This post is about Samuel’s 3-4 years spent in scouts. Hopefully you will like the photos and stories, and get an appreciation of what scouts is about and what it takes to advance.
It all started in January 2016 with our first campout at Alligator Creek with Troop 13 which was affiliated with Samuel’s school. It was a weekend of fun to show prospective boys how much fun scouting was, and it worked! I mostly remember how cold it was, realizing our cheap (and heavy) sleeping bags wouldn’t cut it!
The first real participation Samuel had in the troop was summer camp. In July 2016, 14 scouts and 7 adults headed to Camp Daniel Boone in North Carolina. It was a great escape from the Texas heat, which we later learned would be Samuel’s priority! It was a fantastic start for Samuel as not only did he have fun, he learned many of the required basic scouting skills needed for advancement as well as earning his first four merit badges (Fingerprinting, Horsemanship, First Aid and Pioneering).
Samuel participated in the color guard in August, and even got in the paper!
Having achieved his Scout rank in September 2016, he earned his Canoeing Merit Badge during a campout at Huntsville State Park
Having trained all year, Samuel completed the 2-day, 170 mile “Bike Around the Bay” on 16th October 2016, the youngest person on the ride (by far!). He was one of the top thirty fundraisers for Galveston Bay Foundation and was featured in their magazine. At the finish line on day 1, there was a “beer tent” for such fundraisers, and they went out of their way to ensure Samuel got his favorite large Starbucks! Having completed a bike maintenance class at a local Bike Barn shop, he earned his Cycling Merit Badge.
In October, camping-friendly temperatures return to Texas and the troop headed to Brazos Bend State Park where they could earn the Astronomy Merit Badge, and Samuel was able to achieve his Tenderfoot rank.
There are of course those campouts with no photos… Ours was the December campout to Big Thicket in East Texas where the scouts unknowingly hunkered down through tornado warnings with no cellphone reception, and the phone/camera was one of the casualties! Everyone dried out sufficiently for the Fall Court of Honor which was immediately afterwards.
Having achieved his Second Class rank in December, Samuel was keen to continue progressing and attended Winter Camp at Camp Karankawa south of Houston in Sweeney. The weather was kind and Samuel earned his Wilderness Survival and Orienteering merit badges, along with many of the requirements for Camping and Cooking. I attended Wilderness First Aid training for two days – it helps to be prepared in the back country!
2017 started with Samuel finishing off a planter for the Family Life Merit Badge, and it is still at our front porch today!
This was shortly followed by the Chess Merit Badge.
February was the month when the troop would collect for “Scouting for Food” and would set records each year. In 2017 the boys collected 2900 lbs for the food bank. This was followed by a return to Alligator Creek where Samuel earned his Shotgun Merit Badge, participated in a flag retirement ceremony, and earned his First Class rank, as well as the necessary chilling!
Next up was Samuel’s first backpacking campout with the troop to the Lone Star Hiking Trail in the Sam Houston National Forest (which I later caused him to loathe), he completed the Communication and Swimming merit badges, and he started serving as Troop Bugler at the Garner State Park campout which was a troop favorite.
Marsh Mania in Galveston Bay was a popular service opportunity. It involves planting sea grass in the bay to help protect the shoreline from erosion. As a combination of getting muddy and wet, it is perfect for boy scouts!
Next up was summer camp to Camp Hale in Oklahoma. I’d been organizing this but at the last minute, I got a new job which had a key meeting in Europe. Vance kindly stepped up and also took loads of photos! While many merit badges were completed (Snow Sports, Environmental Science, Weather, Oceanography and Small-Boat Sailing), the main memory is how hot it was! Samuel was busy throughout that summer with merit badges, also completing Cooking, Citizenship in the Community, Nation and World, Emergency Preparedness and Personal Fitness, and Camping. All of this before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston on Friday 25th August 2017.
In October, the troop was able to complete the Geology Merit Badge, which included going to see a live well in West Houston and get an oil sample.
Next up was the Climbing Merit Badge during a campout in November at Enchanted Rock which had always been a troop favorite.
In December, Samuel helped with Angels of Light, a Christmas outreach of our charter organization Second Baptist Church, and participated in an Introduction to Leadership Skills Training (ILST) with the troop.
