Every time we go out into the woods for an outing with our scouts we should expect that some planning and preparation has occurred. In a Backpacking style troop this is an absolute must.
You are walking away from your cars and comfort items, you are sustaining on what you bring on your back, you are relying on map and compass or at least familiarity with the trail system you are trekking on, you need to have the skills to collect and treat water, build small fires, and pack your pack. You need to understand the usage of the items you take with you and try to make each item doe multiple tasks.
So planning and preparing yourself (and your Scouts) for a backpacking adventure is extremely important. As our troop prepares for a trip to Philmont next year, we are refining our skills now. It helps that each camp out we use the Backpacking style of camping and test those skills often.
So start with the basics, gear, physical conditioning, skills, and attitudes.
Gear is an important part of planning and preparing. What kind of gear to meet the conditions, terrain, weather, and skill level of the group. How big is group and what will be they be doing when they get to their destination.
Individual gear pretty much starts with the backpack. Proper fitting is important and the right style of pack based on skill level, body type, and load carried needs to be considered.
Stoves, cook kits, mess kits, and personal items need to be shaken down and evaluated based on the needs of the group and individual. We will go into those item in detail in a later post.
Shelter is another consideration that needs to be carefully thought out. Notice I did not say tent. I said shelter. Technology and design have met with the outdoors to provide lightweight alternatives to tenting. Hammock camping is quickly becoming popular in the backpacking community as well as tarp and bivy camping. Light weight tarps and bivy sacks provide excellent options for shelter. They are lighter, easier to set up, and allow the camper more options for set up configurations and places to camp. No longer are you restricted to 10×10 platform or level ground when using most tarps and hammocks. Philmont has still not got on board with the LNT aspects of Hammocks, but I am sure that in the future they will come around.
I will get into shelter more down the road also.
Physical conditioning is a major part of the backpacking experience. Each individual of the crew must be able to shoulder his load and when needed take a part of the groups gear. Good conditioning reduces the chance of minor injury and fatigue. Being in good shape also allows you to enjoy the trip a lot more. instead of walking with your head down and slugging your way to the camp site, you will be able to walk head up and see the trail. You will have a more enjoyable time in camp also. Being less tired when you arrive, you can spend more time hanging out and having fun instead of a quick trip to the sleeping bag.
Skills and attitudes are a topic for another post as they need some attention. Lets leave it here for now. Every backpacker must possess the skills needed to sustain in the wilderness. You can not rely on your fellow hikers for everything and at some point you will be counted on by the rest of the crew.
Ok.. look for more on this in future posts..
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Tonight, under the leadership of the new SPL and a handful of Patrol Leaders and interested Scouts, the Troop finalized its Annual Plan. This years planning seemed to take a bit longer, but looking back at the last few years, the goal has always been to get it completed by the end of September. The Committee chair sat in on this years plan, she gave the boys the nod at the end of the plan suggesting that it was all “doable”. As I guided the new SPL through the process, it became obvious that he is in need of more training.. and that’s a good thing, he is ready, but him and I will be spending some quality time together developing leadership skills.
Having said that the plan is outstanding! I am really happy with it and look forward to one heck of a year of adventurous Scouting!
Caving at Dead Horse cave, backpacking a section of the new Oregon Coast trail, a kayak float down the McKenzie river, making Pulk sleds and snowshoeing a section of the Historic Barlow trail, a sweet backpack trip up to Table Mountain in the Gorge just to name a few of the trips planned. By the end of the session the Scouts were on 9 foot hover and ready for the coming year. It was all I could do to keep them from not getting to deep into the weeds, but the excitement was clear.
We talked a little about our Journey to Excellence and what elements they would be helping with. Recruiting and retention will not be an issue. We have put 2 new Scouts in during September and 6 more will be crossing over in November. This on top of the group that will be crossing in February and March. We plan on dropping some Scouts that have decided to remain inactive, and we will be moving two young men into Assistant Scoutmaster positions as they are about to turn 18. I am glad that they are not taking their Eagle and running.
So now its up to the Scouts to work toward their next rank and keep camping. This will be a great year of Scouting.
With the trip to Philmont just around the corner and all the new Scouts in the Troop, the buzz is contagious, you can feel it in the room. We have 41 Scouts on the “active” roster and growing.
I suppose tonight the SPL and his PLC saw a light at the end of the planning tunnel. When they got the idea that what they were producing was going to a fantastic year of Scouting it became less a chore and more like seeing the camp ground after a long day on the trail.
I am real proud of those guys, they put in the work and are seeing the results of their dedication and persistance.
