Why I Love 50-Mile Hikes

By David C. Pack

Director of LDS-BSA Relationships from 2007 to 2012

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    I love 50-mile (80 km) hikes, not so much because they’re fun but because they teach young men to do hard things.

    Most young men who start 50-milers think they’re prepared, but it doesn’t take long—just a few miles up that first ridge—before they wonder who talked them into it. That night, unlike on other campouts, they’re quiet and they go to bed early rather than stay up late talking.

    The next morning, there’s a solemn feeling in the camp—not a lot of discussion. And as the young men start their climb again, they contemplate life and death. By that afternoon they’re missing their mothers and wondering whether they’ll ever see them again.

    By the second night around the campfire, you have the most teachable, ready-to-learn, ready-to-listen-to-the-Spirit young men you will ever see. You won’t see them that way in priesthood meeting or at home or at school or on activity night. As a result, there will be an opportunity around that campfire for testimony bearing and teaching that will sink deep into their hearts and that they will remember for a lifetime.

    Such experiences require dedicated adult leaders who are willing to get out with the young men, mentor them, allow them to lead, and be there for them.

    By the last day of a 50-miler, the young men feel that they have accomplished the hardest thing they’ve ever done—and they’ve survived! They go home realizing that doing better in school and serving a mission may not be so difficult after all. The bar has been raised for them. In the process they come to love and appreciate their parents more, and they can’t wait to see them again.

    When we do and teach hard things, we bring young men to a level of competence and confidence that prepares them for the future—the opportunity to serve an honorable mission, be successful in school, become a worthy husband and father, and do other things the Lord expects of them.

    That’s why a functioning Aaronic Priesthood quorum is so important in the life of a young man. When we successfully integrate Duty to God and Scouting into an Aaronic Priesthood program, we help the priesthood quorum strengthen its young men and prepare them for the future.