Growing up in New Jersey, Larry Gumina had never been camping. Then he joined Scouting, and soon after he was totally comfortable spending the night outdoors with no vehicle nearby.
As he grew older, Gumina realized he had never seen a real mountain. Then he went to Philmont Scout Ranch, and soon after, he was comfortable in more challenging outdoor environments.
As he grew older still, Gumina yearned to travel outside of the United States. Then he participated in the National Eagle Scout Association’s World Explorers program and spent a week in Ecuador.
Because of all of those things, Gumina, now 27, is an accomplished wilderness guide for the Sierra Mountain Center, leading treks through the Sierra Nevada, Death Valley and White Mountains.
“I think my time growing up in Scouting and earning the rank of Eagle Scout laid a foundation for my love for the outdoors,” Gumina says.
In 2014, Gumina spent a few weeks of his summer at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the eastern Ecuador Amazon rain forest as part of the World Explorers program.
Nearly a decade later, sitting with a client around camp after successfully summiting one of California’s 14,000-foot mountains, Gumina found himself reflecting on how he got to where he is today.
That conversation inspired Gumina to reach out to NESA vice president Mike Manyak, who in turn shared Gumina’s email with me.
“Through some backtracking over the years and my career, I came to realize that I truly would not be in the place I am today without my experience as a NESA Explorer,” Gumina wrote. “I see no path that entices me more. I get to live in the mountains and guide people up, down and around all sorts of peaks, and I will have it no other way.”
During his 2014 trip to Ecuador, Gumina assisted in the installation and monitoring of an important camera trap to document the diversity of wildlife for future research. When I spoke with him on the phone last week, he was back in Ecuador, doing some exploration on his own.
Gumina says he works guiding around nine months out of the year. The rest of the time he reserves for his own treks, like this trip to Ecuador.
“It gives me time to reflect and appreciate,” he says. “The first time I was here was when NESA sent me down here for the Explorers program. It’s just kind of cool that it’s come full circle.”
After earning the rank of Eagle from Troop 140 in Middletown, N.J., Gumina became one of several Eagle Scouts to participate in the 2014 World Explorers program. That, in turn, led to an opportunity to participate in the 2014 BSA Sustainability Summit and, later, a Scouting dinner in Fairbanks, Alaska, hosted by the Midnight Sun Council.
There, he met a handful of mountaineers and what he calls “mountain-minded people.”
These were his people, he realized.
“It’s so great to be out in places where it’s hard to live if you don’t have the skills and knowledge, and to teach other people how to do that is really cool,” he says.
Exploring the world
It was during his preparation for Philmont that Gumina first experienced the thrill of leading others on a backcountry trek. He was matched up with other Scouts from his council who already knew each other, and after a few shakedown hikes, the entire group voted for Gumina to be their leader.
“Scouting is what got me outside,” he says. “Maybe I would have eventually found that anyway. But at some point, you have to be introduced to the things that you enjoy so much, and Scouting did that for me.”
Under the direction of Manyak, NESA is currently in the early stages of planning future World Explorer expeditions. For Gumina, that first trip to Ecuador was the icing on the cake of what he now realizes were the most influential experiences of his life.
“When I was going through it, it was just fun,” he says. “I didn’t realize how much I was learning at the same time. And gosh, did I learn so much.
“I use those skills every day in my life, whether I’m working or not. Having the independence to do what I do and also the understanding and confidence to be able to handle myself in positions that could be uncomfortable to some … And just understanding how to be safe and how to take care of myself.”
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