Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sunday Coffee 1/13

Well, here is this weeks video.  I tad bit different this week.  Had to record later in the day, so coffee wasn’t going to work.. so I had some calming Celestial Wild Berry Zinger Herbal Tea… boy did it relax.
This week I talk a bit more about shedding the pack weight and give a sneak peek at my newest gear addition.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, Just fun | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Dance of the Blue Card

bluecardThe application for Merit Badge AKA the “Blue Card, is a little piece of paper that will get even the most level-headed Scouts doing the dance of the blue card.
Just sit back and watch as a Scout realizes that he’ll be 18 in a few months.  The line dance for a visit with the Troop secretary is reminiscent of scene from Urban Cowboy.
I was recently asked about the process of the Blue Card and how we do it in our Troop.  The reader has asked to remain nameless, but I am glad that this question came up.  I can not tell you how times I have had conversations about such a simple thing, but something that is sometimes more confusing than a rubics cube.
Our reader asks;  “Anyway would you share how your Troop handles Blue Cards, from the time the Scout asks to start a merit badge and is give the Blue Card through completion and where the Blue Card goes and who handles what.”
So here it goes… I’ll let you behind the curtain of how Troop 664 does the Blue card dance.  There are actually two ways that we do this.  I will explain the regular way that we do it and then how we do it for summer camp.
First.  The Scout expresses interest in a merit badge… He picks the merit badge and goes to the Troop Secretary and asks for a blue card.
Then, the Scout fills out the Blue card.  He fills out the whole front of the card leaving only my signature space blank.  He fills out the back of the card with his name and the name of the merit badge he is going to work.  He can leave the name of the counselor blank.
The Scout then brings me the blue card and I sign the front of the blue card.  This allows the Scout to start working on the merit badge.  It also gives me an opportunity to talk with the Scout about the badge and answer any questions that he may have.  If I know who the counselor for that merit badge is, I give the Scout the information, if I don’t I have the Scout return to the Troop secretary and she will look up the counselor and give the Scout the information, phone number etc.
The Scout then works the merit badge.  The counselor fills out the card and confirms that the Scout met all of the requirements.  Once the merit badge is complete, the counselor signs and dates it and gives it back to the Scout.
The Scout will then bring the completed blue card back to me.  I then sign the card and have the Scout give the blue card to the Troop secretary.  She records the completion date and merit badge into the Troop master software and takes the first part of the card and files it with the Troop records.  The Scout gets the remainder of the card.  Most counselors do not retain their copy.
The Applicants record is stapled to the merit badge certificate as is the actual merit badge.  The Scout is presented the merit badge at the next court of honor.
That completes the Dance of the Blue card.
The only difference in this process for summer camp is this.  I will pre sign a bunch of blue cards.  I then hand them out on day 1 of summer camp.  The Scout takes the blue card and fills it out and takes it to the first session of the merit badge class.
At the completion of summer camp, the blue cards are returned from the summer camp staff to the Scoutmasters.  I sign all the completed merit badges and make a note of the partials.
During summer camp, I track the merit badges being worked daily.  I keep a chart in my notebook of who is working what badge at what time.  Then I follow-up daily at the “Scoutmaster cabin”.  The camps in our council all make daily progress reports available.  If by Wednesday, it does not look like progress is being made, I have a little chat with the Scout.  It is the Scouts decision to work the badges and I will not force or push the Scout to complete the badges at camp.  I do “Highly encourage” them to get them finished, but at the end of the week.. it will be up to him.
When we get home, I turn over all of the blue cards to the Troop Secretary and she records and goes through the same process as stated above.
So there it is.. The Dance of the Blue Card… I sure hope that helps.
Leave your questions, comments, and suggestions here on the blog or feel free to drop me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Summer Camp | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Character again…

