Scouting and Mt. Rainier share a long history. In the summer of 1924, a series of Eagle Scout trail projects began in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. The projects received strong national interest from Scouts who came from out-of-state, often on their own dollar, to give service to the iconic parks. The directors of Mount Rainier National Park heard about the great progress at the other sites and in 1925 proposed that Scouts unable to travel to Montana and Wyoming come there instead. Participation grew as more Eagle Scout candidates saw the projects as a way to finish off their Scouting trail. In all, 350 Eagle Scout trail crew projects were completed over ten summers at Mount Rainier. Their accomplishments included building sections of the Wonderland Trail, a 92-mile trail circumnavigating the mountain that is used by thousands of people every year.
Scouts were active on the mountain, too. Two early figures in the Northwest climbing community were Troop 65 Scoutmaster Clark Schurman and Troop 1 Scoutmaster E. S. Ingraham, both of Seattle. Ingraham made 13 ascents of the mountain (the first in 1888 with John Muir) and lent his name to the Ingraham Glacier, while Camp Schurman was named for the late Scoutmaster. Scouts from both troops were monumental in establishing a number of climbing routes on the mountain itself that continue to be popular with the 10,000 mountaineers who attempt the summit each year, about half successfully.
In 1947 the Seattle Area Council acquired the Camp Snoquera, a Civilian Conservation Corps property whose name combined Snoqualmie, a local Native American tribe, and President Roosevelt's New Deal Employment Recovery Act (ERA) that paid their wages. Camp Snoquera was renamed Camp Sheppard and a permanent presence in the Mountain’s shadow was established. In the 1960’s, youth leaders from the Camp Sheppard High Adventure Base contributed to the design and construction of Camp Schurman, carrying metal roof panels and bags of mortar to 9,500’ to build the ranger hut that remains to this day.
In 2008, the ArrowCorps5 projects, conceived by the Order of the Arrow and the National Forest Service, brought together five thousand Arrowmen at five sites for five weeks. Seven Arrowmen from our Lodge, T’Kope Kwiskwis, traveled to Shasta-Trinity National Forest in California. During that summer, the staff at Mount Rainier National Park approached Camp Sheppard ranger Pat Tobin about why there was no such project at their park, and during a meeting with Lodge Adviser Jason Stewart ArrowCorps502 was born. Over the years that followed, a project slowly took shape under the direction of a dedicated group of youth and adult leaders. The team worked to build a both a unique project methodology founded on best practices and a comprehensive relationship with the National Park Service and National Forest Service.
In 2011, ArrowCorps502 brought together a hundred Scouts from around the nation came together for a week of service and fellowship. Six sites throughout Mt. Rainier National Park and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest were selected on the basis of conservation need and historical and environmental interest. As much as completing service, the project sought to develop expedition leadership skills, a sense of outdoor ethics, and a new appreciation for conservation in a way that was highly visible to both the Scouting community and the public at large. ArrowCorps502 empowered participants and staff to gain a new outlook on what they were capable of achieving and the difference they could make in their community and their world. The project was such a success that planning for ArrowCorps2014 began before the week was even over.
In the two years since the project, the impact of ArrowCorps502 has only continued to grow. Mt. Rainier National Park credits ArrowCorps502 with a substantial increase in the number of Scouts recreating in the park. T’Kope Kwiskwis received the 2012 OA National Service Award for distinguished commitment to service, one of only eight Lodges nationwide to do so. Lodge trainers traveled to the National Order of the Arrow Conference in 2012 to teach others how to plan major conservation service projects, just as they had been taught at the 2009 Conference. Two Conservation Leadership Schools in 2012 and 2013, hosted by Cascade Leadership Challenge and Crew 502, have prepared a new generation of Scout leaders for our next project, ArrowCorps2014. The legacy of Scout service that began nearly a century ago at Mt. Rainier lives on, and we are about to write the next chapter.