This summer, that meant being prepared to scale a granite dome that rises nearly 5,000 feet above the valley below and has claimed multiple lives since being opened to hikers.
Williams and Kennedy, who graduated from Walker High School in the spring, also encountered bears and a few odd humans in the woods during their 19-day road trip out west.
The knowledge they acquired on the path to becoming Eagle Scouts came in handy throughout their wilderness excursion, which they planned and paid for themselves.
“It (scouting) was pivotal. Even the knots that everybody makes fun of that are actually useful,” Kennedy said.
Their stops included Yosemite, Sequoia, Capitol Reef and Bryce Canyon national parks.
They met their first bear at Sequoia.
A cub crossed their path while they were on their way to see that giant trees that the park is known for.
“It came about 15 feet in front of us and just started scraping at a tree looking for bugs. It was really scary,” Kennedy said.
On another night, an annoying sound brought Kennedy out of his tent. He discovered a group of children clapping at two cubs that they had scared up a tree.
He quickly retreated to his campsite before the mother bear arrived.
“Then we got used to the bears. It got to be another person in the woods with us,” Kennedy said.
The highlight of the trip for the two teenagers was ascending Yosemite’s Half Dome, which has an elevation of 5,000 feet above the valley and 8,800 feet above sea level.
The last 400 feet to the summit is undertaken on two metal cables. Since 2007, two people have died on Half Dome after slipping off the cables and five others have died after falling or being struck by lightening.
Kennedy’s father, who used a GPS locator to keep track of his son because cell coverage was sketchy during the trip, wryly sent a text with the annual death tolls at Half Dome the night before their climb.
“I didn’t sleep at all that night,” Kennedy said.
The hike up Half Dome paled in comparison to the night the two spent sleeping in their Prius at 12,000 feet above Rocky Mountain National Park.
“The wind was moving the car the whole time. We found out later they have signs up everywhere that says you can’t sleep in your car,” Williams said.
Finding a campsite proved difficult more than once. On the first night of the trip, they didn’t reach their campsite until 4 a.m. and were on the road again by 5:45 a.m.
They spent only one night, the final one, indoors.
Food wasn’t given much more priority than sleep. The two survived on chow mein, granola and tuna.
“I can’t eat anymore tuna for my entire life,” Williams said.
Although 19 days alone in the wild might seem difficult for two accomplished Boy Scouts to top, they’re willing to try.
“I really want to go to Denali National Park in Alaska and do something there because that’s the primitive of primitive camping in America,” Kennedy said.