- Valerie Ross
Calling All Girl Scouts
Editor's Note: Valerie Ross, our founder, kicks off our blog with her thoughts and reflections on why taking girls into the wilderness is a mission worth our endeavors.
Where Girls Grow Strong
Eight of us perched on a dry patch of granite at the top of Forester Pass, a 13,000-foot giant capped with late-season snow. My group of teenaged Girl Scouts summited Whitney three days earlier and today, their climb up Forester through snow and scree felt particularly exhilarating and almost effortless.
We paused for celebratory pictures, the girls fed Goldfish crackers to the hungry John Muir Trail thru-hikers, and we laughed at the marmots feasting on blooming sky pilots tucked between the boulders. I then pointed them north where our path weaved through a massive field of slushy sun cups – a slippery, upside-down-mogul obstacle course.
We scooted and slogged along till the snow started to thin, then finally reached a dry promontory with a view so long that it might have extended all the way to the North Pole. Exhausted, we stopped to rest, and as far as we could see were mountains capped by snowy bannered peaks. One of my Girl Scouts turned to me in quiet awe, whispering, “Val, I never knew this existed.”
And I know my eyes misted up! Isn’t that exactly why I spent hundreds of hours, so many years - decades even – taking girls backpacking and showing them the back woods, the high mountains, and helping them find the mysterious places in their heads where they discover how strong, independent, self-reliant, and utterly awesome they are?
Every time we take a girl backpacking, she has the chance to make crucial connections between herself and the magnificent wilderness, learn how her actions affect the outcomes, and realize the strength of her mind and body. We can help the shortest girl stand 10 feet tall and erase the self-doubt from a teenager’s anxious mind.
It takes courage, confidence, and character to backpack through the woods. In fact, it takes enormous amounts of courage, confidence, and volunteer hours to lead Girl Scouts through the woods. By helping each other, and supporting backpack programs across California and beyond, CAGS Backpackers stand to gain the highest peaks of satisfaction – knowing their efforts helped a girl find her inner amazing self on a mountain top.
Valerie is the founder of CAGS Backpackers and a Lead Backpacking Trainer for Girl Scouts San Diego. She has backpacked for over 40 years and spent the last 20 years guiding Girl Scouts on wilderness trips.