At Philmont, Baltimore Scouts meet the man who founded their troop

Sometimes your past comes back to haunt you. Other times it greets you with open arms.

It was the latter for Kevin Dowling this summer at Philmont Scout Ranch, where he serves as general manager.

In 1971, Dowling started Troop 918 in the Baltimore Area Council for his Eagle Scout service project. In 2016, he watched current-day members of Troop 918 visit Philmont for a trek.

And when their trek departed, Dowling was there.

“Kevin Dowling could not have known, way back in 1971, that his idea to start a new Scout troop would last and grow,” trek advisor Chris Chamberlin wrote in an email to me. “After all, without attention and support, many troops falter and fold, remaining only a memory in the minds of Scouts who had participated.”

That wasn’t the case in Troop 918, which spawned from Dowling’s Eagle project 45 years ago and has become “one of the most tradition-focused troops in the Baltimore Area Council,” Chamberlin writes.

Dowling knows a thing or two about tradition-steeped places continuing to thrive.

He serves as general manager of Philmont Scout Ranch, which means he oversees the world’s largest youth camp. Some 22,000 Scouts and leaders trek through its 140,180 acres each summer.

In July, Scouts from Troop 918 completed a 70-mile trek there. It was the culmination of nearly 10 months of training, including hikes along the Appalachian Trail.

As they departed base camp, the Scouts — David, Jeremy, Mike, Sam, Jack and Zach — were greeted by Dowling.

Then they spent 12 days climbing, backpacking, rifle shooting and exploring an old gold mine. They summited Mount Phillips along the way.

When they returned to base camp, Dowling greeted them once more. The Scouts presented one of their crew T-shirts — clean, thankfully — to their troop’s founder “as a gesture of thanks and to commemorate the successful completion of their trek,” Chamberlin wrote.

Dowling told them he was glad to know that Troop 918 is still functioning and thriving troop in the Severna Park, Md., area.

“It was a great day all around,” Chamberlin wrote.