It could be the most epic summer in Scouting history.
Ben Pycraft, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout from North Ridgeville, Ohio, will travel solo to all four BSA high-adventure bases this summer.
But, true to Scouting values, the trip isn’t all about Ben.
At each stop along the way, he’ll perform service to give back to BSA high-adventure bases, local council camps and communities.
“I started a plan of a journey that would top absolutely any Scouting experience I have had in the past,” Ben says. “I wanted to live a story that I could share and inspire Scouts who wanted to truly see an example of what it means to serve and what it means to me to be a Scout.”
Ben’s trip includes more than 8,000 miles by car. He departed June 2 in Ohio and will finish Aug. 14 at the Florida Sea Base.
The trip is built around participating in Order of the Arrow programs at each of the BSA’s four high-adventure bases. The Order of the Arrow, or OA, is Scouting’s service-focused honor society.
Alone, any one of Ben’s high-adventure trips would be an experience of a lifetime. But four in one summer? Yeah, that’s epic.
- June 2 to 4: Attend the first lodge event of a new OA lodge, Erielhonan. Ben helped start the new lodge.
- June 4 to 8: Travel from northeast Ohio to New Mexico.
- June 8 to 22: Participate in OA Trail Crew session at Philmont Scout Ranch. Trail crew includes a week of service building trail followed by a weeklong trek.
- June 22 to 28: Travel from Philmont to Minnesota along a scenic route that includes stops at the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Yellowstone National Park.
- June 28 to July 12: Participate in Canadian Odyssey at Northern Tier National High Adventure Bases. Participants spend a week restoring portage trails in Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park followed by a weeklong paddling trek.
- July 12 to 15: Travel from Northern Tier to West Virginia.
- July 15 to 29: Attend the 2017 National Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Ben will serve as a member of the OA’s communications team to write articles about participants at the Jamboree.
- July 29 to Aug. 8: Travel from SBR to Florida with stops that will include Cedar Point amusement park and Washington, D.C.
- Aug. 8 to 14: Participate in OA Ocean Adventure at the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base in the Florida Keys. Participants perform service at Dry Tortugas National Park while also getting to snorkel, kayak, paddleboard and swim.
Ben is a visual guy, so he picked up a travel journal — a blank hardcover book with inspiring travel quotes on each page. He wrote what he wanted to do and where he would go on a road trip across the country.
Then he bought a map of the United States and put a yellow push-pin in each of the four high-adventure bases. Red push-pins marked other landmarks he wanted to see along the way. Among the places marked in red: the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the Grand Canyon in Arizona and the National Scouting Museum in Texas.
“I spent the evening mapping out this visual of this route I would take and how far apart each high-adventure trip would have to be to incorporate rest, travel and pit-stop time,” Ben says. “After a week of editing and restarting, I finally had a route that fell perfectly along three different OA High Adventure sessions that would also let me be able to be at Jamboree.”
With the four primary stops set in stone, Ben’s dream was becoming more and more real. He used Google Maps to predict driving distances and routes between each high-adventure base.
Ben says he looked at the Guide to Safe Scouting’s recommendations on driving time and will follow its rule about a maximum of 10 hours of driving in one 24-hour period.
“Although it would have been easier, I wanted to hold myself to those standards so that I could serve as an example to Scouts,” he says.
Each of Ben’s driving days ends at a Boy Scout camp where he’s arranged to stay the night.
“I plan to rest at these select camps and provide my support of their program for a few hours before I hit the road again — in thanks to supporting me with a safe place to sleep for the night,” he says.
Ben’s gear needs will vary from one high-adventure base to the next. You don’t take the same things backpacking through New Mexico that you’ll need canoeing through Canada.
That’s why Ben settled on driving from base to base instead of trying it by plane or train.
“Having that ‘base of operations’ in my car where I can store more clothes, gear and other necessities to be swapped out between treks was important to me,” he says.
His car will store paperwork and forms needed at each stop. His trunk will house a camp washing machine he built using a 5-gallon bucket and plunger.
This trip is shaping up to be the highlight of Ben’s Scouting career. But how did he get here?
Ben was never in Cub Scouts. He joined Scouting in 2010 when he was in the sixth grade. Ben’s first position of responsibility was Troop Guide — meaning he’d help younger Scouts learn the ropes.
Ben loved this job “because I got to work with the new Scouts,” he says. “It was the first opportunity in my life that I realized I was actively an example to others.”
He served as senior patrol leader, junior assistant Scoutmaster and another term as Troop Guide. He was super-active, attending pretty much every troop event.
At age 16, a troubling thought hit Ben: “I’ve already done everything there is to do in Scouting.”
But then he joined the Order of the Arrow, and everything changed. Scouting’s National Honor Society introduced him to new leadership opportunities and fresh activities.
He’s now a Vigil Honor member of the OA and received the OA Founder’s Award.
The past few years, Ben has been pulled in a million directions with Scouts, work and school. But he says Scouting’s still his favorite way to spend time.
“I’m 19 years old, and I’ve been and done a lot of things that I would not have been able to experience if not for the opportunities that Scouting offers,” he says.
Best of luck, Ben. And happy trails.