This is my last year with a son in Forest Park Cub Scouts. While some of my neighbors might miss having our boys sell them popcorn, the past nine years have been the most wonderful journey I never expected to take.
Over the years, Pack 109 has converted the money it has raised into overnights at museums like the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, and Adler Planetarium; we have trekked to Galena for the U.S. Grant Pilgrimage, to Springfield for the Lincoln Pilgrimage; camped at Cantigny; and when Cook County Forest Preserves opened overnight camping, we went to Camp Reinberg.
To mark my last Cub Scout trip our pack agreed to head to Starved Rock, a state park along the Illinois River, where Bald Eagles migrate every winter and waterfalls freeze on the sandstone bluffs.
Local scouts are aware that the Potawatomi people, who lived here before us, would travel via the Des Plaines River to the Illinois River to the Mississippi River. But, for this trip, we drove down I-80, which was snow filled on the way there and golden brown on the trip back.
At Starved Rock State Park, we trekked, with an unlimited supply of snowballs, to see the frozen waterfalls and wonders of the sandstone bluffs formed by glacial erosion. We spotted tracks, several frozen waterfalls and pushed our hiking limits with a promise of a lodge, built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, to warm us in the end.
Thanks, in part, to our successful popcorn sales this year, instead of camping outdoors, families spent the night in warm beds in the lodge and my family spent the night in a cabin named Kickapoo and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.
Kickapoo was one of the tribes formed by an alliance of people from the Illinois- Mississippi Valley — an alliance forged by the great Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe. He was in the process of creating the confederation of tribes along the Illinois-Mississippi-Des Plaines Rivers when he was assassinated, at Cahokia, by the Illinois Tribe. The Ojibwe, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Ottawa, Winnebago, and Potawatomi united and avenged his death by surrounding the Illinois warriors before starving them at the great rock — hence, the state park’s name, Starved Rock.
As Illinois enters its 200th year, it seemed fitting to take the Cub Scouts to Starved Rock. While my boys might only remember the extreme hike, the pool and not having a TV, the historical significance will resonate the way that experiential learning does. The power of our small Des Plaines Valley area once connected through waterways, is now connected though our State Parks, schools and highways.
Certainly, the horrific actions that can come from children or young adults who are isolated, alienated and outcaste is fresh in all our minds after the tragedy in Parkland, Florida last week.
It is so important to have many inclusive youth groups, like Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, elementary school clubs, library groups, church groups and other groups welcome a broad range of children and families. Learning to manage yourself when the hike is too long or snowballs are flying is so critical for good citizenship.
Pack 109 likes to say our Pack is funded by 4 P’s: Popcorn, Peanuts (Kiwanis), Pancakes (Forest Park Fire Department) and People. I look forward to purchasing Popcorn, Peanuts and Pancakes, and being like one of my neighbors and friends who have been the people on the outside helping us go.