Backpacking

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution.  You may not agree with some of what I am going to say.  Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America.  I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting.  I think it is the greatest youth program around.  But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout?  Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout.  Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story.  In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool.  I was drawn to the adventure.  I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing.  I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors.  Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp.  Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more.  Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator.  We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”.  I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit.  There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
THE PRESS.
Bad press is the only press.  That’s the story we get.  It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us.  When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it.  Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations.  We are all looking to abuse youth.  We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press.  National does nothing.  No ads on TV.  Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts?  How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir?  They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group.  It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube.  Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect.  Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy.  What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it.  Why was it not on TV?  Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media?  10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people.  A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
NERDS.
Scouting is for nerds.  Just ask your Scouts.  That’s what they will tell you their classmates think.  I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review.  One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool.  He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School.  The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked.  “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered.  “What do they think we do?”  “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff.  Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff.  Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den.  The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water.  Signal towers that you could actually climb.  Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now.  In the name of Safety?  Really?  No, in the name of insurance fear.  I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed.  We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program.  Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge.  It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys.  We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood.  Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim.  Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world.  I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10.  What was I doing?  Trying to fly.  Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire.  A great laugh and no harm done.  I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard.  I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same.  Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship.  Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience.  Our Story is still about great outdoor programs.  Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning.  Our Story is cool.  But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard.  We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout.  We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters.  We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good.  We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are.  We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are.  But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts.  We clean up and get ourselves right.  When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that.  We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods.  Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade.  We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising.  We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club.  (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping.  It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers.  They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool?  Then you need to act cool.  You need to be cool.  You need to look cool.  Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense.  I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting.  And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, fitness, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, Summer Camp, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Trekking Poles

MSRpolesI recently purchased new trekking poles, and being me, I did a lot more homework on the purchase than most folks looking for camping gear.  I have been looking for some time (since we got back from Philmont in 2012) for new trekking poles as I bent one of my trekking poles while at Philmont.  They are still usable, but collapsing them is hard now and since I have had that set for about 10 years, I figured it was time to replace them.
I looked at no less than 50 different styles, brands, and types over the past 9 months or so and finally found a pair that I really like and thought I would give them a shot.
First you may ask, what the heck took you so long?  Great question.  Like I said, I over researched them.  When looking at good high-end trekking poles, I knew that I would be committing at least $100 to the purchase.  But since I also knew that the poles I buy needed to last, after all I use trekking poles all year round and on every hike, backpacking trip and camp out,  I became real picky in the choice.
What I ended up getting is the MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Ultralight 2 section Poles.  They retail for $90, but with a Boy Scout discount and finding them on sale at a local outfitter, I paid $62.
So here are the specs:
According the packaging the SureLock ™ UL-2 trekking poles weigh in at 16.5 oz or 468 grams.  As these are MSRs “ultralight” trekking poles, I am sure that they put the heavy end on the packaging.  On my scale with the winter or snow baskets on the poles, both of them weigh in at 15 oz.  The trekking poles with the summer baskets weigh in at 14.5 oz.  The length of the poles are as advertised.  At its lowest setting the trekking poles are 41 inches long or 105 cm.  They extend to 55 inches or 140 cm.  Fully collapsed the trekking poles are 31 inches.  There are 8 adjustable holes along the trekking pole to find the right setting for you.  I personally set them at 120 cm.
Here is what I like compared to my last poles, which for the record are the Black Diamond Trail Trekking poles.  The MSR SureLock ™ poles are 2 section poles, the Black Diamond poles I have are 3 section.  This makes the MSR poles faster and easier to set up.  I really like that.
I LOVE the Positive Locking system on the SureLock ™.  The rolling bearing pins smoothly lock into place and once seated are not going anywhere.  I configured the trekking poles to my height and leaned over them with my entire upper body weight, they did not flex or pop out.  With your standard cam lock or twist friction locks over the course of a hike I always had to readjust due to slippage.
The poles have a unique design in that they are not round.  This design is called Non Rotating tri-lobe geometry, this assists with the poles not being able to rotate.  This keeps the Positive locking system in place.
The trekking poles are made of 7000 series aluminum.  This is super light and very strong.
I am very happy with these trekking poles.  They are comfortable, light, strong, and easy to use.  I can not wait to get them out on the trail.  I will shoot some video of the poles in action as soon as I can get them out.
In the mean time, I thought it would be nice to include in this post the promotional video put out by MSR on the Trekking poles so you can see them and get a better picture of what I am talking about.
As a set of poles that I have over researched and now purchased, this review as a first look leads me to be very impressed with the MSR SureLock ™ UL-2 Trekking poles.
Stay tuned for more on these Trekking poles.
Do you use trekking Poles?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, reviews | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Wrapping up

