Baden-Powell directly talked about this, and I explore what he said in this post: On the other hand, even though I try to improve my skill level each time I camp, there will… Read more »
Mark West
I completely agree, the trips I want to take with youth these days are not allowed maybe not because of safety but because I can’t convince parents to really go camping. Sleeping under the stars and enjoying nature is what it is all about. I live in Alaska currently and the saddest thing to me in regards to Scouting is that I haven’t had any real outdoorsy trips or backcountry trips or wilderness adventures or high adventures since I lived in Colorado. It truly disappoints me that I live in an area surrounded by State Parks and National Forests but… Read more »