Gunnison girls take long-standing tradition to its limits
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Will Shoemaker

Proper preparation is at the cornerstone of the scouting experience. Survival skills can mean many different things — from a collaborative approach common in Girl Scouts to outdoor-based learning that defines Boy Scouts. 

Any past scout would agree that participation in the global organizations instills ethics and aptitude that should serve youth well into their adult years. In that sense, it’s difficult to fathom that two Gunnison High School girls could be better prepared for their futures. 

Born into families rich with scouting heritage, Aurora Kattnig and Joslyn Hays have pursued nearly every avenue of the scouting movement available to them over the years. 

Both are Girl Scouts, and in recent years they’ve also joined Venturing — an offshoot of Scouts BSA (formerly Boy Scouts) for both males and females age 14-21. Similar to Scouts BSA, Venturing instills skills and ethics, but adventure is the foundation of the organization.

Additionally, Kattnig recently became a Lone Scout (or Scouts BSA member unaffiliated with a troop) after deciding to pursue the rank of Eagle — the highest individual honor within the program. That decision was the result of there not being an all-female Scouts BSA troop locally — a possibility that only came to exist for the organization earlier this year. 

Hays and Kattnig also were recently inducted into Order of the Arrow, Scouts BSA’s honor society. 

Through it all, the duo has learned outdoor skills. Teamwork. And a willingness to serve.

And all of this for both girls is on top of school work and a plethora of athletic and extracurricular activities — including, for both, 4-H projects; marching band and cross country in the fall; speech and debate, Science Olympiad and rock climbing in the winter; and track and field in the spring. 

 

Doing ‘the fun stuff’

Both Kattnig and Hays got their start in scouting through Girl Scouts. Hays joined in kindergarten, and her mom became the troop leader. Initially, it was a large troop. Now, however, there are just a few members. 

Even prior to then, both Hays and Kattnig were familiar with Boy Scouts and its program for younger kids, Cub Scouts.

Hays’ mother, Sally, worked at a Boy Scouts ranch for the Denver Area Council decades ago.

And Kattnig’s older brother, John, entered Cub Scouts when Aurora was quite young. 

“I wasn’t in Cub Scouts, but I would show up at the meetings and sometimes participate,” Kattnig recalled. 

Eventually, the quest for outdoor experiences led the girls to pursue Venturing — though they took different paths. In recent years, Venturing has taken the girls to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico and Northern Tier, Scouts BSA’s opportunity to explore pristine lakes via canoe in northern Minnesota. 

“Fairly early on, I wanted to do something with BSA,” said Kattnig. “I kind of felt closer to it on a deeper level than I did to Girl Scouts.” 

When a member of the local Scouts BSA troop became injured, Hays took his place at Northern Tier two years ago. The experience led Hays to become an active Venturing member. 

“It was really cool to do those more outdoorsy activities,” Hays said. “Instead of really focusing on progressing with Boy Scouts, I just wanted to come do the fun stuff.” 

Aurora’s mom, Maria Kattnig, has enjoyed watching the girls learn and practice new adventure skills — gaining confidence along the way. 

“That has been great, to be able to have some of the same opportunities as the Boy Scouts were doing,” she said. “At Philmont and Northern Tier, you’re carrying everything you need for the week.” 

At Philmont this summer, the local Scouts BSA troop and Venturers — including three adults and six kids — embarked on a seven-day backpacking trip through the mountains with a wide assortment of activities at stops along the way.

 

Breaking down gender biases

Particularly noteworthy has been the breakdown of gender biases through excursions to Philmont and Northern Tier in which Maria Kattnig herself took part. 

“I became the mom that would sleep on the ground,” she said. “And I made sure I was not the last one out of my tent or on the trail because I didn’t want the boys to have that image later on, that a female can’t.” 

The local girls actually interacted with an all-female Scouts BSA troop at Philmont.  

Still, Sally Hays noted differences between Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts that have allowed her daughter and Kattnig to experience the best of both worlds. Scouts BSA is focused more on individual skills and merits, while Girl Scouts is more collaborative with the troop achieving awards together. 

“She’s willing to take risks in ways I’m surprised that she was,” Sally Hays said of her daughter’s experience in Venturing. “Part of it is she’s gotten to do these amazing trips with her father.” 

Having bridged both Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA themselves, Kattnig and Hays say that there is interest among their peers in following suit — but perhaps awareness that such opportunities exist has been lacking. 

“We had Girl Scout troops and Boy Scout troops and there really was no in between,” Hays said. 

Still, given their vast array of experience, they suggest to other girls first figuring out what they want to get out of scouting before pursuing a path. That could mean, if there’s enough interest, pursuing the formation of an all-female Scouts BSA troop. 

“Being a Lone Scout is great, but I think a big part of scouting is learning to work with other people,” Hays said. “Not only does it give you support, but it also can make things more difficult, which is a big learning step.”

 

(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or editor@gunnisontimes.com.)