rose2013 is coming to an end and as always we tend to reflect on the past year and make promises for the coming year.
Wrapping up a year for me always brings hope for the next year and the excitement  of what it will bring.
The coming of a new year for the most part has been a welcome sight.  Each year brings challenges.  Each year brings new adventures.
Looking back at 2013 I conclude that it was a pretty good year.
I thought I would give a brief breakdown of some of the Roses, Thorns, and Buds as I wrap up the year.
Scouting.
Roses.  We had a great year in Troop 664.  We rechartered with the VFW and it is a great partnership.
2013 was the year of the Eagle Scout for us.  We watched as young men completed a great journey, only to learn that the journey was really just beginning for them in their lives as Eagles.
Summer camp was fantastic!  We had a great time at Camp Piggot.
Then as the year came to an end, I was elected for the Vigil Honor.
Thorns.  I really only have one thorn for 2013.  The affect of the Non Discrimination Policy which does not even go into effect till January.  We lost our Charter, we lost our meeting place, and we lost a great Assistant Scoutmaster and his son.  I will not beat that horse to death.. it is not going to change any minds and we have to take our loss and move on.
Buds.  This coming year will bring in a great new group of first year Scouts.  They are enthusiastic and ready for the adventure that is ahead of them.  That excites the heck out of me.
Life.
Roses.  This year our oldest son left to serve in the Army.  While we are very proud of him, that was a very hard transition for us.  I am calling it a rose because of the man that he has become.  He visited us at the end of the summer and again for this Christmas.  He and all of my kids bring great pride and joy to me and my wife.
This year we also were given the gift of the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University from my Sister and Brother in law.  It is nice to see debt dwindle away and know that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train about to run us over.
Our daughter is now enrolled in College and our youngest son is in the throws of being recruited to play college football.  Their growth has been fun to watch and they too have become great young people.
My wife and I volunteered at the High Schools Challenge day.  It was a day that made a lasting impact on my life and reinforced that which I know is right and a new perspective of young people.
Thorns. I can honestly say that this year was pretty thorn free.  Our Roses seemed to outweigh the thorns.  I did not get as much backpacking as I would have liked this year, but did end up getting some time on the PCT late in the year.
Buds.  There are many things that I look forward to in the coming year.  I am excited to see where our son ends up with his college football career.  We look forward to watching the continued growth of our daughter as she studies.  And of course we continue to be proud of our son in the Army and hope that he stays out of harms way.
I want to get more time on the trail this year.  I look forward to the fun of getting the YouTube channel going.  And I want to get my wife more into backpacking.  With the kids all grown, it is time for us to enjoy the outdoors together.
There are many more things that I look forward to in 2014, but I don’t want to bore you all.
I suppose the point of this post is share some of my thoughts and to encourage you all to go through this process for yourself.
I hope that you all had a great 2013 and 2014 looks brighter.
Thanks to all of you that subscribe to the blog.  I appreciate you.  For those of you that are casual readers… thanks for stopping by.  I hope you have been able to take something from it that will help.
As always,
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Just fun, Scouts, stories, Values | Leave a comment

