Scout Hike Teaches Leadership

Julia Sabey and Emily Tamkin

Over the summer, Boy Scout troop 204 went on a 9 day, 56 mile backpacking trip through the John Muir wilderness. The troop started hiking Saturday, August 1 and returned August 9. The John Muir wilderness is a 90 mile stretch of land on the crest of the Sierra Nevada that includes the John Muir Trail. The hike is spotted with 13,000-foot and 14,000-foot peaks, lakes and canyons and granite cliffs and mainly follows the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).

According to Boy Scout Cole Cronk, preparation is an extensive process that includes “a hundred other small details.” Although the adults “do a fair amount of the pre-planning,” said Cronk, “most of the leading is done by the youth trek leaders.”

Cronk has been with the Boy Scouts for 5 years and has been on hikes in Yosemite, Mammoth, and Kings Canyon. “I was the leader on this one. You start out a first year, second year, third year, then you go assistant trek leader,” Cronk said. “And then your 5th year, you’re the leader, so it was really different giving directions instead of taking them.” Cronk led a group of kids whose ages ranged from 11 to 16 on the Muir Trail hike.

Cronk’s favorite part of the trip was the Italy Pass. “It was the biggest pass I had ever gone over,” he said. “Getting to the top and just seeing rocks everywhere was a really amazing experience”. Cronk’s father, one of the Assistant Scout Masters on the trip, agreed. Having done the same trail as a Boy Scout almost 30 years ago, he described the trail as “a tough hike, fairly desolate, and very memorable.” Best of all, Jeffrey Cronk got to stand on top of the pass with his son, who he was proud to watch as a youth trek leader. 

“Well, this was my fifth trip, and we do practice hikes based on how many you had been on, so if you had been on two fifty milers, you subtract that from five so you only have to do a couple practices” said Cole Cronk of his preparations. Though adults were always present, youth trek leaders were ultimately in charge. According to Jeffrey Cronk, “the adult trek leader is there mostly for safety and supervision.” The youth leaders make decisions and supervise the hikers in their group.

The troop, which was split into teams of about 15, didn’t stick together at all times, instead splitting up by ability levels and hiking different trails. “Well, we knew that our treks were gonna run into each other but they actually had a really difficult trek so we weren’t sure if they were gonna be behind us, but we did see them which was really cool. We were hiking and we had just finished a pass that goes like 3000 up, then we all joined up at this lake that was the highlight of the trail,” said Cole Cronk.

One of the most valuable aspects of the entire trip, according to Jeffrey Cronk, is the leadership opportunity. Even “second years” are excited and confident for the difficult hikes, and all of the boys help the “first years” to feel more confident in their abilities. Jeffrey Cronk explained, “Leadership is not something you can read and learn from a book; it is something you have to be exposed to and have opportunities to try, fail, adjust, succeed, and practice being a leader.”

Jeffrey Cronk’s advice to a rookies: “trust the [boys who come back every year], trust yourself, trust your trek leader and go for it!”

The troop returned on Sunday, August 9, but they did not go straight home. Instead, per tradition, they met up with their families at a park in Alamo called Hap Magee. Parents brought favorite foods, and the group ate a picnic and told stories together before the boys finally returned home.