In August of 2012, my son's Scout troop planned a backpacking trek across the Spanish Peaks, a unit of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness in Southwest Montana. You can read the photo essay here.
This trek was an interesting one for me. It was one where I observed the boundless enthusiasm and excitement of crossing a rugged mountain range by one group of boys (the ones that attempted it) and the cynicism and disdain for trekking by others who had no intention of participating in a hike like this.
I struggle to develop a strong thesis for why this is (although I'm rather sure our forum members will rapidly come up with one following the publication of this article!). However, I can't help but reflect on what I believe reflect a changing culture that is inhibiting backcountry participation by kids:
- Lack of a mentor who is excited about it, and who can take them.
- Lack of family members who do it.
- Competition from other activities that might be less expensive, less hard, and more - how shall we say this lightly - beneficial for self esteem? (I find that wilderness is the ultimate smackdown for a teenager's inflated ego!)
- A culture of entitlement that keeps kids from pursuing activities that cause discomfort.
- Peer influence that redirects time to other activities (mall shopping, video games, lift served skiing...)
- Single parent families where the time constraints of work-parenting-life lessen time spent outdoors.
This certainly isn't an exhaustive list.
I have no delusion about having all the answers, or solving what is probably not the biggest problems in boys' lives.
I'm not even sure I have the desire to see "all teenage boys go into the backcountry." But the topic makes an interesting study nonetheless, especially in the context of two roles that I'm playing today: a parent and a Scout leader of teenage boys.
- The Video
- Learn More About Trekking With Scouts
- Technical Notes
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