Selecting your winter camp site

Start, Stop, and to be ContinuedMuch like camping in fair conditions there are principles that should be followed when winter camping site selection.  First plan ahead.  Know where you are going and try to get there with enough daylight to relax and set up camp.  Remember that it will get dark much earlier, so set your pace from the start of planning to arrive early.
When using your existing gear site selection is key.  Using your standard 3 season tent will require you to think about where you put it and how it is anchored.
Stay out of the wind.  Trees, outcroppings, and a large pine all provide protection from wind.  Watch for loaded branches of snow, and place the tent so that you are not directly under them.  Take a look up and look for widow makers and other potential hazards.
While planning take a look at the terrain on the map of your proposed location.  Avoid camping on any slope or at the bottom of any slope that would have the remote possibility to avalanche.  It is always important to learn the telltale signs of avalanche conditions.
Consider your nearest water source.  Are you going to melt snow?  If so, plan to use a lot more fuel.  Is there a nearby stream, pond or lake?  Make sure you know how to use your filter and protect your filter from the conditions.  Some filters do not work in the cold or will freeze once the water passes through it.  You need water.  That is important.  But plan ahead for your water sources.  Carrying in water is heavy unless you are pulling a pulk sled.
Cold air settles in low ground.  Avoid the bottoms of hills, camping in a valley.  Stay out of low meadows.  Finding a nice platform above a valley will be warmer and give you fantastic views to wake up to.
Be prepared to work.  You will more than likely have to prepare a tent platform, dig a cold sump, and gather fire wood.  Don’t overheat while setting up your camp.  Consider the amount of work that will go into setting camp and prioritize that work.
Leave no trace.  Yep, just because you can’t see the ground does not mean that you are not leaving an impact.  Use the leave no trace principles when selecting and staying in your winter camp.
Have fun out there.  Winter camping is great.
I’d love to hear some of your winter camping tips.  Drop in the comments section.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, planning, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , | 4 Comments

The COLD Attitude

When preparing for winter camping or camping in colder temps than you are typically used to it is important to get your mind right.
It is a must to have the right gear, train for the conditions and practice before venturing out into the cold.  But the most important thing to prepare is your attitude.
We teach that COLD means to stay clean, keep from overheating, wear your clothing loose and in layers, and stay dry.  Those things should keep your warm and comfortable while camping in the winter.  I have known people that just never seem to be warm.  They can add layers and layers and still won’t be warm.  When they are constantly cold, they dont want to be there.
I was stationed in Alaska while I served in the Army.  Before I was assigned to Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks, I was in Georgia, I think this is the Army’s idea of humor.  When I arrived in Alaska I was sent to a course called Cold Weather Indoctrination Training (CWI).  The first thing that they tought us was that we had to get our mind set to be cold.  Once we accepted the idea that it was going to be cold, we could focus on our job.  The first night of the training we took our sleeping bags and sleeping pads an went out into a near by stand of trees about 100 yards from the barracks.  We were told that we would be sleeping out there for the night.  “Trust the gear and accept the cold” the Sergeant said.  I thought I was going to die that night.  I got in my sleeping bag, wiggled around a bit, and then settled in for a nights sleep in the snow.  The guy next to me tossed and turned all night, his teeth chattered, and at about midnight he got up and ran to the building.  I remember watching him through the face hole of my sleeping bag.  I was toasty warm in the bag and would not have gotten out of that warm bag to run if the forest was on fire.  The next morning, the Sergeant came out and woke us up.  The air was crisp and it was cold.  He told us that we needed to get up and get moving.  It was like jumping into a cold pond.. you just hold your breath and go for it.  I sprang from my sleeping bag throwing clothing on as quick as I could.  Once I got my boots on and started rolling up my sleeping bag I noticed that I was not cold, I was working up a little sweat even.
We marched to the dining hall for breakfast, then right back out into the cold for more training.  The more we trained, the more I got used to the cold.  The more I got used to the idea that it was just going to be cold, the more I accepted it and it was just another thing.
I can remember my second winter in Alaska, when it warmed up to the single digits above 0, we would run around with sweatshirts and t- shirts on.  The cold was just a matter of fact.  We had our minds right.
Now, I dont want to confuse anyone by changing up the meaning of COLD.. but I remember my Squad leader came up with a new version for us to keep our minds in the right attitude for the cold temps.
C- Can’t is not an option.  When the tents need to be put up, camp chores need to be done, Can’t is not an option.. the work has to be done.  Can’t is not a phrase that gets us out of any situation.  YOU CAN be in the cold… You just have to accept it.
O- Operate with the mind set that this is a challenge I am willing to face.  Challenge yourself mentally, physically, and prepare your self for the Challenge.
People do not summit Everest because they have North Face gear and lots of money.  They accept the challenge and push themselve in the preparation.
L- Look around, you are not the only one out here in the cold.  Your buddy counts on you and you count on them.  We do this together.  When one man is not mentally prepared the whole team suffers.
D- Dont forget your training and have confidence in your gear.  Training for the enviornment settles the mind.  The less you think about the cold, the more at ease your mind is.  Just like athletes rely on muscle memory to esure that they are fundementally sound, thus they can focus on the other aspects of the game and their oppenent.   Never forget your preparation and training and you will have the right mind set.
Some of the Scouts wonder why I seem to love camping in the winter.  It is quiet, I love the crisp air, and you never have crowds.  Above all I love the challenge.  I love to test my skill and training.  I love to safely push personal limits.  I trust my gear and my training and know that I can have fun out in the winter just as much as I do in the summer.  I try to teach our Scouts those same things that I learned 30 years ago.  Just like then, I accepted the challenge and adapted to the winter conditions.  As a result I gained an appreciation for camping in the cold.  Now I love it.
Your mind is powerful and will allow you to do just about anything that you want.  As long as you trust yourself, your training (the people that trained you), and your gear, you will have an awesome time camping in the cold.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, fitness, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Motto, planning, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: | 1 Comment

