Some of my fondest memories in Scouting and as a young man have been directly related to the times I have had in the outdoors. These were times that I spent at the mountain lakes of Western South Dakota - times that I had in the majesty of Yellowstone National Park - times I cherished in the majestic and familiar mountains of Wyoming. No matter what the setting, one thing is and has always been a constant, and that item is how the experiences had the ability to affect me personally.
I recall sitting in the wilderness and looking deep within my soul. As a young man I did a great deal of soul searching to find purpose and direction in my life. In nature I found my place, and I found my answers. Looking out over the landscapes, high mountain peaks, and tranquil waters, nature always allowed me to find that inner voice that became so important in shaping the person I am today.
Ever since the days of Henry David Thoreau's trip to Walden Pond, a certain desire to return to nature has existed in many people. Ever since then, many, like me, have turned to the magnificence of the outdoors to find their own rewards, mental and emotional. Further, we can all be thankful for the memories that we, as Scouts, have of truly experiencing the best of this magnificent realm. We can rejoice in the chances we have had to explore new areas, build new trails, and grow as men in our journeys, and we can be forever thankful for them. Never will I forget my early troop camp-outs on Casper Mountain and the times I shared playing Midnight Capture the Flag in Bear Trap Meadow. Never will I forget the chances that I had to sit next to a campfire amongst the trees sharing stories of life, and roasting, or shall I say char-broiling, marshmallows. Never will I cease to remember the times when I with my brothers laid under the stars, and explored the heavens with our eyes and dreams.
As I look forward to each summer and more experiences in the great outdoors I love so much, my excitement and enthusiasm build with each passing day. This past summer, I canoed through the boundary waters of Canada and Minnesota in the OA's Northern Tier Voyage, and climbed the peak of Baldy like so many before me on the OA Philmont Trail Crew. These are the experiences which make life worth living. Whether exploring a cave, climbing a rock face, rafting through rapids in Colorado, or simply stopping to recognize what lay around and inside me, the outdoors and nature have become my haven.