I am sure we will be talking a lot more about this in the coming months.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
As we move into the Fall season Scout Troops everywhere are packing into the woods for great adventures. Winter will soon be here and so Fall is a great time to reinforce the Leave No Trace Principles with the Scouts (and Adults) of your unit.
No matter what style of camping your Troop does the principles of Leave No Trace apply.
LNT.org is a great resource for you if you are just learning Leave No Trace or just need to brush up or see whats going on in the organization.
One of the cool things that LNT.org has is the Bigfoot Challenge. Check it out using the link.
The idea of the program is reducing your footprint.
Last year at the National Jamboree I made a commitment to do the Bigfoot challenge and have been teaching, coaching, and mentoring our Scouts to Leave No Trace. Part of our challenge was to get a Leave No Trace Trainer in the Troop… yes.. the youth position. The BSA has added a lot of Enhancements to its Leave No Trace Program and every unit should be taking advantage of it.
So back to the Bigfoot challenge… The challenge simply asks that we do simple acts of environmental activism.. now this does no mean that you have to wear tie die or sandles.. but it does mean, in a Scouting context, that we act responsibly in the outdoors and are good stewards of our environment, particularly the outdoors that we enjoy when we go camping.
Simple little things like teaching our Scouts how to better plan and prepare to reduce the amount of trace we take out into the woods, using the “Bearmuda” triangle when setting up camp to reduce impact and animal issues, better ways to clean up dishes and cookware, using the patrol method to reduce to impact of large groups.
The Bigfoot Challenge also offers the change to win prizes.. and wait for it… Yes there is a patch available at the LNT.org website.
So take the Bigfoot challenge…
Teach a Scout, Be an example, Join Leave No Trace and remember to reduce your footprint.. after all Bigfoot has been doing it for years!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This past weekend our Troops plan was to float a portion of the Deschutes River in Central Oregon. We all knew going into this activity that there was risk as well as the opportunity to challenge our selves. What we could never plan for was how well the Scouts did in the adventure leading to the adventure.
The Big River Campground is three and half hours away from our meeting hall, so we left a little earlier than we typically do to give us time in the day light to set up camp and relax for the night.
An hour out of town one of the cars in the convey starts “acting up”, so we pulled over, checked out and pushed on. Two hours into the trip that same car came to its final leg in a town called Madras. The car was finished, could not move. So we parked it and started planning on first how to recover the car and then second how to keep moving to camp. We decided to leave the car where it sat, right behind the Sonic. The owner was kind enough to let us keep it there. The next part was a bit more of a challenge. We had to transport 4 Scouts and a Driver to Sunriver… another hour and half.
We squeezed one more small Scout into a seat belt and left the remainder at the Sonic with the driver. The rest of the Troop moved on to the campground.
On the return to the Sonic from the campground one of the ASMs that was the shuttle car struck a deer on the highway. The deer was extremely hurt and so a call to 911 sent the State Police to the scene. They took car of the deer filled a report and the ASM was on his way back to Madras. Not a scratch on his car.
They loaded up the car and turned around heading to camp. By the time they arrived in camp it was 3 AM.
So where are the Scouts during all of this… well most of them do what all Scouts do when they get in the car… sleep. But what was surprising was the first year Scouts that proved that they wanted to be helpful. They volunteered to stay back. They helped unload, move and reload gear, they seemed to be everywhere doing everything. Hats off to them.
The adventure on the water was amazing. We floated the river returning back to camp around 6:30 PM. Needless to say spending a day on the river, a lot of the boys having a limited amount of sleep made for a real quiet night in camp on Saturday.
On the way home we rearranged all the kayaks and stopped into Madras to get the broken down car. We got it into the boat trailer, again the Scouts of the Troop giving 100% in chipping in to help as went and got the Troop Cheese Burgers and Fries.
We ate and returned home. Stories to tell and adventure had by all.
That’s what its all about.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The balanced Score care approach is nothing new, it has been floating around organizations for some time now and provides a balanced view for organizational performance. Who looks at this? Well really you do. As much as some would like t0 think that Councils and District level leadership are actively engaged in what goes on at the unit level (and I am talking Pro staff here, not volunteer) the fact of the matter is that where the rubber hits the road, the unit leadership are really the only leaders dedicated 100% to their units. That is not to say that District, Council, and even National leadership could care less. It is just that they have different fish to fry. They are concerned at the “Big” organizational level in areas of membership, fundraising, and policy. And that is fair. Hey, I don’t want to think about that stuff, I want to go camping. So the Journey to Excellence program is a tool that ensures our units are meeting the mark as we can measure our programs. I think this is important to make sure that we all are delivering the promise of Scouting in a uniform manner.
