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James E. West/OA Centennial History Of Scouting Trail (HOST) Hike Print
From Saturday, May 23 2015
To Monday, May 25 2015
Every day

Celebrate the OA Centennial in Washington, D.C.!

By Axel Anderson
History & Archives Committee
National Capital Area Council

Scout hikers from across the nation – particularly Order of the Arrow members–have the chance this year to earn a special patch and medal, and mark the OA’s centennial this May 23-25 by stretching their legs on the James E. West/OA Centennial Hike in Washington, D.C.

West was the BSA’s first and longest-serving Chief Scout Executive. He held the post from 1911-43. The James E. West/OA Centennial Hike will snake through the District of Columbia and require participants to visit sites of Scouting significance along the way. The 5.5-miles-long hike will take an estimated two to four hours to finish.

The hike coincides with a major historic Scouting event: the centennial of the Order of the Arrow.  While this year’s National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) has expanded its volume of participants, the number of registrants still has a limit. That’s where the James E. West/OA Centennial Hike comes in; those who want to celebrate the OA Centennial can do so in Washington, D.C.

In 2013, the BSA sanctioned the National Capital Area Council’s History Of Scouting Trail (HOST) program as a National Historical Trail. HOST offered two “inaugural” hikes in 2013 and 2014, the 5.9-mile Colin Livingstone and 7.2-mile Baden-Powell hikes. Livingstone was an American railroad executive and first president of the Boy Scouts of America. Every Scout should know who Baden-Powell was.

This year’s is the third and final inaugural hike. 

The inaugural hikes, always held on Memorial Day weekends, offer participants the opportunity to purchase special patches and medals after they have walked the hike, answered questions on a card, and turned the cards in at hike’s end. The patches and medals can be worn on a Scout uniform.

Past events encouraged Washington, D.C., and regional Scouts to walk the hikes. This year, participation has been expanded to include Scouts from all U.S. councils as well as international Scouts, and in particular OA members. One of the hike’s 21 stopping points will be the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall – a must-see for OA members interested in Native American culture as well as those focused on earning Indian Lore merit badge.

“This year’s History of Scouting Trail will be the third and final ‘inaugural’ hike,” said “P-B”, who prefers to be known by just his initials so Scouts can easily identify him. P-B chairs the National Capital Area Council’s History & Archives Committee and brainstormed the idea of a national trail that focuses on Scouting history, since the District of Columbia played such a vital role in the BSA’s early days. Moreover, DC is a natural setting for Scouts who want to learn about BSA history for Scouting Heritage merit badge. 

Some Scouting trivia: Troop 8 of Chevy Chase, Md., which still exists, was the first to sew unit numbers on its uniforms. And Troop 100 of Washington, D.C., which also still exists, created the first patrol patches. 

Registration for this year’s hike is just $10 -- plus one donated uniform part -- and is open until all slots are filled. To sign up, go to www.ncacbsa.org/host. The uniforms will go to inner-city Scouts in need.

More than 5,000 or so Cub and Boy Scouts and Scouters are expected to participate in this year’s hike. Each trek is considered “part history hike, part treasure hunt, and part challenge trail,” which means the hike is more than a long walk; the special patch and medal participants may purchase must be earned.

“There may be a lot more people hiking this year because more families are interested and the hike coincides with the OA centennial, and the fact that we’ll be inserting Native American culture into it,” P-B said.

The 2013 hike drew more than 3,100 participants while last year’s hike pulled in some 2,900, including 27 Girl Scout troops, P-B said. Inclusion of OA members, international Scouts, families, and those hiking other HOST hikers could boost total attendance to 5,000, he added.

For the James E. West Hike/OA Centennial Hike, 1,800 slots have been earmarked for out-of-council hikers. This means Scouts – Cub and Boy Scouts, and Venturers – who want to do the hike need to sign up quickly. 

While the HOST was launched and is administered by the National Capital Area Council, the trail is a BSA-sanctioned National Historic Trail, which means Scouts of all stripes can use the hike to earn the National Historic Trails Award.

Outside of the three inaugural hikes, any Scout or Scouter can tread any of the three trails any day of the year and earn a special patch and (noninaugural) medal. Details for the hikes can be found at www.historyofscoutingtrail.org.

“HOST is the only historic Scouting trail program in the world open 365 days a year and that is one hundred percent based on Scouting history,” said P-B.

OA members helping to staff the hike can earn service hours applicable toward their 100th anniversary OA patch. Also, OA members who visit the “Arrow Tour”, a traveling display of Order history, can earn bonus points toward that patch, which members can sew on an OA sash.

The OA will be celebrating its centennial National Order of the Arrow Conference at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., from Aug. 3-8.

Location: Washington, D.C.