Have you completed a marathon? Have you successfully climbed a 10,000 foot mountain? Have you found that tough geocache that had eluded you once or twice before? If so, then you have felt a portion of the pride and accomplishment that many young Scouts will feel when they complete "Operation Nighthawk." Coming up on May 24-26th upwards of 100 Scouting youth will venture into the woods around Walton Lake and take part in the 35th annual weekend adventure.
The highlight of "Night Hawk", as the name suggests is the 16km, night time hike, around Walton Lake. The lake is situated in the wilderness area east of Waterford and it is true wilderness with lots of wildlife. The Scouts will hike along dirt roads with no street lights and lots of shadows. There are a series of check points where the kids, in groups of 4-6, will be tested on various skills taught through the Scout program. Their biggest obstacle will be their fear. When I was a kid it was this event that helped sculpt my comfort level in the woods, especially at night. It was this event that helped me overcome my fear of being in the woods in the dark and to control my imagination.
I have been on many sides of this event. I have been a young boy who struggled to keep his fear under control as I made my way from one check point to another in the dark woods roads around Walton Lake. I have been a slightly older boy, leading the younger boys from check point to check point while still fighting my fears but trying to look "tough." I was a young man who hosted a check point and teased the young boys who came to the challenge while also building up their confidence so they could make it around the course. I was a Scout leader who tutored a Scout Troop on the skills they would need to complete the event.
At every stage it was a reciprocal relationship where everyone was gaining something positive – respect. No matter what role I was playing, I always felt a huge sense of accomplishment when the event was completed. The feeling was more rewarding as a kid when I managed to struggle through the 16km loop around the link and hike through the night and make all the check points. Even if my group didn't win the challenge, I still was a huge winner. I won a sense of self respect. I won new friendships. I won a ton of new skills and knowledge of outdoor survival. Whether it was starting a fire with 2 matches, zip lining across a river, first aid skills, or tracking skills, the check points truly provided me with assets I still use today.
"Night Hawk" is a weekend long event that tests the metal of Scout troops from around New Brunswick and beyond. This year it is celebrating their 35th anniversary and it should be a great year. If you're involved in the Scouting movement you should make the effort to register and take part.