“Text and Photos by Joshua Murdock”
By August 1, 1944, Poles in the city of Warsaw had seen more than enough. They’d lived through nearly five years of Nazi occupation, and collective outrage toward the invasive forces reached a flash point with the carefully organized Warsaw Uprising. Scouting had long been established in Poland, but the Polish Scouting Organization (ZHP) transformed into the paramilitary “Grey Ranks” upon the outbreak of war. Since the invasion of Poland by Nazi forces in 1939, Boy Scouts (among many other groups of citizens), were subject to imprisonment and mass executions. Because most of the adult men were either fighting abroad or had been killed, it was up to the remaining Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of Warsaw to become the resistance. Older Boy Scouts demolished bridges, carried out attacks against Nazi forces, and assassinated Nazi commanders, while younger Boy Scouts acted as messengers and stealthily painted the Kotwica, the symbol of the Polish Resistance, on buildings and Nazi equipment.
Polish Girl Scouts acted as baby sitters for mothers working in hospitals, helped collect medical supplies, and worked in hospitals themselves. The Warsaw Uprising was strategically timed to coincide with the retreat of Nazi forces from the Soviet Union through Poland, which would theoretically bring liberation in the form of Soviet troops. But the Soviets stopped short, creating a stalemate between the Polish Resistance and the Nazi forces, and the western Allies never launched a fully coordinated effort to assist the Polish Resistance. And so, on October 2, 1944, the Polish Resistance formally surrendered to Nazi forces, thus ending the largest resistance movement of any nation during World War Two. Following the liberation of Poland by the Soviet Union’s Red Army on January 17, 1945, the country became a part of the Eastern Bloc of the U.S.S.R. The Polish Scouting Organization fled to England along with what remained of the pre-war government. With Polish refuges scattered across the globe, the ZHP became the world’s first and only national scouting organization to exist exclusively outside of its home country. Today the ZHP consists of hundreds of troops across the world, each full of boys and girls with direct Polish heritage, and often with ancestral ties to the Warsaw Uprising itself. Totally separate from Boy Scouts of America, Polish Scouts master the Polish language, learn about the history of their organization and its wide intersection with that of Poland, and practice the original (non-violent) scout skills used by the ZHP during the uprising. While there is a major focus on heritage, one of the main goals of the ZHP in the U.S. is to mold youth into outstanding American citizens. “The country you live in and your fatherland – those are the two most important places,” said Zbigiew Pisanski, President of the Boy’s Division of the Polish Scouting Organization in the U.S. He explained that moral values are the “spine” of the ZHP. The organization teaches that “others have the right to think different ways,” and encourages scouts to “not only see the differences [in others], but to understand them.” From July 26 to August 8, the Polish Scouting Organization in the U.S. held a National Jamboree at Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch. More than 300 scouts 100 adults were present for the nearly two week encampment. “A big part [of the jamboree] is to keep heritage alive…” said Pisanski, “They feel pretty connected, especially to the experience.” Nearly all activities and interactions during the jamboree were conducted in Polish.
While the weekdays were filled with regular activities of the ZHP and new experiences provided by the camp’s BSA staff, Saturday, August 1, the 71st anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, was a day of contrast and conflicting emotion. The early part of the day was filled with cultural celebration, family and public visitation, and a parade for guests. But at 5 p.m., the camp sirens blared and everyone stood at attention, in solemn silence, for one minute to commemorate the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising. The same moment of silence is observed annually in Warsaw. At exactly 5:01 p.m., war games commenced around the camp, with groups of scouts playing the roles of the Nazi occupiers, citizens of Warsaw, and members of the Polish Resistance. Such games are a yearly tradition for many ZHP troops. “Putting your life not only in danger, but sometimes in sure death [sic], is the ultimate sacrifice to others,” Pisanski said, regarding the importance of instilling in Polish scouts an understanding of their past. “Giving is more than taking,” he said, “It’s a good example. We are Poles, tell us where to fight and we’ll go fight, as long as it’s [for] the right reasons.” Following the war games, scouts, leaders, and visitors assembled on the shores of Silver Lake for a ceremonial campfire. Polish Scouting Organization campfires differ from typical BSA camp fires in that there is no clapping, no eating, and no drinking – only traditional songs, unity, heritage, and somber remembrance of the past that molded the organization into what it is today. But the past is not remembered without a hint of pride, because the Polish Scouting Organization did what no scouts had done before and what none have done since, and their bravery and thirst for justice is splashed across the pages of history.
