In 1983, Louise, a 37-year-old very shy woman read in Boy’s Life about an Outdoor Exploring High Adventure training in Lubbock Texas. It was in the spring and if you have ever been in the Texas Panhandle in the spring you know that it can be hot, sunny, rainy, windy, tornado or snowing. Louise packed her camping gear (bits and pieces borrowed from her 2 scout sons along with a new tent) into her car and headed for Lubbock (2 hours away). She knew only what she had learned at Wood badge in 1978 about “high Adventure” in the outdoors but had never experienced real high adventure in person.
The course material said it would cover climbing & rappelling, small boat sailing, camping, backpacking, snow skiing, canoe and much more. After getting lost on the Loop around Lubbock, she finally arrived at the “camp” (a park). About 8 people showed up from around the country. (They probably came to see what snow skiing in Lubbock was like).
Louise promptly lost her car keys. Thinking she had locked them in the trunk of the car, a state trooper tried to pick the lock. He succeeded in screwing up the electronic system and finally getting the trunk open. About that time, Louise found her keys in her pocket!
After a supper (of sorts) the group pitched their tents and settled in for the night. It rained and rained and rained and the wind blew, lightning struck and Louise got wet and cold. The next day was somewhat better. Small boat sailing, canoe and yes snow skiing (cross country skiing on the grass). A wall and ladder were used for climbing and rappelling. Backpacking and other outdoor skills were covered. Then everyone loaded up and went for showers at a local high school (oops!! Someone forgot to turn on the hot water heater). The showers felt really good even if they were so cold!! The crew then moved to a Scout camp (Camp Haynes) where they pitched their tents at 2:00 A.M. Cold, hungry and tired Louise settled in for the night. Like a good Scout, Louise had ten essentials for survival including tea bags and a little camp stove and water. Louise began to shake—shake like she had never shaken before. She had read about hypothermia and was afraid that was what she had because of the cold showers and long day. She knew that she had to get warm, but Louise could not light the fire that could save her life because she was shaking too much. Desperate, she crawled out of her tent and went to the first tent. Wayne, a man in his 70’s was sound asleep. Louise woke him and told him her problem. He soon realized the danger and made her some tea. Louise was soon sound asleep. Wayne knew that he had saved her life and felt very good as he dozed off. The short night was soon over. Wayne and Louise never forgot that night.
The next day was better. 250 foot cliffs and slow rappels made the day great. Soon the shy Louise was enjoying herself, but was unaware of what she was learning would help hundreds and possibly thousands of youth in Exploring and now Venturing.
Shy Louise went to one small outdoor training event in Lubbock Texas 18 years ago. That event changed her life and the life of her husband and their 2 sons. It will impact the lives of their 7 grandchildren. She went home and started a High Adventure Explorer Post. The post had as many as 250 youth. They went SCUBA diving, snow skiing, water skiing, climbing & rappelling, camping, and much more. The post was in Boy’s Life 3 times and participated in a training video. Louise was the chairperson of the outdoor cluster of the National Exploring committee. She is a dive master, Red Cross instructor, EMT, boat captain, NRA instructor in rifle, shotgun, pistol and black powder and COPE Director. She will be the first female Course Director in her council for Wood Badge.
You should realize what a really small training program in Lubbock Texas has done for Louise. It changed her life. Much like the new Powder Horn course can change the life of the Venturing crew advisor. It gives that advisor the opportunity to “taste” high adventure. It gives them confidence they need to find experts and resources to help them provide experiences for their youth.
Incidentally, Louise is Donna Louise Cunningham, one of the authors of the Ranger Guidebook and the first Course Director for Powder Horn. She currently serves on the Venturing Outdoor Committee.
The first adult training done to see if there was a possibility to do Explorer adult outdoor training was done in Amarillo Texas in September 1997. Participants came from Amarillo, Wichita Falls Texas Oklahoma and Wisconsin. It was such a success that the outdoor committee decided to pursue the syllabus. Larry & Donna Cunningham were given the responsibility of developing the syllabus. Then in March of 1998 we were told that Exploring was moving to Learning for Life and we would be in a new Division. Venturing was born. We were hard pressed to develop literature to have ready by August 1, 1998 when Venturing was officially announced at the All Hands Conference in Nashville.
The first National Powder Horn course was conducted in September 1999, 50 people attended the first course in the Philmont backcountry at Hunting Lodge. Cimarroncito was used as a program area, as well as Webster Parks, and Aspen Springs for the overnights.