Last month I attended the National meetings of the BSA in San Diego. The Assistant Chief Scout Executive for Council Operations Gary Butler gave a great talk at the Scoutmaster dinner. In his talk he gave the analogy of Starbucks coffee. He said that when you order a coffee at Starbucks in Seattle it tastes like the same cup in New York City, or Atlanta, or Boston.. the message is that the coffee is the same where ever you go and that is part of business model of Starbucks. The Promise of Scouting is just like that cup of coffee. It needs to be the same consistent program, delivered in many ways, but the same program throughout the Boy Scouts of America. We have great outline, but Scouters choose not to use it. The Journey to Excellence program attempts to bring some of that back in line.
Now, I know that many of you, myself included, do not like to view the BSA as a business. Certainly not at the unit level. But just like every organization if certain measures are not in place, lets say for growth, for financial stability, for improvements in the program, the organization will fail.
Remember a couple posts ago, I shared that I knew a unit that was a Quality unit every year, but then it just folded? It is because they did not have a plan to grow and stay fit. They took it year to year and hoped that the Cub Scout pack would just continue to “Feed them”. They did not have a stable financial plan, they did not have a plan to assist the youth leadership… and yet they were “always a quality unit”.
None of us want to see our units fail. JTE is a week to week, month to month, year to year tool that sets on a Journey to Excellence.
OK.. 500 words in and not a word about camping.. so lets talk just a little about Short term and Long term camping as it applies to the JTE.
You all understand that Short term equates to weekend camp outs and long term camping refers to those week long (or longer) camping opportunities such as Summer camp, Jamboree’s, High Adventure base participation. Now I think the BSA set the bar low on this one, and so many if not all of us will automatically qualify at the Gold level when it comes to short term camping. Bronze = 4 camp outs throughout the year. Yeah, that is not a typo.. I wrote 4. Silver requires a unit to camp 8 times and to achieve the Gold standard you need to camp at least 10 times. Like I said.. I think we all have this one in the bag. And for the Gold level you get 200 points for just doing what we all do, and that’s camp.
Now I think it is interesting how the JTE handles long term camping. You will qualify for the bronze level if your unit attends a long term camp.. lets call it summer camp. You will achieve Silver level status if 60% of your Scouts attend Summer camp (or another long term opportunity). And it only takes 70% of your unit attending camp to achieve Gold level status. I recently had a small discussion on Camp staff with some Scouters that I consider “In the know”. We debated on whether a Scout that serves on camp staff is counted in that percentage. And the answer according the definitions of JTE is this; ” Boy Scouts attending any in council or out of council long term summer camp (of at least three days and nights), high adventure experience, jamboree, or serve on camp staff within the past year”. The part that really weirds me out on this is the three days and nights. But not to worry, most if not all summer camps run a week. No problems there.
The bottom line is that camping is where Scouting happens. It is where the Patrol method is executed, it is where teaching happens, it is where the boys can be boys and learn, practice, and teach skills. Camping, I am sure you will agree is what most think about when we talk Scouting.
Next time we will dive into the Patrol Method.
Thanks for the emails, you can email me anytime. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Now before I even get started on this.. let me tell you that as much as I like patches.. this is NOT about a little patch. This is about measuring success. In the world that I live in, working for the Big Brown, I am totally in tuned to everything being measured. I do believe in measuring, it gives us good solid data that we can learn from and grow. When we measure things based on a standard, we can see where we are and where we need to go in order to be successful.
Here is the beauty. In most cases in life, we get to decide what success looks like. And so we get to determine what that measurement is.
ENTER JOURNEY TO EXCELLENCE.
Quality Unit was a program that, well kinda measured what a unit was doing. I say kinda, because at the end of the day.. if you had a pulse, went on a few camp outs, recruited a Scout or two (read held a cross over ceremony) and got your charter turned in.. you were a quality unit. I saw units in our district that got Quality unit and then did not recharter the following year. HUH? How is that possible. Quality unit one year and dust the next.. errrr… something was wrong with this.
The Centennial Quality unit, was not much better. The same old take on Quality unit, but cooler patches.
Now we are heading down the path to the Journey to Excellence. This program is actually performance based and not just numbers. Where the old programs of Quality Unit measured a process.. the Journey to excellence (JTE) measures the performance of a unit. NOW STOP READING HERE if you are afraid of delivering a good Scouting program to your Scouts.
Over the next couple posts I am going to share and discuss the Journey to Excellence program as outlined and defined by the Boy Scouts of America.
There are three levels of levels of performance in the JTE.. Bronze, Silver, and of course Gold. It is the unit that will decide at what level they have performed based on real numbers and expectations set out in their annual plan.
