Eliot Putnam

SCA 1957 – Olympic National Park

International Health Consultant

Wellesley, MA

The diary of the first-ever SCA crew tells of “15 young woodsmen” who built a new trail along the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, “swapped yarns” and vied in “glissading marathons” in their off-time. Then 16-year old Eliot Putnam started his journal exactly 57 years ago today.  Eliot would go on to travel the world with the Peace Corps, CARE, Pathfinder International and the National Council for International Health (where he served as president) promoting family and reproductive health programs in developing countries. Today, Eliot is married to Jan Everett (above), his wife of 52 years, and “happier than ever.”

Q: As a first year volunteer, did you have any inkling of what you and SCA were starting?

I had always loved the outdoors – still do – [but] this seemed to go beyond merely loving nature and giving something back. It is enormously gratifying to know that, in the intervening years, the movement has engaged so many young people in service and stewardship of the land. Programs and movements come and go, but the fact that this one has endured and prospered is a testament to the wisdom of its founders and, perhaps most importantly, to the concern that new generations have for preserving our natural world.

Q: Looking at today’s world, what concerns you most?

I find it very difficult to read stories of the disintegration of the Antarctic ice sheet, of efforts to drill for oil in the Coastal Plain of ANWR, of the depletion of elephant herds, of the depredations of oil spills. And I can get almost physically ill when reading of or hearing the dangerous drivel spouted by climate change deniers. Despite triumphs here and there, we’re on the wrong track in so many ways where climate change is concerned. My real hope lies in the idealism and efforts that will emerge from the new generation of conservationists, many of whom have been and are being nurtured by SCA.

Q: What is your most memorable SCA moment?

Working on trails, first in the highlands and then in the Hoh River rain forest, we hiked up and over the High Divide, near glaciers and snow-covered peaks, and I will never forget the cold, crisp clarity of the air as we crossed the Divide, and the stunning, magical beauty of the mountains and forests spread all about us. The diary also brought back all sorts of fun recollections, as well as plenty of things I don’t remember at all!

Read Eliot Putnam’s 1957 SCA diary from Olympic National Park

More stories from our 75,000 Members