HOFWe talk a lot about Character and making men of Character in Scouting.  We spend a great deal of time reinforcing the ideals found in the Scout Oath and Law and expect our Scouts to live those values which will lead him to a life in which he will be counted as one that has Character.
I have talked about Character a lot here in this blog and believe that if we do nothing else with these young men, we owe them the very best training in being a man of Character.
I have said it before and I will echo it till the end of time… I really don’t care if a Scout earns his Eagle as long as he develops Character.  His Character will get him much farther in life than a red, white, and blue ribbon with an Eagle suspended from it.  Having said that though, you all know that I want them all to earn their Eagle, but the Eagle award does not make the man, Character does.
I was listening to some sports talk radio today and they were discussing the “steroid Ballot” for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  Now, I am not going to bother getting into the details of the discussion and I also will not share my opinion on the ballot.. well actually I am in a round about way.
The reason that this caught my attention was that to the folks hosting the discussion made it an issue of Character.  And yes sir.. that’s what it is all about.  There was an argument that the guys that are on the ballot that used “Performance enhancing Drugs” were Hall of Famer’s before they used the steroids.. well if they were Hall of Famer’s then.. why did they need to cheat?
Mark McGuire who is the only player that actually admitted to the use of steroids said that it was important for him to “come clean” because at some point he had to look his children in the eye and explain all of this.. and that is what got my attention.
In previous posts I have explained the rule of “Saying it aloud“.  It works every time.  I really liked the idea of McGuire holding himself accountable to his kids.  That is a great rule for character.  We are all accountable to some one and we should act accordingly.
Along with the values of the Oath and Law, knowing that at some point we will have to answer for our actions should force us to act with character.  I was listening to Dennis Prager the other day, he said something that reinforced this idea.  He said he did not care how you feel.. he cares more about how you act.  This too plays a big part in curbing selfish behavior and a lack of character.  We live in an era where people feel entitled and that as long as they feel it is ok, then it is.  On the contrary, we are still accountable for our actions and at the end of the day you will have an effect on someone else.  Knowing that at some point I will have to answer for my actions and that the last people on earth that I ever want to disappoint are my children, I act in accordance with my values.  Does it always make those around me feel great.. No, but at the end of the day they can see that I acted with character.
I have made it a point to always demonstrate good character to my kids.  It has not always been the cool thing and at times it has left them feeling like I am mean-spirited or a jerk, but then they realize that I care and want only the best for them and all of us.
We often use the standard of the Oath and Law in our discussion of wrong and right.  We know that at some point we will all have to answer for a decision we make.  If more people used that standard, the world would simply be a better place.  There would not be spouses cheating on each other, there would be less crime, there would be far less Congressmen… oh I just could not resist, but seriously our leaders would be driven to make better decisions… after all they are accountable to US.. right.
So Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, and Sammy Sosa all juiced and had amazing stats in baseball… they are all on the ballot for entry in the Hall of Fame.  We don’t get a vote, but can they say they got in as a player that did not cheat?  Just because they all did it, does that make it right?  Not if you are judging based on character.  If they get in they are in and will have to continue answering the questions about steroid use.  If they don’t get in, they will still have to answer for why they did not get in.. the steroid use.  If they were actually Hall of Famer’s before they used.. they should have use McGuire’s standard of how he would answer to those that are most important.. his kids.  Personally I don’t care one way or the other if they are Hall of Famer’s.  To me, they cheated and therefore lose the privilege of being in the Hall of Fame, but then my only vote is how I look at them in regard to their character.  I judge.
As for me, I will use the values I have and the remember that one day I may have to look in my children’s eyes and answer for my actions.  That should be enough to make anyone remember that Character matters more than Eagle Medals or statues in the Hall of Fame.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Methods, Oath and Law, respect, Values | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pot Cozy

For those of you looking at a quick and easy way to make your pot cozy.. well here’s a nice video by a guy that I subscribe to on Youtube and follow in the Hammock Forums.  His name is Sean Emery, but he is known as Shug.  He is super entertaining and knows a bit about the wonderful world of Backpacking.  I dropped him a note to ask permission to use his video.. he said yes, so…. Enjoy.  I am sure you will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, comments, Cooking, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Anchoring your Tent

Here is a video I shot a while back.  The first attempt at anchoring in the video may seem not to have worked… but in the interest of time we did not allow it ‘set up’.  A regular or snow stake will stay once snow is packed and allowed to bond to the stake.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merit Badges…

