Patch of the Month: Saddleback

If the California desert continues to hold secrets, it is not because they are hidden, but because they are ignored. As we ease into fall, the thoughts of our Scout troop naturally turn inland and towards the desert.

October through March offers the best season to camp in the deserts. Days are comfortable, nights are chilly but not arctic, and enough animals are active during the day to make hiking more than a long walk.

One of my favorite places in the desert is Saddleback Butte State Park, a modest, Joshua Tree-girt peak located in the heart of a triangle between Palmdale, Victorville, and Edwards Air Force Base. The campsites were mostly primitive, but there were toilets and showers, making extended stays possible.

We had originally planned to go in February of this year, but cancelled at the last minute. The winter had witnessed a parade of great storms roll through the state that effectively ended the long drought, but also spewed flash floods across the desert floors. Given that Saddleback was accessible only by roads susceptible to flash flooding, and that we were driving in at night, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and rescheduled for March.

It was the right call. Sharing our gigantic site with another troop, we enjoyed the weekend immensely. I picked up this patch at the interpretive center at the northwest corner of the park after a short hike up from our campsite.

No doubt we will be back this way.

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Patch of the Month: National Scouting Museum

It is too easy to take for granted the forces that have created and continue to drive the existence of a scouting movement in the United States. A trip to the National Scouting Museum should eliminate any doubts about why this organization exists, and must continue to exist, as a critical part of our national youth development infrastructure.

We visited the museum in June, just as it was preparing to close and relocate from a commercial park in a Dallas suburb alongside National HQ to a brand new home. The new National Scouting Museum will be at the Philmont Scout Ranch at Cimarron, New Mexico, a place where, the organization’s leadership believes, it will be seen by twice as many people.

We didn’t focus on this during our visit. Instead we had the run of the museum, which did a brilliant job explaining what scouting is, how it is conducted, why it is delivered the way it is, and, perhaps most important, why scouting plays an essential role – as essential as school and sports – in developing young people.

If scouting, broadly speaking, faces a problem in the US, it is that we are far better about delivering these messages to ourselves than we are to people who have know little, nothing, or aught more than disinformation about the organization.

Hopefully, the process of shifting the Museum will open more doors to better exposure. I hope so. The more people who know about the organization and what it REALLY does, the better.