This summer, my Varsity Scout team and I had a great experience at Teton High Adventure Base. I had six Varsity Scouts with me, two of whom weren’t actually part of my team, but their grandparents live in our neighborhood and we brought them with us. I was a little bit worried they wouldn’t fit in but during the week these boys fit in perfectly. None of the Scouts had ever had this type of high adventure experience before, so we chose three different activities to participate in.
The first thing we did was pistol shooting. I had one boy that not only had never done any shooting before, but was also afraid of guns and didn’t want to participate. After some reassuring talks, he decided that this was something that he should try.We went to the range with a staff member who taught us the basics and then we practiced. Toward the end of the range time, we decided to have a little bit of a shooting challenge. The boy that said he didn’t want to do it not only had a great time; he was actually the best shot out of the group. That was a really neat experience.
The next thing that we did was a white water trip. This same boy and a couple other boys were a little bit leary of it, but we got on the boat and started down the river.
On the river, the guide always asks if there’s somebody who wants to ride the bull, meaning that you actually sit on the front of the bow and you hang your feet outside, putting your hand in the air like you’re riding a bull. One of those boys who initially sat in the middle, didn’t want to paddle, and didn’t want to get wet, wanted to ride the bull; so we put him up there.
Of course, the staff takes pictures of the groups going past, and to see the smile on that boy’s face… He got knocked back into the boat by the water and by the end of the trip he was saying, “wow, that was fun. Can we do it again?”
Then we did low COPE. Our favorite part was the 15-foot wall and the challenge to get everyone to the top. So we took a few minutes, talked about how we were going to do it, got some of the little guys up and then talked about how we were going to the last guy up. After a few minutes and a lot of teamwork, we got everyone up to the top of the wall. I love the picture the staff took of us on the wall with our helmets on. I mean, what a team-building experience that we had together.
The last thing that we did was the high COPE course. For someone that’s afraid of heights, high COPE isn’t really something you want or like to do. I’m happy to say, however, that the two leaders, including this one, went up anyway.
Again, some of the boys said, “That looks kind of scary. I’m not sure that I want to do that.” As each boy went up, we talked them through each obstacle to the zip line at the end.
I’ve got to tell you, the thrill of watching each one of my boys come down that zip line… It convinced me to do the whole thing myself, fear of heights and all. What I learned, and the boys learned too, for that matter, is instead of looking down and being afraid, you look out.
That’s kind of like life. We had a reflection on this principle after the activity. If you look down and you think about the height and the challenge, it gets a little scary. But if you look out and you look to the future, it’s bearable. And then coming down at the end and doing that zip line, having my whole team down there at the bottom, was an incredible experience. What a wonderful team building, leadership building, bonding experience that we had together doing high adventure together as a Varsity Team.
After thirty-five years of professional service with the Boy Scouts of America, Rick Barnes retired February 26, 2016. His lifelong love of Scouting began as a Cub Scout in 1962. He entered professional Scouting in 1979, serving in Twin Falls, Idaho, Portland Ore., Rapid City, S.D., as director at Philmont Scout Ranch, and Scout Executive in Ogden and Salt Lake. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s in zoology and a master’s in youth leadership. He has been married to Elise Lever from Taylorsville since 1977. He gave this interview to the Voice of Scouting Staff in January while at a joint planning conference with staff from Great Salt Lake Council, Grand Teton Council and Utah National Parks Council.