“Text and Photos by Joshua Murdock”
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, an organization “with a singular purpose to end homelessness,” visits the Denver Area Council’s Colorado Adventure Point facility each Wednesday during the summer as part of the coalition’s Renaissance Children’s Center program. The children’s center helps more than 100 homeless and low-income families each year with child care services. Overall, the coalition assists more than 18,000 individuals, including many families and children, provides medical and mental healthcare to roughly 13,000 individuals, and typically provides housing for more than 2,300 individuals, including many families.
As a part of their comprehensive approach to combating homelessness and the toll it takes on individuals, especially children, some youths in the care of the coalition have the opportunity to visit Colorado Adventure Point, a 20,000-square-foot indoor adventure and hands-on educational facility at the Denver Area Council’s Hamilton Scout Headquarters in Lakewood, Colorado.
On one visit in early July, children from the coalition practiced their archery skills and then spent time bouldering and climbing on Colorado Adventure Point’s expansive indoor climbing wall. For nearly two hours, Adventure Executive Jesse Greaves-Smith carefully explained the nuances of safe archery to the visitors and mentored them as they practiced the skills themselves at the facility’s indoor range. On their own accord, the children from the coalition listened with remarkable attentiveness and courtesy to everything that was explained and thoroughly enjoyed the archery experience.
After their archery experience was over, the youngsters moved to Colorado Adventure Point’s multi-story indoor climbing gym for an hour of climbing and bouldering, with spotters, of course. With 12 children having to take turns between four belays and one auto-belay machine, the seven remaining youths enthusiastically encouraged their friends on the wall or paired up to boulder on the gym’s lower wall. At the end of the experience, the children from the coalition hopped on the Colorado Adventure Point bus that brought them there and headed back to the Renaissance Children’s Center, already eagerly awaiting the next week’s visit.
To learn more about the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, click HERE.
To learn more about the Renaissance Children’s Center, click HERE.
To learn more about Colorado Adventure Point, click HERE.
“Text and Photos by Joshua Murdock”
In the summer of 1915 at the Treasure Island Boy Scout Camp of the Philadelphia Council, Dr. E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson created a program through which scouts who lived the Scout Oath and Law in exemplary fashion could be recognized and could coordinate to better serve their fellow scouts at camp. 100 years later, the Order of the Arrow is officially considered the National Honor Society of the Boy Scouts of America and has more than 170,000 members across the United States.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Order of the Arrow, Arrowmen from each of the nation’s four scouting regions organized an ArrowTour – a “Centennial Experience” of the Order of the Arrow that would visit councils around each region during the summer of 2015. ArrowTour stops are open to current Arrowmen, scouts, and the general public.
On Sunday, July 26, the Western Region ArrowTour visited the Denver Area Council’s Frederic C. Hamilton Scout Headquarters in Lakewood. The Centennial Experience was based around three goals, said ArrowTour West Road Chief Michael K.: Reflect, Connect, and Discover. Exhibits showcasing the history of the Order of the Arrow allowed visitors to connect with the organization’s past, while other exhibits, along with road crew Arrowmen and local Arrowmen volunteering at the event, offered visitors a connection to the Order of the Arrow as it exists today. One of the main goals of the ArrowTour was to “get the message out there about who we are,” said Michael. The discovery portion of the mission was based off of the previous two points, he explained, “People are reflecting and connecting with the Order of the Arrow, now what can they do with the Order in the future?”