Back to the Future… The Outdoor Program

If you build it they will come pt.4, The Annual PlanBoys join Scouts for the Outdoors.. they join for the adventure and fun times that they are promised.  Parents sign them up for Character development, life skills, and the values of the program.  The outdoor program is the heart of Scouting.  It is the place where the Scout learns, practices skills, develops friendships and a love for the wilderness and has fun.
I am sure by now that you have tore through the Aides to Scoutmastership… this has been a fun couple of days pouring through the writing of our founder.  The more I dig in to the book, the more I know that the organization that BP was forming was centered on the boy and that his first and foremost goal was developing them to be good men.  In the early years of the 20th century, England was a different place and boys were not allowed to just be boys.  There are so many problems with suppressing the will and spirit of the boy and BP saw the destruction of  boyhood and the effects that it has on manliness.  I fear that this is happening again and its high time to take get it back.
The outdoor program of the Boy Scouts is how we do just that.

“In spite of teachers and parents, boys remain loyal to their own world.  They obey their own code, although it is quite a different code to the one that is taught to them at home and in the schoolroom. They gladly suffer martyrdom at the hands of uncomprehending adults, rather than be false to their own code.  “The code of the teacher, for instance, is in favor of silence and safety and decorum. The code of the boys is diametrically opposite. It is in favor of noise and risk and excitement. “Fun, fighting, and feeding! These are the  three indispensable elements of the boy’s world. These are basic. They are what boys are in earnest about; and they are not associated with teachers nor schoolbooks. “According to public opinion in Boydom, to sit for four hours a day at a desk indoors is a wretched  waste of time and daylight. Did anyone ever know a boy-a normal healthy boy, who begged his father to buy him a desk? Or did anyone ever know a boy, who was running about outdoors, go and plead with his mother to be allowed to sit down in the drawing room?
“Certainly not. A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal. Neither is he a pacifist nor a believer in safety first,’ nor a book-worm, nor a philosopher.
Remember that the boy, on joining, wants to begin scouting right away; so don’t dull his keenness by too much preliminary explanation at first. Meet his wants by games and Scouting practices, and instill elementary details bit by bit afterwards as you go. “He is a boy-God bless him-full to the brim of fun and fight and hunger and daring mischief and noise and observation and excitement. If he is not, he is abnormal.”

