It’s Good to be a Swimmer

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Passed my BSA swim test at age 54 – and while swimming in a cold pool at an altitude of 5,500 feet above sea level. Needless to say, I’m chuffed, especially given that the last 50 yards I was carrying on a conversation with the waterfront director who was testing me.

Note one of the downsides of going from “obese” to “healthy:” you lose a LOT of natural buoyancy. Swimming is easier. Floating, on the other hand…

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Home on the Range

My favorite tent ever. Retro look, seven feet long, easy up, easy down, weighs two pounds, fits into a bag the size of a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle, and set me back a whopping $52 delivered.

I should buy two.

The Kid Sleeps

While the rest of the troop curls up in their tents, our intrepid Senior Patrol Leader throws down a ground cloth, a pad, and his sleeping bag alongside his backpack, curls up, and snores contentedly. Behind him is his camp chair, to which he has tied his crutches, upon which he has neatly hung his field uniform (“Class-As”), water bottle in reach.

He’s come a very long way since our first campout together 9-1/2 years ago. Now he wants to take me backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail.  He has gone from video game couch-potato to an intrepid outdoorsman, and I give all the credit to the Boy Scouts of America and the encouragement of his teachers at school.

A little note to my friends in China and elsewhere who disparage the value of extra-academic endeavors beyond those that will polish college applications: when we slash everything out of our children’s lives but academics, we not only shortchange our offspring: we shortchange society, our nations, and the world at large.

Never in our history has it been more important to raise resilient children.

Start now.

Arrowman at Last

Ever since I was a Boy Scout in the 1970s, I have always wanted to be a member of the Order of the Arrow. The national honor society for the BSA is selective: candidates are elected by their troops from among scouts who have reached the First Class rank, and once selected are then tested in a weekend-long process called an Ordeal.

I never made it as a scout, and never expected to make it as an adult leader. Adult leaders are elected as well, but their candidacy is not automatic: adult candidates are then reviewed at the Council level for suitability and for demonstrated commitment to scouting ideals.

Quite unexpectedly this year, my name was submitted by my troop, and I was called out at a special ceremony at the April Camporee. I couldn’t even be there – I was in China on business. But I accepted (naturally) and submitted myself on June 1st for Ordeal.

The specifics of Ordeal are a closely-held secret, known only to members of the Order. Suffice to say that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in four years as a scout and nine years as an adult leader, but it was also transformative in obvious and subtle ways that continue to manifest themselves months later.

It was one of my life’s great experiences, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.

Dawn at Camp 3 Falls

This is the best time of a summer day in California’s Traverse Ranges. A trickle of sea breeze sneaks in from the West, and the desert to the east has not quite made its influence felt. At 64F at 6am, the temperature will rise one degree every twelve minutes for the next six hours, and the humidity will drop below 20% and stay there until long after sunset.

I am as yet the only one awake in camp. I sit in my chair and enjoy the cool and quiet, planning the day, grateful that kind colleagues and spotty coverage ensure that flow of emailed trivialities shan’t interrupt it.

A last coyote protests the dawn in a far hillside. A blue jay darts across my view. The yellow jackets hum in the water buckets. And the trees hum with that distinctive sound made only by a mountainside of conifers catching a rising breeze, sounding like the distant roar of a cheering crowd.

The camp stirs. Alarm clocks go off in six tents within a few moments of each other. Groans, yawns, and farts emerge from the tents long before their sources do, but the troop is waking. I pull on my Keens, straightening my field uniform, and pull my protesting bones out of my chair.

“Good morning, two thirty-four,” I say at a low baritone.

And the day in camp begins.

Cottonwood Moon

Dusk on Shabbat and Solstice in the shadow of Mt. Whitney. Lake Diaz, Lone Pine, California.

I’ve just arrived in Lone Pine from Reno after a fitful night, a full day of work and a six hour drive down US-395. The rest of the Troop is en route from Ventura, ETA long after nightfall.

I’m enjoying the peace, the sound of the birds, of the families camping across the road, and even the sounds of watercraft grabbing a few last minutes of fun before dark.

The jackrabbits are on patrol, and so are the ants. It’s a gorgeous night, and stress leaks from me.