Wednesday, November 5, 2014

From the PATC to the Sierra Club - for me it's about leadership

by Brian Schwarz

I'm looking forward to improving my outdoor skills this weekend, taking a class that leads to becoming a Sierra Club Outings Leader. Part mountain survival, part Leave No Trace, part leadership, the class is set at a hostel out on the eastern edge of the Appalachian's central valley in Northern Virginia, at a spot where some of the lowest mountains of the Appalachian Range rise to lift the AT off the floor of the Shenandoah Valley.

From the PATC to the Sierra Club - it's all about becoming a better leader
As a kid, I backpacked and camped somewhere in those eastern valley hills, though I believe it was a little further south of where I'll be hostel-crashing this weekend. It was sometime around my transition to Boy Scouts when I was here before. I was a pre-teen, or really I guess I was transitioning, becoming a teen. I just remember being confused about the experience of camping and couldn't really focus on whatever it was that I was supposed to be getting out of the whole thing.

The feeling? Awkward. I hadn't been in school long enough to make friends, so I just developed a crush on my patrol leader and did anything he asked me to do, with enthusiasm. I made it through. But I ended up with chaffing in very uncomfortable spots because I wasn't that great at managing personal hygiene in a simulated wilderness environment. We slept in wet tents down by the creek, at a clearing in the woods, with a field nearby for capture the flag, somewhere with no bathrooms, just a swell in the creek big enough for group bathing.

I had no idea over time it would prove to be one of the most significant of my personal experiences growing up in terms of providing a richness, texture and framework to my life that always brings me back to concepts I learned in scouting.

Hence, the blog Man of Merit where I am trying to go back and finish all the merit badges I'd not been able to complete when I was that confused transitioning teen; I'm working to fill in the gaps as I explore the art of living in the great outdoors. First the PATC Trail Patrol Training. Now this.

I feel like I finally get it. Now I'm ready to camp.

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