I have made it pretty clear in writing this blog what my feelings are regarding how I think Scouting should be.  I am a believer that Scouting is done in the outdoors.  I know that there is a place and need for the merit badge program, but feel that it is over emphasized  especially the “Filler badges” like fingerprinting and skating and those types of badges.  Again, I know that there is a place and need… but sometimes I think they, and other non outdoor focused activities distract from the Scouting program.
Having said all of that…
The outdoor program provides adventure and opportunities that allow the Scout to develop skills that make them self reliant.  The Scouts classroom is in the outdoors.  That is were Scouting should happen.  Scouts plan their adventures and carry them out in the outdoors.  In short.. the outdoors is the center of the Scouting program.
The outdoor program is the fix for the boys and to Scouting.  It is where we teach our Scouts the skills and an appreciation for the outdoors and adventure.  It is were we let them play the game with a purpose and watch as they grow in leadership and we achieve the aims of Scouting.  It is in the outdoors that boys develop character and practice citizenship and fitness.
As the Boy Scouts of America states; “Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education.  Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do them themselves on a troop outing.”
There are many ways that the outdoor program can be executed.  The key is to just get outside and do it.  Make a commitment with the Patrol Leaders Council  to add high adventure activities to the Troop plan.  Make sure that every month has an outdoor overnight experience.  NEVER Cancel an outdoor activity.  Shame on the adults if they are the cause for failure of the outdoor program.  The outdoors is a must for Scouting to happen.  It is a must for the Scout to grow and meet the goals that Scouting has promised him.
Get out and play!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Philmont, Scouting, Skills | Tags: , | 1 Comment

The more things change.. the more they stay the same

DanielBooneThose of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature.  I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”.  It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts.  But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day.  The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time.  Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids.  I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America.  I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok.  We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”.  We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History.  I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland.  It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett.  You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today?  Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago?  Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness?  Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent?  Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion?  You are the descendant of those people.  You are the guardian of what they built.  You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing.  It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy.  It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks.  Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank.  But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us.  We have stopped teaching them.  We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy.  Before long you will be an American man.”  The ’59 handbook continues.  “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”  We all agree that there is no change there.  The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure.  “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout!  It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe…  to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.”  Do we make that promise to our boys today?  Why not?  Nothing has changed there.  The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle.  There is a magic in the campfire.  It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time.  That magic is in the embers.  It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it.  And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire.  Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting.  It is for us to not allow things to change.  Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit.  The more things change, the more that will always stay the same.  If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks.  Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America.  Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure.  It will be gone if we don’t share it.  If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal.  Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land.  We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety.  I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes,  are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors.  You learn to notice every sound,  to observe every track.  Birds and animals become your friends.  You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call.  You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars.  You become a true outdoorsman.”  Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier.   This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now.  We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed.  The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come.  Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Methods, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Sing.. it’s a part of Scouting

singI once heard a quote somewhere in which supposedly Baden-Powell said, and I am paraphrasing “the mark of a real Scout troop is one that sings.”  I can’t remember where or when I heard that but when I think about my Scouting experience as a youth some of my fondest memories are of us singing.  We sand while we hiked, we sang while we sat around the camp fire, and we sang at meetings.  Singing was a big part of Scouting and it just did not seem right if we did not sing.
This is a tradition that I have passed on in my Troop.  Our troop loves to sing.  We sing around the camp fire, we sing while we hike, and we sing to close every meeting.
Some of the Scouts love to sing more than others, but once the singing starts, it is contagious.  There are certain songs that are staples in the Troop.  Songs that get everyone involved.  The Quartermaster Store is a favorite of the boys, they can go for a half hour trying to find new rhymes and ways to poke fun at one another.  Old Lady Leary is another favorite of our Troop and they see which patrol can out shout the other.  Staying on the Sunny side of life is yet another song that gets the guys singing.
I think that singing is a huge part of Scouting and needs to be a part of every unit.  Once they start this fine tradition they will look for ways to work it in to their program.
There is something about the Scout spirit that comes with song.  It leaves lasting memories that will last forever.  Songs that will come back again and again that make those camp outs memorable and fun.
I was searching the internet for a song that was my all time favorite when I was a young Scout.  It was called “It’s a lie”.  I found it yesterday and immediately smiled as I thought about the summer camp when I first heard it.  It was 1978 at Camp Freedom in the Transatlantic Council.  The opening camp fire was spectacular.    The camp staff led an action packed night, songs and skits and lots of stories about the camp and Scouting.  The camp fire ended with the Order of the Arrow doing a tap out ceremony.  But that song stuck in my head and for the next week I sang it all day long.  I think my Scoutmaster finally had to get another song stuck in my head before he went crazy.
Anyway.. it was singing and a song that brought back a flood of great memories.
Here are the words to my memorable song… you find yours.

