Hiking With a Purpose

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The journey may be the reward, but kids these days are conditioned to focus more on the destination than anything. Students want to know if they’ll be tested on what the teacher is talking about; Scouts want to know if an activity will help them earn a badge.

I think this focus on the destination explains why many Scouts view hiking as boring and pointless. But that doesn’t have to be the case. For example, Philmont fills up every year because the hiking there has a purpose. Besides walking through incredible scenery, Philmont crews walk to program activities most days. Scouts don’t mind walking five or 10 miles if they get to race burros, climb spar poles, or pan for gold at the end of the day.

You can add a sense of purpose to your hikes back home with a little creativity. If you’re hiking in town, make the destination a favorite ice-cream parlor. In the woods, try a beeline hike, where the group tries to follow a single bearing for a given distance (working around obstacles as needed and following Leave No Trace principles).

Here are some other types of hikes you can try:

  • Geocaching Hike: In a park with lots of caches, set up a route that takes the group to a series of preselected caches.
  • Photo Hike: Every 30 minutes, stop and take pictures of your surroundings. Turn the hike into a competition for the best or most creative photos.
  • Alphabet Hike: Look for things in nature that start with each letter of the alphabet. Find them in order for an extra challenge.
  • Flip-a-Coin Hike: At each trail or road intersection, flip a coin to decide which way to go. (Be sure to carry a map so you don’t get lost!)
  • Rendezvous Hike: Have patrols follow different paths to the same destination, where you cook a meal together.
  • Night Hike: Explore the woods on a moonlit night for a different view of nature.

After a few such special hikes, don’t be surprised if your Scouts learn that the journey is the reward after all!

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