mb_sashThis has been discussed before, but I received an email the other day from a Scouter in our area.  This Scouter does not know me very well, nor does this Scouter know how our Troop runs, but none the less, this Scouter sent a nice email suggesting that we do not encourage the merit badge program in our Troop BECAUSE our Troop is a “Backpacking Troop”.
Well, hmmm…  Let’s see… How do I respond to that?
There are what? 130 or so merit badges that I Scout can choose from right?  And the Scout must have at least 21 to earn his Eagle Award, right?  So there are lots of choices for the Scout to make when it comes to earning merit badges.  At some point the Scout must come to the unit leader.. that’s me… and get the blue card signed to start working the merit badge, which ever merit badge that may be.  When the Scout comes to me to get that blue card signed I sign it.
Now when it comes to encouraging.  I encourage the Scout to earn merit badges.  I have told the Scouts that while at Summer Camp, merit badges are not the reason to be there.  Merit badges are a product of Summer camp and a means to and an opportunity to earn, learn, and have fun while at camp.  So yeah, that may sound I like I don’t “encourage” the working of merit badges, but that’s really not the case at all.
I am a firm believer that advancement and merit badges are the Scouts responsibility to work.  They need our help that’s true and at times they need some poking and prodding to get going on badges and rank.  In that regard, we encourage and promote the merit badges that will get the Scout advanced.
The merit badge program is designed to do a couple of things.
1.  Introduce the Scout to many subject areas that will open his eyes to his world, skills, hobbies and activities, and career fields.
2.  Work the adult interaction method.
3.  Spark interest in the Scout while working toward a goal (advancement).
When the Scout, and leaders understand why we have merit badges, it is easier to understand that they are not the end all, be all of the Scouting program.
When I am told that I do not encourage merit badges because we are a “Backpacking Troop”  I look at the Scouter and ask if they know the methods of Scouting.  Backpacking, Front Country car camping, or Troop’s that never leave the confines of a cabin all work the methods of Scouting.  Advancement is one method and the Scout finds his pace and path to achieve his goals and work his way to Eagle.
We encourage the merit badge program but we do not spend valuable Troop time to work on them, with the exception of Camping, First Aid, and Cooking.  Those merit badges, for a troop that camps 11 times a year are all being worked over the course of the program year and are tracked at the unit level.
If the fact that we are not a merit badge mill is not a way of encouraging… well, than guilty as charged.
Now, I am going to be totally honest with you… many of our Scouts only work the merit badges that they need to advance.  That is not because we are a backpacking troop, nor is it because we do not encourage the merit badge program.  Simply put, our Scouts are having fun.  They spend time having fun at summer camp.  You will always find our Scouts extremely active at camp.  They love to compete and play games.  They spend lots of time at the water front and the shooting ranges.  If they don’t get the fingerprinting merit badge.. it’s no big deal.
We encourage every Scout to earn an Eagle required Merit Badge at summer camp.. don’t care which one… but at least one from the Eagle required list.  Most Scouts work the Environmental Science Merit Badge at summer camp.  That and First Aid seem to be the two most popular.
I don’t make a pitch for some of the merit badges that while for some Scouts are super interesting, knowing the boys of my troop are just ‘filler badges’.  Like the afore mentioned Finger printing.  Let’s face it.. that’s a 10 minute merit badge and the Scout really doesn’t learn much.  A great one for the sash, but not getting him that much closer to Eagle Scout and life skills.
I would much rather see them earn Canoeing, Sailing, Emergency Prep or Wilderness survival while at Summer camp or pretty much any other time of the year.  But that’s just me, I don’t get to force a Scout to earn a certain merit badge, nor do I get to forbid him from working one.  Finger printing, Dog care, Painting, Skating, and Reading, while all great subjects and have a purpose in teaching responsibility on some level and encouraging an interest, I can do without them in the context of Scouting.  I know that I will hear some opposing views on this and I suppose that’s why there are 100 + merit badges so there is something for everyone.  I don’t discourage any Scout from earning any merit badge that he wants to earn.  But when it comes to encouraging Scouts to earn merit badges, well, I just sign the blue card and let them go to work.
I don’t think we need to high-five every Scout that earns the Chess merit badge or the Backpacking merit badge for that matter.  They work it, they earn it, they are presented the badge and they get a handshake and a “job well done”.  We don’t have contests to see who can earn the most and we don’t look down on the Scout that earns the obligatory 21.
I am still not sure what being a “Backpacking Troop” has to do with anything.  This Scouter said that this was “The Reason” we do not encourage the merit badge program.
In closing.  The average number of merit badges that Scouts  have earned at the time they were awarded their Eagle award is 35.  Enough said.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, Cooking, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, technology | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Sunday Mornin’ Coffee 1-6

This week we talk about my pack and the small stuff in it.  We brew up a nice cup of Starbucks Breakfast blend using the Snow Peak 700 pot and the Jet Boil Press.
Thanks for watching these videos, I appreciate all the feedback and comments.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, comments, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Skills | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Prepared.. Please listen