I was born a hundred thousand years ago. (YEARS AGO) 
And there’s nothing in this world I do not know. (DO NOT KNOW) 
I saw Peter, Paul, and Moses playing ring-around the roses, 
And I’ll lick the guy who says it isn’t so. (IT ISN’T SO)

Chorus:
It’s a lie; It’s a lie ; Ship ahoy, ship ahey, ship a hi-hi-hi!
Oh, I’ve sailed the seven seas and I’ve sniffed the salty breeze, 
But I never, ever, ever saw a mermaid. (A MERMAID)

I was there when Satan looked the garden o’er. (GARDEN O’ER) 
I saw Adam and Eve a’driven from the door. (FROM THE DOOR) 
I was round the corner peekin’ at the apple they was eatin’ 
I can prove I was the guy that ate the core. (ATE THE CORE)

I was there when Caesar crossed the Rubicon. (RUBICON) 
I’m the guy who built the raft he crossed it on. (CROSSED IT ON) 
I saw Nero burning Rome, and Hannibal at home. 
I even saw the fall of Babylon. (BABBLE ON)

I saw Washington afloat a cake of ice. (CAKE OF ICE) 
I saw Sherman, Lee, and Grant a shakin’ dice. (SHAKIN’ DICE)
I saw Roosevelt’s great laugh that split his face in half, 
While Pershing set a trap for German mice. (GERMAN MICE)

You may thing that all this bunk, it isn’t true. (IT ISN’T TRUE)
But what difference does it really make to you? (MAKE TO YOU)
I’ve been feeding you this line just to pass away the time, 
And now I’m going to quit because I’m through. (YOU’RE THROUGH)

Sing with your Scouts!!!  It makes a difference.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Camping, Just fun, Patrol Method, Scouting, stories | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Camporee

