Walter at 1969 Jamboree

Walter Underwood found the Scoutmaster blog soon after I started writing it six years ago. He’s commented frequently and thoughtfully on a number of subjects. Walter also shares  his thoughts on his own blog Most Casual Observer

I am very happy to welcome Walter as a contributor to You’ll find his experience and perspective a valuable resource – I know that they have been for me. – Clarke

I once asked my dad when he joined Scouts; he immediately answered, “On my twelfth birthday.” In 1940, you had to be 12 to join Scouts, and he continued as a Scout, an Air Scout, and a Scouter for the rest of his life. I’m not nearly as active as my dad — only one jamboree compared to his six — but I’ve had a lot of adventures.

I started as a Wolf Cub in Pack 26 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and became a Scout with Troop 26. When we moved to Indianapolis, Indiana I joined Troop 84.

As a Scout, I camped at Avondale Scout Reservation in Louisiana for five summers (despite leaving early the first year with a terrible case of poison ivy).

I attended the 1969 National Jamboree as a Scout where we received greetings from the Apollo 11 crew and gathered in the arena to watch the moon landing.

One summer during college I ran the rifle range at Worth Scout Ranch in Texas. In 2008 I returned to Worth Ranch with my son to camp with his cousins’ troop.

I married and had two sons and my family is now in Palo Alto, California. We joined Pack 14 when the boys were old enough and I volunteered as  a Den Leader and then as Cubmaster.  My wife wasn’t too sure about Cub Scouts but soon saw how much fun our boys were having. When we went on to Troop 14 she volunteered to organize the Boards of Review and has done so for the past several years. I served as Scoutmaster for Troop 14 and am now the Assistant Scoutmaster for our Venture Patrol.

Our older son is developmentally disabled and went through the Cub Scout ranks side-by-side with his younger brother, having a great time. Boy Scouts wasn’t a good fit for him, so he continued with his therapeutic horseback riding instead. As his Den Leader I learned about advancement for for special needs Scouts. I continue to be mentally awake to the fine points of advancement (to “demonstrate” first aid for shock, we don’t just talk, somebody needs to get down on the ground).

I did a lot of car camping growing up because our family took a three or four week camping vacation every summer. My wife-to-be and I went camping together before we married and have continued camping with our family.

I learned canoeing at Avondale Scout Reservation and went on to canoe the Atchafalaya River, the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers in Texas, and the Nantahala River.

I learned backpacking as a boy with Troop 26 in Louisiana and honed my skills in the Pecos Wilderness with my dad on a series of increasingly more challenging treks. Palo Alto is blessed with wonderful backpacking country, and almost every Troop 14 outing is backpacking: easier ones with the younger Scouts and more challenging one with our Venture Patrol. I’ve taken two long treks with them, a week in the Sierras and a Philmont trek.

I’ve learned a lot about packing light. When I was 16, my pared down backpacking outfit weighed around 40 pounds, now it is under 20. I teach lightweight backpacking in our University of Scouting.

I’m a ham radio operator, K6WRU, licensed as Amateur Extra, and active in our local emergency preparedness groups.

For the record here are the high points of my advancement, awards, and training: Arrow of Light, Life, God and Country, hiked the zillon-mile Vicksburg Military Park trail (twice), JLT staff, Order of the Arrow (adult, at Worth Ranch), National Camp School, Den Leader Award, Cubmaster Award, Scoutmaster’s Key, Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Wood Badge, Wilderness First Aid, Trainer’s EDGE, and Fifty Miler (as soon as our crew leader schedules an additional seven hours of conservation).

My youngest son has just returned from the World Scout Jamboree in Sweden and will be off to college in a year, but I plan to stay active in Scouting and continue having new adventures.