The Denver Area Council stop of the ArrowTour was unique in that it incorporated the facilities and programs offered at Colorado Adventure Point, a hands-on technical and adventure facility at the council headquarters, including indoor rock climbing and a hydrogeology stream table that modeled riverbed formation.
Chandler H. of the White Buffalo Chapter of the Order of the Arrow in Denver was the ArrowTour Chief for Sunday’s visit to the Denver Area Council. More than three months of planning culminated in roughly 40 local Arrowmen volunteers assisting the eight Arrowmen on the road crew. “It’s definitely putting a spotlight on the Order of the Arrow and the council,” he said. Chandler was pleased to see a large amount of Cub Scouts non-Arrowmen Boy Scouts learning about the organization throughout the afternoon, and he hoped that the ArrowTour stop in the council would result in more Ordeal candidates.
While many of the visitors to the ArrowTour could only learn about the history of the organization, Al Paul lived it. At 64 years old, Paul became an Eagle Scout in 1965 and was a Brotherhood Arrowman during his time as a Boy Scout with Denver Troop 201. He became involved in scouting once again when his sons became Boy Scouts in the late ’90s, after which he became a Vigil Arrowman. Paul believes older scouts often need more than simply what their troops can provide, and that, “the Order of the Arrow provides that opportunity for growth and leadership.” Paul was present at the Denver Area Council ArrowTour stop not only as a visitor, but also to help distribute gear to local Arrowmen for their upcoming trip to the National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) in East Lansing, Michigan.
Brothers Spencer G. and Trenton G. from Troop 130 in Golden paid a visit to the ArrowTour on Sunday. Spencer, 14, is a Life Scout and Ordeal Arrowman while Trenton, 11, is a recent Arrow of Light crossover who has already reached Second-Class Scout and has aspirations of someday being elected into the Order of the Arrow. Not only did they enjoy the exhibits and activities, but the ArrowTour reminded Spencer how proud he was to be in the Order of the Arrow. “I have more responsibility in my troop,” he said, “The Order of the Arrow is about being a better scout.” Spencer said he admired his fellow Arrowmen. “You can really tell the difference based on their attitude and the way they lead.”
The Western Region ArrowTour route covers more than 7,400 miles and, between the San Francisco Bay Tunnel, Rocky Mountain National Park and various wilderness areas of the west, it is the highest, lowest, and most remote ArrowTour in the U.S.. All four of the nations’s ArrowTours are planned exclusively by Order of the Arrow youth (under 21) and are a testament to “what the Order of the Arrow is capable of,” said Michael. So far, the Western Region ArrowTour has seen more than 11,500 visitors, which accounts for nearly one third of 35,000 visitors thus far nationwide.
More information on the ArrowTour can be found HERE.
“Text and Photos by Joshua Murdock”
On Fridays during the summer at Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch, most campers are freely visiting program areas to finish remaining merit badge requirements and councilors are preparing for their weekly attempt at beating the campers in Colter’s Run – a relay circumnavigating the camp. But a select group of scouts forgo the relaxation afforded by the final day of their week-long visit to Peaceful Valley and embark on a long-distance mountain bike ride as part of the Cycling Merit Badge.
Known for its beautiful views, solitude, and rolling terrain, Peaceful Valley is home to some of Colorado’s best mountain biking east of the Front Range. In fact, each spring before campers arrive, a popular mountain bike race attracting hundreds of riders is held on the trails at Peaceful Valley.
Scouts traveling to the ranch from around Colorado, and often from states as far as Texas and California, have the unique opportunity of experiencing Colorado mountain biking at its finest through the Cycling Merit Badge offered at the camp. Beginning on Monday of each week with a relatively non-technical two-mile ride, scouts ride progressively greater distances each day of the week, culminating in a 15-mile ride on the camp’s doubletrack and singletrack trails each Friday.
