Seventeen-year-old, Christopher Hagen isn’t the type of person to sit around but it was a bit of boredom that prompted him to explore the possibility of achieving one of the most prestigious awards from the Boy Scouts of American organization.
“I was actually kind of bored one day and looked up what other programs there were for Boy Scouts and read about how to earn this award,” he said. “I decided to go for it.”
Thursday night this affable and ambitious young man was given the National Outdoor Award, one of the highest honors a scout can achieve.
“When you consider that only two out of a hundred scouts achieve being an Eagle Scout, that’s pretty rare,” said Michael Pazdernik, a senior district executive with the Samoset Council of Boy Scouts. “But then to achieve this award, that’s quite a feat.”
Chris joined the scouts when he was 11 years old and reveled in all the activities the organization had to offer. He was soon earning patches to sew onto his uniform and by 2012 had met all the requirements to become an Eagle Scout.
“At that point I thought I had gone as far as I could go,” he said. “But I love being involved in scouts and decided to try for this award after becoming an Eagle Scout.”
While earning the Eagle Scout honor is no small task, the National Outdoor Award presented even more challenges. The award consists of five different areas of outdoor achievements including hiking, aquatics, camping, adventure and riding.
These different achievements have strict requirements that have to be fulfilled to receive the award. Certain badges have to be earned first and then lots of time has to be devoted to specific outdoors sports.
For instance at least 50 hours of swimming, canoeing, rowing, scuba diving, sailing, or whitewater activities has to be performed in the aquatics portion. Twenty-five days and nights of camping is another requirement to meet the qualifications for the award. Chris had to learn wilderness survival, search and rescue techniques and go on a three or more day hiking trip covering more than 50 miles with all the equipment needed to live in the wilderness.
He had to take first aid classes, learn “leave no trace” methods and bicycle more than 200 miles. On many of these adventures, his dad, John was right by his side.
“My dad helped me out a lot in the activities I needed to get this award,” he said.
One of the activities the pair decided to tackle was climbing the Grand Tetons which would fulfill one of the requirements for the climbing portion of the award. Just a few weeks ago Chris and his dad were literally hanging by ropes of the side of a cliff.
“Climbing that mountain was just awesome,” said Chris. “I love to climb so for me it was really a great adventure.”
Another requirement of scouting activities is developing leadership abilities. As Chris has matured he has led Troop 660 in many community service projects. They have cleaned up and cleared area hiking trails as well as several picnic areas.
One Chris’s more memorable projects was just a few weeks ago.
“It was a three day trip where we cleaned up a hiking trail in Three Lakes,” he said. “The mosquitoes were so bad we had to wear head nets. It was just miserable trying to work with that many bugs flying around.”
But this young man rarely complains about his outdoor adventures and is always hungry for more. In fact, Chris has put to good use the skills he learned when he went for his scuba diving patch. He now has a job doing just that.
“I was hired by the Squash Lake Association to pull milfoil weeds in that lake for this summer,” he said. “It is an invasive species so our job is trying to keep it in check.”
In only a few short months this Rhinelander High School graduate will “age out” of the scouts when he turns 18. He plans on going to Nicolet College and then wants to attend UW-Madison and study biomedical engineering or become a doctor.
However, he knows what ever life path he chooses, the skills he learned as a Boy Scout will stay with him forever.
“The scouts have opened so many opportunities for me over the years,” he said. “The organization has benefited me more than I ever could have imagined.”