The JTE will ask of units to actually look at certain areas of their program and improve on them. The beauty of the program is that measured success can be tracked all year long and point values are attached to the areas of concern. It is a total score at the end of the year that will determine your success.. falling short in one area can easily be over come by larger success in others. But the point is that rather than a simple sheet filled out at recharter, the JTE is a tool that a unit can use to measure and track success all year long.
There are 13 individual criteria that is measured in the JTE. For a Boy Scout Troop they are: Advancement, Retention, Building Boy Scouting, Trained leadership, short term camping, Long term camping, Patrol method, Service projects, Webelos to Scout transition, Budget, Courts of Honor/ Parent meetings, Reregister on time, and a final annual assessment.
I will go into all of these in greater detail in the next few posts.
Here is the bottom line. If you have no goals or a plan then you will not improve. There is not a unit out there that is perfect in every way, and the JTE is a tool that will move you to greater success. Building your Scouting program is important, not only for your unit, but for Scouting in general.
I like the new JTE program, and I hope I can share some information here to help you achieve that success your unit deserves.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Here is a quick video on me getting the Hammock ready for my week up in the Oregon Coast Range for the 2nd session of Wood Badge.
I removed the stock Hennessy suspension from the hammock and replaced them with Whoopie Slings. This has reduced the weight and the packed room for the entire hammock, I am really happy with this modification.
Check out the video, its just me hanging in the garage. Took a great nap out there too… ahhh… I love the hammock.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Reviewed Tickets for the Patrol I am Troop Guide for.
Got gear together for Wood Badge
Did some last minute prep for Camporee this weekend.
In this show I sit down with District Trainer and avid Backpacker Ken Hall and discuss planning the 50 miler. Lots of great information for planning your next long trip, or short trip too.
Leave feeback or drop an email.
This show is sponsored by the Boy Scout Store.
Listen to the Show : SMM81
On next weeks show I have two very special guests and friends. My District Commissioner and our District Vice Chair for Program. We sat down and talked about Youth Protection and how it has effected this years recharter.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Planning and Preparation are the keys to a successful anything.
We are in the process of planning an preparing for our next canoe trip…
There is much to plan for and preparations for a canoe outing is extremely important, especially when you are in Scouting.
Some of the considerations when planning and preparing for a canoe trip are:
In our case we are treating this like a backpacking trek. So we are planning for cooking in buddy teams and taking prepared meals. Freeze dried foods, and pre cooked meats always last longer and are easier to prepare on the trail. The weight is reduced also and there is less garbage. Remember, that a canoe trip is very much like a backpacking trip in that we still practice leave no trace and we pack out what we pack in.
Where are you going to get water. You can haul your water in the canoes, but you add weight and risk the balance of the canoe being compromises, especially when taking younger Scouts or novice canoers out.
How about pumping your water using a filter. You are on a canoe.. in a river.. water all around you. Pump it, you have an endless supply that does not weigh anything in your canoe.
Its beginning to get warmer and warmer, and hot days on the river require less gear. Its time to put away the cold weather stuff and break out the shorts and t-shirts.
Fleece is still a good idea in the evenings, but you can put away the heavy sleeping bag and parkas.
Water proofing your gear is essential. You want fry gear when you get into camp. No matter how hard you try, water gets in canoes, water proofing your gear will keep it all dry and secure for the float.
Lets go back to clothing. Clearly the season will dictate the clothing you wear. As we approach summer we can adjust to summer clothing. Remember however that we want to wear clothing that protects us from the elements. Severe sunburn can occur on open water. Light cotton clothing or tech fabrics to cover the skin will provide a light weight protective layer that will ensure comfort and keep you from getting burned. And make sure you wear a hat.
Life jackets are required and need to be worn by youth and adults when canoeing.
Put in and take our points. Consider where you are going to put your canoes in.. how far you want to travel (per day), where you are going to camp, and how you are going to recover the canoes once you pull out of the river.
Transportation plays a major role in canoe adventures. You will have to plan a lot of coordination between cars and canoes.
If you are planning a weekend float. The canoes can be dropped and the cars will meet you at the end. How may cars do you need to get the Scouts there? How many canoes and trailers?
These are all need to planned, mapped and agreed upon before setting off down the river.
Always check the weather before you go… and a few days before you go. Have contingency plans for “worse case scenarios”. What happens if we dump a few canoes? Do we stop get dried off… or do we keep going and dry at camp? What happens if loose a paddle? What do we do if we over shoot our camp area? How do we communicate with the car and trailer crew? Sit down and make yourself a list of ever possible thing that you can think of that can go wrong and try to answer it. You may have to dig for a solution, but you need to have the solution in mind before something happens.
Canoe Trips can really enhance your Scouting program. They are fairly easy to plan and locations are easier to find. The Scouts love it and even on bad trips, they have fun… and thats what its all about.