Chase Kemper, a Duvall Boy Scout and upcoming senior at Cedarcrest High School, recently attained the Boy Scouts of America National Medal for Outdoor Achievement.
The award is rare and prestigious. According to the Boy Scouts of America website, it is “the highest recognition that a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Sea Scout, or Venturer can earn for exemplary achievement, experience, and skill in multiple areas of outdoor endeavor.”
To earn the medal, Kemper (just barely 18 years old) achieved a level of outdoorsy-ness that most people don’t get to in an entire lifetime: 211 nights of camping, 297 miles of hiking, over 200 service hours (mainly city cleanups and trail maintenance), and 202 hours afloat (while kayaking, swimming, or canoeing).
“To put this in some perspective, you only need 20 nights of camping to become an Eagle Scout,” said Jamey Tisdale, Kemper’s scoutmaster. “For three separate years, Chase got 40 or more nights camping.”
While it did take a lot of time and dedication to complete the tasks and hours required for the award, Tisdale said Kemper really just likes to be outdoors. He wasn’t necessarily trying for it.
“I haven’t really thought about the rank advancement,” Kemper said. “We thought, we could do this really easily because we’re doing a lot of this already.”
Kemper’s group, Duvall Troop 745, plans a camping trip every single month of the year.
“There is no camping ‘season,’” Chase’s father, Jaime Kemper, said.
Over the last six years, there’s only been two months that they’ve missed a trip, and one was due to a particularly bad storm out near Mt. Rainier.
Kemper’s most recent outdoor accomplishment was a 50-mile hike through the North Cascades. These kinds of trips (of which Kemper has taken many) usually last about seven days and six nights.
“Some of the days are harder than others,” he said. On one day, the group gained 6,000 feet of elevation in about two miles of hiking. “It’s really tough sometimes. But if you have fun while doing it, you’re able to overcome it,” he said.
One of Kemper’s favorite trips he’s taken with his troop is a kayaking-camping adventure to Sucia Island, a secluded location about two miles north of Orcas Island.
“It’s extremely beautiful,” Kemper said. “There are a lot of spots where you can set up a hammock and watch the sunset or sunrise.”
One impressive thing about Troop 745 is that the Scouts plan all their trips themselves, even the “high adventure” outings like kayaking trips and 50-mile hikes. They plan the routes. They think about food preparation. They figure out how much water to carry. For kayaking excursions, they even look at tide charts and current tables to ensure safety and timing of the journey.
“Things go sideways quite often,” Tisdale said. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Boy Scouts learn by doing. They learn from each other and from making mistakes. It’s a hands-on program.
“When it’s done well, it’s a chaotic mess,” said Tisdale. “That’s perfectly fine. That means it’s working out.”
Giving Scouts so much responsibility means that they learn a lot, and quickly. Even some younger Scouts have outdoor skills that surpass those of the average adult.
“We have a lot of great examples in our troop of 14-year-old boys that could lead adults in outdoor and camping activities,” Kemper’s father said.
Kemper joined the Boy Scouts in 2011 when his family moved to the Duvall area. “We decided to try it out because I didn’t know anybody,” he said.
Now that he’s aged out of the Boy Scouts (he turned 18 just a few days ago), he’ll apply to be a junior assistant scoutmaster, a position he can hold until he’s 21. After that, he can go on to become an assistant scoutmaster or scoutmaster.
“I’ll have college to deal with so I won’t be here all the time, but I’ll come back and see how they’re doing,” Kemper said.
According to Tisdale, Kemper is not only skilled at outdoor activities, he’s also great at assisting and teaching others in the troop too.
“He’s always had a tendency to look after the smallest scouts,” Tisdale said. “He’s always making sure that the little guys are getting taught and taken care of.”
While Kemper is the first in his troop to win the National Medal for Outdoor Achievement, at least three other Duvall Scouts will soon follow in his footsteps.
As for Kemper’s achievement, his scoutmaster said he is “tickled pink.”
“It’s an awesome honor and he’s worked really hard to get it,” Tisdale said. “It’s been a remarkable thing to watch.”