Almost as soon as the caravan stopped at the end of the forest road, the doors popped open and Scouts, dads, and a lot of backpacking equipment and fluorescent-orange life jackets came tumbling out of the cars and trucks. In no time at all the Scouts were lined up, drawing their allotment of food to carry, and stuffing it into their packs. Everyone seemed to know his duty and how to perform it. The few dads who were along to help were impressed with the organization. In fact, the only person not surprised by all this super efficiency performed by 12- and 13-year-old boys was their Scoutmaster, Nob Wimmer.
For Brother Wimmer this trip with the American Fork Utah 14th Ward Scouts was only one of hundreds of Scouting outings he has participated in during his 25 years of Scouting experience.
When asked how he got 12- and 13-year-old boys to perform much beyond their years, he commented on his philosophy:
“The age of the boys isn’t that critical. With cooperation you’d be surprised what even young boys can accomplish. There are three elements that do seem to make for a great trip. First, you need to plan well in advance. Second, a trip needs to require effort from everyone. Preferably the work starts a long time before the trip. If it does, the people involved get more excited about the actual event, they learn more, and they improve their teamwork. Then when we have taken care of all the variables that we can control, the third element of a great trip often comes into play. This is the element of surprise—the unexpected or the unusual happening that really makes the event stay alive in people’s minds long after the trip is over.”
To the 35 Scouts and adults who went, the trip was a success. They had been planning for months; each of them knew his duties and how to carry them out. They had also been working very hard to get ready. They learned how to handle canoes. They conditioned themselves to their backpacks, and many of the Scouts invested extra hours in learning to tie fishing flies. They worked one evening a week with Brother Wimmer learning how to do it, and then they tied quantities of flies in anticipation of the trip. In addition, every meal of the five-day camp was carefully planned in advance. Then, a few days before the trip, the food was bought and repacked so it would be easier to carry. They used off-the-shelf grocery items rather than the more expensive dehydrated backpacking foods. They even made their own oven-dried jerky to save on weight and expense.
Once the gear was out of the vehicles and strapped on backs, everyone started up the trail together. The few miles to the lake seemed more like a dozen since each person not only had to carry his own personal gear but also had to take a turn helping to carry one of the canoes.
At the lake, supplies and Scouts were ferried across the water to a lovely campsite. Scouts built simple, plastic-covered shelters under the pines, and had camp completely set up and organized in time to take in an evening’s fishing.
It was easy to get to sleep that first night. David Miller, however, woke up in the middle of the night with a creepy feeling that he wasn’t alone in his bag.
“I thought I felt something in my bag. I lay still for a while, and pretty soon whatever it was began running down my back. I grabbed it between the folds of my sleeping bag, got out of the bag, and woke my father. He helped me brush it out. It was a little squirrel, and it seemed as glad to be out of the bag as I was.”
The next morning Bishop Bean found fresh moose tracks around his sleeping bag, and there were deer tracks all through camp. After that everyone kept watch for the abundant wildlife in the area. Every morning and evening they were able to watch moose saunter down to the lake for a drink and a swim.
“The wildlife provided the unusual and the unexpected on this trip,” said Brother Wimmer. “Each day most of the boys got to see deer and moose in their natural setting. The animals didn’t even seem frightened of us. We didn’t bother them, and they seemed content to let us share their lake for a few days.”
Everyone caught some fish, and even one boy who had been cool on the trip in the first place had a terrific time. He told the leaders when they were planning the trip, “I don’t want to go up in the woods somewhere and play cowboys and Indians.”
“He sure got interested when the fish started biting,” said Bishop Bean. Like the rest of the boys, he had set goals he wanted to accomplish on this trip. Each boy became more proficient at some skill, and they were all better trained to operate as a group than ever before.
During lunch one day one of the adults was swatting at some of the huge horseflies that seemed to be everywhere. “These horseflies are terrible,” he said.
Brother Wimmer piped up, “Don’t say that! Nothing up here is terrible!”
“Okay, I’ll just say the horseflies are mildly aggravating.”
“Fine,” said Brother Wimmer with a smile, and then let silence complete the sermon. It was a sermon that was relived time and again as the boys later shared the memories of this experience at troop meetings and a special ward banquet in their honor.