At 9:30 a.m. on Friday, July 3, a hot and sunny day typical of summer in Elbert, Colorado, scouts assembled at the the Fort Laramie Adventure Lodge to begin their ride. After councilors Seth, Joel, and JC checked the scouts’ bikes and made sure each scout had enough water and food for the ride, the group pedaled up the dirt road leading away from the camp and into the forests and fields to the south.
With a mixture of smooth singletrack, doubletrack, and dirt roads through fields, as well as sections of rocky, technical singletrack in the forest, the ride offered ample opportunities for scouts for practice their mountain biking skills. Some of the skills focused on included smooth pedaling technique, proper braking, and descending skills. The rockier trails gave scouts a chance to test their abilities to ride technical obstacles.
The ride took nearly four hours with stops, and the three scout councilors were nearly omnipresent – coaching, encouraging, and mentoring campers every step of the way. Carter G., of Loveland, Colorado Troop 81, said that the ride was “not too hard,” but that the advice from Joel, Seth, and JC throughout the week had helped him greatly improve his abilities. Fellow Troop 81 scout Cody A. said that even though he frequently mountain bikes, he was challenged by the distance and terrain covered on Friday’s ride.
After encircling Camp Dobbins, Camp Dietler, and Magness Adventure Camp, the group of campers and councilors returned to the Fort Laramie Adventure Lodge tired, dusty, and ready for lunch. But there was also a sense of accomplishment permeating the quieted scene of scouts stowing their bikes in the lodge. For many scouts, the ride had been the longest off-road cycling experience of their lives and some had never truly mountain biked until that week. Seth explained that scouts in the Cycling Merit Badge often feel pride in “conquering things that seem unconquerable.”
The long ride each Friday is designed to make memories, said Seth, and it did just that.
“Text and Photos by Joshua Murdock”
With more than 40 million scouts in 223 countries and territories worldwide, there is no need for one’s scouting experience to be limited to their own country, and the United States’ Rocky Mountains offer incredible scouting experiences. With that philosophy in mind, Spanish scout Nuno Munoz embarked this summer on a nearly month-long trip to the United States to participate in Rayado, a 21-day service project trek at Boy Scouts of America’s legendary Philmont Scout Ranch. During his travels home to his hometown of Salamanca, Munoz visited Denver Area Council’s Frontier District Cub Scout Day Camp to get a taste of U.S. scouting outside of Philmont.
Over the course of the trek, Munoz and seven other scouts hiked more than 200 miles through the Sangre de Cristo mountains of northern New Mexico. The crew was scheduled to reach the summit of Mount Baldy, a 12,441-foot-tall mountain that towers over Philmont, but storms in the vicinity spawned safety concerns and the crew decided not to attempt reaching the top. Despite not reaching the summit of the iconic peak, Munoz said the overall experience of the trek was “so good.”
Munoz and his crew completed service projects around the 219-square-mile ranch, including removing fallen trees from camps and clearing forest areas burned by wildfires.
This was Munoz’s first visit to the United States for a scouting function, and he was impressed by the “awesome” culture of scouting in the country. Munoz said that while the group of scouts on the trek started their adventure relatively shy and quiet, they quickly opened up to each other and became quite close. “You make friends for the rest of your life,” he said of his Rayado crew.
Friendly support was crucial on the long and rigorous undertaking, he said. A competitive runner in Spain, Munoz was still challenged by the demands of the trek. “It’s hard when you make a lot of distance in a day at altitude.”
Munoz hopes to return to Philmont in future years as a staff member.
“Text and Photos by Joshua Murdock”
Summer is in full swing in the Denver Area Council, and Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts alike are having fun at camp now that school is out! Five of the seven districts within the council held their Cub Scout Day Camps in June, while Tahosa High Adventure Base and Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch each saw their first few weeks of scout campers.
From shooting sports and leatherworking to mountain biking and scavenger hunts, scouts of all ages had a great time at camps this past month.