That winter was particularly busy for Samuel. Before Christmas, he completed the Outer Mountain Loop, a 50-mile hike through the desert in Big Bend National Park, which completed some of the Backpacking Merit Badge requirements. After Christmas, he attended Okpik Winter Camp at the Northern Tier camp in Minnesota, where the temperature dropped to -34 degF. Both of these adventures are worthy of their own post which I will do later. Minnesota was more of a memorable experience than fun, but much was learned about how to stay warm, though why anyone would want to ice fish remains a mystery!
2018 arrived with a campout at Bovay Scout Ranch focusing on the Cooking Merit Badge, planting trees in Memorial Park, collecting 1000’s of pounds of food again for Scouting for Food. This was followed in February with the Longhorn Caverns Wild Cave Tour (unfortunately no Merit Badge 😦 ) while camping at Inks Lake State Park and serving as the Outdoor Ethics Guide .
In March 2018, Samuel participated in an OA ordeal to become a member of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s National Honor Society. In the same month, Samuel helped lead the hiking during a backpacking weekend revisiting the Lone Star Hiking Trail in the Sam Houston National Forest, and shortly afterwards attained his Life rank.
With the summer heat coming to Houston, activities switched to the water. in April 2018, Samuel completed his PADI Open Water Certificate and the SCUBA Merit Badge with Sugar Land Dive Center (that we strongly recommend). This was in preparation for a diving trip to Seabase and he has continued to love diving. He also participated in Marsh Mania again in Galveston Bay, earned the Canoeing Merit Badge during a campout on Matagorda Beach (but never again because of the sand), and the Lifesaving Merit Badge with Gigglin’ Marlin.
After a fine Spring Court of Honor, Samuel started his summer vacation with a photography course in Galveston organized by Texas A&M. As well as giving him exposure to life in a college dorm for a week, he was instructed by a professional photographer and could complete the requirements for the Photography merit badge.
Next was Samuel’s third and final summer camp. After the previous summer’s experience in the heat, the troop decided Colorado was a preferred destination. 11 scouts with four adults headed to Camp Alexander in early July 2018 and had a fantastic time. As well as completing six merit badges (Archery, Wood Carving, Mining, Search and Rescue, Leatherwork, and Rifle Shooting), Samuel enjoyed the Whitewater Rafting.
Samuel and I returned to Colorado later that summer for a 50-mile backpacking trip that completed his Backpacking Merit badge, but that will be described in a separate post. Troop activities continued with a canoeing campout on “Scout Island” in the Colorado River near Bastrop in October, followed by the Aviation Merit Badge at Lonestar Flight Museum in December.
December 2018 also brought the culmination of Samuel’s Eagle Scout project. Earlier in the year in June, he’d selected the revitalization of the deck outside C-gym at school and got it approved, but a lot of preparation work had to be performed before the project day. He worked with the school to get the wood replaced by contractors and to get approval for the color and benches. He prepared and stained a small section of the deck to ensure it would work as intended, and realized the wooden railing would need refinishing as well to match. Project day came on December 15th with kind weather, and ended with an exhausted Samuel!
The final troop campout was a weekend in January 2019 at “Swampbase” in Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Basin. After exploring the swamp by canoe for several hours, the troop slept on houseboats in the middle. It was a favorite campout for many of the boys.
On 6th February 2019, Samuel successfully passed his board of review. It would not have been possible without the tremendous support and efforts of so many other adults associated with Troop 13 for which I am tremendously thankful.
The highlight of Samuel’s scouting journey was still to come. In March 2019, a crew of eight spent Spring Break at scouting’s Florida Sea Base for a week of diving. This also deserves a dedicated post. Samuel served as Senior Patrol Leader for this trip, and learned a lot from the very experienced Divemaster who was assigned to our crew.
There were a few other activities, generally around other scout’s Eagle projects, but unfortunately this was the end of Troop 13’s outdoor program, and hence Samuel’s involvement in Scouts. We looked at possibilities in either Venturing or Sea Scouts or another troop, but nothing really fit. As hopefully this blog shows, the scouting journey sowed many seeds and Samuel has continued many adventurous pursuits, and we hope he will continue to do so.
In October 2019, Troop 13 held it’s final hurrah in the form of an Eagle Court of Honor, and of course Samuel participated. It was a fitting end to a great journey.
That was Samuel’s scouting journey. 6 ranks , 43 merit badges, 59 nights of camping, 59 service hours, 4 positions of responsibility, and countless memories. It takes a lot of effort, both from Samuel and the many adults who selflessly support the activities, but all so very worth it. I look forward to sharing about Samuel’s other adventures!