How far would you go for the place you love?
For Clint Buxton, the answer is exact: 272 miles.
Buxton, 61, is camp director at Mount Norris Scout Reservation, the beloved Vermont camp where he served on staff as a teenager and shared great memories with his Eagle Scout son.
But when Mount Norris was forced to close for the season because of COVID-19, Buxton suddenly had a free summer.
So he decided to fulfil a lifelong dream of hiking Vermont’s Long Trail, a 272-mile path that runs the length of the state. This hike, however, was about more than testing himself on a trail renowned for its ruggedness.
It was about saving a camp he calls “home.”
“Mount Norris is in my blood. It’s an important part of who I am,” he says. “Norris is a special place, and it affects everyone who spends time there. That’s why our motto is ‘Welcome Home.’”
Buxton wanted to help the Green Mountain Council overcome a budget shortfall caused by the pandemic-prompted closures. So he pledged $2 for every mile he’d hike during the four-week journey.
Pretty soon, word got out about Buxton’s plan. When he stepped off the trail at the Canadian border, Buxton had raised $30,000 and inspired hundreds of people across Vermont.
“I’m blown away by the response,” Buxton says. “I thought this might garner some small interest among those that enjoy hiking. But the giving from folks — inside and outside of Scouting — is humbling.”
A Scout from the start
Buxton has worked as Camp Director at Mount Norris for the past four summers and has been a volunteer in the Green Mountain Council since 1993. During that time, he has been a den leader, Scoutmaster, Wood Badge course director and district Eagle Board chairman — to name just a few of his volunteer roles.
But his Scouting journey began as a Cub Scout in 1965. Buxton thrived in the program and earned the Eagle Scout Award in 1977.
That was the same year he took a summer job at Mount Norris, following in his father’s bootprints. Buxton’s dad was the first program director at Mount Norris in the early 1950s.
Knowing about this history, Buxton’s big idea didn’t come as much surprise to Mark Saxon, Scout Executive of the Green Mountain Council.
“Clint presented us with a quintessential opportunity to showcase what Scouting is all about,” he says. “Our programs kindle purpose and passions within people — and a path to setting and achieving goals and overcoming obstacles. Clint epitomizes Scouting’s call to adventure and service.”
A three-step plan
For Buxton, preparing for the journey meant more than training hikes and triple-checking each item in his backpack.
He launched a social media campaign (#BuxtonHikesLT) and a page on the council’s website to showcase the hike’s three main goals:
- Give: Families who were in a position to do so were asked make a one-time pledge or give a certain amount per mile hiked. When the final count came in, more than 100 people — including several people Buxton had never met — combined to pledge $110 per mile.
- Serve: Scouts love to give back, and these “Buxton Trail Champions” completed COVID-safe service days at Mount Norris to help prepare the camp to reopen in 2021.
- Hike: Scouts and Scouters were invited to join Buxton’s adventure by hiking in their own communities, tackling a section of the Long Trail themselves or joining Buxton for a portion of his hike. Those that hiked on their own could print a “Flat Buxton” to take along, while troops that chose to join Buxton in person were required to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing.
Dozens of Cub Scout packs and Scouts BSA troops linked up with Buxton as he progressed northward.
“The Scouts that joined me for portions of the hike were a real highlight, as that’s what it was all about — reaching the youth,” Buxton says. “Friends would often join for portions of the hike, and that was special as well. There is nothing like hiking to generate great conversation.”
‘Hawkeye’ has it
Trail names aren’t given — they’re earned.
Buxton earned his trail name, “Hawkeye,” on a 50-mile hike with his son’s Scout troop in 2003. A number of Scouts required first aid for minor injuries, and Buxton doled out the proper treatment. He says the nickname comes from Alan Alda’s character, a surgeon, on the 1970s TV show M-A-S-H.
(Though as a Marvel fan, I must point out that Buxton shares a first name — Clint — with Hawkeye, the arrow-toting Avenger played by Jeremy Renner.)
While Buxton had the company of Scout troops and other hikers for parts of his journey, he also had stretches alone.
“I had long periods of solitude, which was important for me,” he says. “Much of my alone time was reflecting on the beauty and grandeur of the Green Mountains of Vermont.”
As he reflects on the journey of giving back to the camp and council that have given him so much, Buxton turns to a quote from Philmont benefactor Waite Phillips.
It goes like this: “Nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without the will to start, the enthusiasm to continue and, regardless of temporary obstacles, the persistence to complete.”