Well, Camporee is over once again for another year.
Here are some thoughts on the weekend…
First and foremost I need to tell you that pride is just one word that comes to mind when it comes to how I feel about the boys of my Troop.  Now, you may be saying to yourself… yeah Jer.. You say that all the time.. and yes, yes I do, but this time it is a “Coming of age” kind of pride.
As you also know, our troop camps using a “Backpacking style” of camping.  We don’t have patrol boxes, we pack it in and pack it out, and we insist on boy leadership.  We teach our Scouts to be self-reliant and to think and do things for themselves.  Above all we have fun.
Our senior Patrol runs the Troop and is trained and guided to make sound decisions.  They are not always right and they certainly are not always popular, but in the end the Troop seems to meet its goals.
Maybe it’s me, but for more than a few years it seems that our Troop has been sort of black sheep within the district.  Until recently the only Troop that camped strictly using Backpacking methods.  This year we noticed that a few more Troops are adopting our style of camping.
There are certainly advantages and disadvantages of being a backpacking Troop in a car camping district.
Super fast set up and take down and smaller footprint.  I think this one and cooking are the two things that other Troops can’t wrap their heads around.  We got into camp at about 7:30 PM.  Within an hour we were all set up and working on the gateway.. we will talk about the gateway later.  The camp site gets up quickly and allows for the patrols to get to the business of having fun.
This morning, the Scouts hit their typical Sunday routine.  They woke up and started packing.  Once packed, they cooked breakfast and finished camp chores.  The troop was pretty much ready to go, but given a set schedule for camporee made the choice to lolly gag around camp.  This is both a disadvantage and advantage.  Lots of time, and nowhere to go when it comes to waiting on the rest of the schedule.
Cooking and clean up is easy and not without a good meal plan.  A big misconception is that backpackers only eat freeze-dried cardboard.  Not so.  If you can cook it on a green stove, you can cook it backpacking and this was demonstrated all weekend as the boys cooked great meals
Lighter loads made for easy load out and pack up.  I figure this is where many Troops have a problem with the way we camp.  Immediately after closing ceremonies we were loaded in the cars and on our way home.  As we drove off we could see the “heavy Troops” still taking down camp and loading up the trailers.
Now, I don’t really have a problem with the car camping style.. it’s just not for me and certainly not for our Troop.  It is nice to wake up cook, clean up, pack and hike out.  Makes for happy Scouts that, at the end of a good weekend can look forward to easy tear down of camp.  A couple of our Scouts were talking with one of the troops next to us.  They reported that the Scouts were not happy that they had at least an hour of clean up, tear down, and then put away once they got home.  It is so much easier to load a bunch of backpacks into the truck and drive away.
To be honest, I find no merit in making the Scouts unhappy.
Our Troop never scores well on the camp site inspection, largely in part to the fact that the folks doing the grading don’t know what to look for.  They are looking for patrol boxes, watch stations, and tents that are all pitched in a row with even spacing and Canopies to cook under.  We don’t get scored high because our cook kits are put away after each meal and our food is hung in bear bags.  They don’t see the little bottle of camp suds that we use to clean our pots and mess kits and they are not used to seeing single person tents or tarp set ups.  So we have grown accustomed to just camping and having a fun weekend at camp o ree.  The Scouts don’t seem to mind that we don’t “win” each year, but it is clear that they have a great time.  That is not say that the Patrols don’t come away empty-handed.  Each year they show well in the events and always take home ribbons.  But as a total score, I am afraid that we won’t get the grand prize until the committee decides to grade backpacking troops fairly.  This is going to be an issue in the near future as more troops are adopting our style of camping.
We had a large group of Webelos camp with us this year.  A Troop guide volunteered to be their guide all weekend and he did a spectacular job.  I think of the 8 Webelos, we should get at least 6 of them to cross over into the Troop.  They are motivated and liked the way we camped and had fun.  The Dad’s that camped with us from the Webelos seemed to have a good time and were impressed with the way our boys ran the troop.  It was a good opportunity for them to see the Troops of the District all at once.  It was really good for us when they noticed a couple of troops that had the moms and dads doing all the cooking for the boys.  “That is not the way Scouting should be” said one of the Dad’s.  I could not help be agree.
Where are the judges when the Scouts are not doing their own cooking.. but hey to each their own.  That’s not how we do it.  Green Bar Bill is flipping in his grave.
Our Scouts did a great job this weekend.. Perfect, No… but perfect in the way we do Scouting.
We had a real fun time this weekend and like I said at the beginning.. I am proud of the Scouts of my troop.
Our Assistant Senior Patrol Leader got an opportunity to lead the Troop this weekend and continued to develop into a good leader.  He stepped up and did a nice job.  It was nice to work with him and teach him some leadership techniques.  Watching him apply them was rewarding for both him and I.  Real proud of him… he will be a great Senior Patrol Leader.
Our Senior Patrol leader was torn this weekend between the Venturing Crew that he is a member of and the Troop.  He did a fantastic job this weekend, but I could tell that he was torn when the Crew earned the Top spot for Crews this year.
Each Scout learned something this weekend and once again tested leadership and skills.  It’s those things that make me a proud Scoutmaster.
Have a great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Scouting, Skills, teamwork | 4 Comments

Making the world right again…

<Insert tongue in cheek>
If you have 4:06 now is the time to sit and watch beautiful burn patterns on alcohol stoves.  Yes, we are getting back into the swing of real pressing issues.  Gear!
I picked up the Trangia stove recently and other than taking it out of the box have not really messed with it.
The Trangia stove looks, feels, and measures exactly like the Esbit stove that has become my favorite.
So I threw 1 fl. oz of denatured alcohol in each of them and sat and watched for 8 plus minutes as they burned.  I wanted to see which would go out first.  Maybe there is a jet pattern difference that would cause a difference in burn rate.  Maybe there was a material design internally that would cause one to burn faster than the other.  Really though… oh… no… you almost got me… you have to watch to see who wins.
Enjoy the video.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, technology | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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