In Oregon, when you approach a trail head that is a well used and highly frequented trail, there are signs that alert you of types of plants and animals in the area.  The signs remind you that you need to be prepared for the hike you are about to take.  Typically there is a map of the trail with significant landmarks and vistas pointed out.  These signs remind you to have the appropriate gear for the hike and in some cases ask that you register at the Kiosk.  In every case they let you know where you are and gives you information that assist you in having a great hike and not a terrible experience.  Oregon wants people to get out and enjoy this wonderful land we have, but it wants you to do it responsibly.
Yesterday a couple of ladies went for a winter stroll out in the Columbia Gorge and got lost or at least disoriented enough that they had to be “rescued”.  The Gorge is a wonderful place to hike, but like most places, the Gorge takes on new or at least different challenges in the winter.  Just getting there sometimes can be an adventure.  So if you are going to hike in the Gorge (or anywhere) in the winter.. You had better BE PREPARED.  These gals  wandered off picking up the trail and heading up to Nesmith Point.   The hike into Nesmith Point is challenging enough in the summer, but that is the hike they chose.  Now, it is fair to say that according to the News wire press release, “Both hikers have Intermediate experience climbing school training and Mountaineering First Aid and were prepared for the elements.”
The release goes on in the next update to state “The hiker’s actions and being prepared for the elements greatly assisted in their smooth and safe rescue from Nesmith Point.”  So all is well that ends well.  But the initial report stated that “the husband of one of the hikers reported he received a call from his wife who told him they were at the top of Nesmith Point and had lost the trail at some point while they were hiking.  Their footprints were covered with snow and they could not track their way back down or see the trail.”
I suppose the moral of the story is that it can and will happen to anyone.  So BE PREPARED.  I am making an assumption here that neither had a map or compass.. the reason I say that is because I have hiked that area and having a map and compass could have easily put them in the right direction and regardless of  snow and not finding the trail, they could have made their way back.  But I don’t want to beat up on them, I just want people to listen… I want our Scouts to listen and use these cases as an example of why we want them to be prepared.  It is fortunate that these two ladies were somewhat prepared and had the right attitude to make it out (with the help of SAR).
Baden Powell tells us to Be Prepared for any old thing.  When the signs remind and warn, take heed.  When the skills, attitudes, and gear is right, then proceed.  But always be prepared.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, comments, High Adventure, Motto, planning, Risk Management, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

52 to 16

Just a quick note here to introduce you to the new 52 to 16 page you will find it up on the top of the page next to the “home” tab.  It is the page I am going to use to document the 52 weeks of shaving weight.. which by the way as you can see I am calling 52 to 16.  52 weeks to get to 16 lbs.  Read more about it there.
Hope you enjoy the journey as much as I am.  By the way.. if you want to join this journey.. let’s go along together, set your goal and start in.  Let me know how you are doing and share it with us and your readers, if you have a blog too.
I’ll be using the hash tag of #52to16 to post updates and what not.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, planning, Skills | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Shaving the Weight

In my last Sunday Morning Coffee post I talked about a new segment I was going to start for this year.  That was to document the shaving of the weight from my pack in order to go lighter and more comfortable on the trail.
The segment is going to be called 52 ways of shaving weight.. or something like that.. I’m still looking for a snazzy name.  Much like the effort many online Scouters shared in the #100daystrong campaign.. anyway.. for now.. it’s 52 ways to shave weight…
Last week I ordered new stuff sacks from zpacks.  They are Cubin Fiber and super light.  The heavy of the 3 sacks I ordered weighs in at 5 grams that’s .2 ounces.  The lightest sack is 4 grams or .1 ounces.  The bag that my cook kit was in weighed 20 grams or .7 ounces.  That bag has been replaced by the 5 gram bag.  That is a net savings of 15 grams or .5 ounces.  That may not seem like a lot of weight.. but add that up over all of your gear, an ounce here and an ounce there and you have pounds.
This week I looked at my pack.
I weighed my pack.. totally empty.
It weighs in at 4 lbs.  I took every plastic stopper off of the pack and replaced them with a figure 8 knot.  Serves the same purpose (to keep the line from threading through the buckles).  The Pack is now at 3 lbs 15 ounces or 1798 grams.  I have been looking at the optional flap storage bag that clips to the pack.  While I like it for easy access, I tend to fill it with lots of small stuff.  Through this process of looking at how I pack and what I pack.. I may be able to shed that part of the pack all together.  That would add to the savings.  The lid/pocket weighs in at 257 grams or 9.1 ounces.  That would shave an additional 1541 grams off the pack.  That would bring that pack total to 3.3 lbs or 54.24 ounces.
What I am finding is that “Ultralight” backpacking is more of a philosophy of thought that it is about backpacking.  The philosophy dictates that you look at the process and the science if you will on what you take, how you take it, what you use it for, and yes… how much does it weigh.  This does not discount safety and comfort, on the contrary.. it forces one to look at how they can be just as safe and just as comfortable while backpacking with the net result being more comfortable, fresh, and pain-free when the pack comes off.
This process forces you to have a critical eye to make decisions on the gear you choose and pack.  It takes on that scientific feel as you weigh gear and make those decisions.
I found a good Excel spreadsheet online.  It is designed and built from a backpacker that frequents Backpackinglight.com.
It is a great way to build your kit, look critically at the weight of all your gear and make sound decisions.  I am finding it a great tool for meeting my goals in weight reduction and a fun way to track and measure my progress.
Here is a link to the gear list.  If this doesn’t work, drop me an email and I will send it to you.
So I am on track to shaving that gear weight.  See what you can do and let us know your progress… Also.. help me with a cooler name for the segment.  Leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, Hammock, Just fun, technology | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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