Boy Scouts of America hike the John Muir Way
John Muir Award helps US scouts connect with Scotland’s wild places and people
Eight scouts and four leaders from Hermosa Beach Troop 860 in California hiked the John Muir Way in June 2016, following the 134-mile trail across Central Scotland from Dunbar to Helensburgh. The group completed their John Muir Explorer Award and also spent time enjoying the wildness of the Cairngorms National Park.
The scouts were inspired to visit John Muir’s birthplace and walk the John Muir Way after hiking the John Muir Trail – a long-distance route through California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains which takes in Yosemite, Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.
Along the John Muir Way, the troop met with local scout groups in North Berwick, Longniddry, Linlithgow Bridge and Falkirk, and camped in other local scout centres. This created opportunities for the group to learn about local places and Scottish customs whilst also sharing their own hiking experiences and raising awareness of the John Muir Way.
Hermosa Beach scout leader Elizabeth Kunkee said: “Meeting scouts as we hiked the John Muir Way was a wonderful way to connect with the people of Scotland. We are all full of fond memories of Scotland and we feel a deep gratitude to the many people who gave us a helping hand in planning and carrying out our adventure.”
The scouts were keen to not just to interact with Scotland’s people, but also to get to know Scotland’s wild places. Completing a John Muir Award provided a way to structure the experience, taking time to engage with nature, to leave no trace after wild camping, and to do something positive for nature by litter picking as they travelled across Scotland.
The trip was a challenge unlike any the group had previously taken on in the USA. The scouts took responsibility for mapping their route and campsites, contacting local scout groups and planning for their Award. Unfamiliar weather, rerouted paths and Scottish midges tested their resilience and ability to support each other as a team.
After completing the John Muir Way, the group travelled to the Cairngorms National Park to spend a further three days backpacking in the mountains. Alan Smith, John Muir Award Cairngorms Manager helped the scouts to celebrate their achievement at the end of their trip, presenting their John Muir Explorer Award certificates.
Alan Smith said: “It’s fantastic to see young people taking on such an adventure, in the spirit of Muir himself. By walking the length of the John Muir Way and hiking in the Cairngorms National Park, the scouts have experienced the diversity of Scotland’s wild places. It’s also brilliant to see the group achieving their John Muir Award, and hopefully inspiring the local scouts to go out and enjoy getting hands-on with nature too.”
Photographs: Elizabeth Kunkee and Al Smith.