Leave no trace

Sharpen your Ax

Abraham Lincoln is a man often quoted, but not always in the context of Scouting.  I stumbled on a great quote that speaks directly to Scouts and Scouters.
“If you give me 6 hours to cut down a tree, I will take 4 hours sharpening my ax.”
Whats he saying here.. basically.. Be Prepared.  He is telling us that preparation is the key to success.  When we prepare for a task we can accomplish it with success.  Putting the time in to plan, train, and practice will make you better at the skill.
We are getting into the winter camping months.  The more we prepare, the more fun we will have.  The more we train, the safer we will be.  And the more we practice our skills the better experience we will have in our adventures.
We should always be looking at ways to keep our ax sharp.  We should always be thinking about that next tree and sharpen the ax to make the work easier and more effective.
I am always looking at ways to make my camping experiences better.  Toying with my gear, testing new stuff, learning and refining techniques to make my adventures fun and safe.
Are you sharpening your ax?

I was looking through an old external hard drive today and found this video.  Shot about 3 years ago when I was a “Tent Camper”.  Thought I would share it here.  It is a good example of Sunday routine.  Remember that we model expected behavior.  No yard sale here.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, planning, Scout, Scouting, Skills, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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

YouTube Channel bump

Again with the reset subject.
Yesterday, I did some major work on the YouTube channel.  I am phasing out the old channel, which became a real pain switching back and forth between accounts… so it’s all in one nice bundle now.
Like I said before, most of the videos will post here on the blog also, but not all.
So here is the trailer for the new and improved channel… same old me.. but new focus for 2014!

Stay tuned friends… I have a great give away coming up!  Just wrapped up the details yesterday… Look for details this weekend!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, Philmont, reviews, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, technology, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A Look at Lanterns

A few weeks back, I talked about resetting.  Resetting the blog and the YouTube channel.
Well.. Today is New Years Day.. and the reset has begun.
I am posting a video and also letting you know that I have entered a 30 day blog challenge designed to improve the blog and increase readership.
I am going to be asking YOU to help me.  All you need to do is keep reading the blog, telling a friend to check out the blog and subscribe.  I am NOT doing this for money.  There is NOT one penny coming my way in this.  I am doing it to help deliver the promise of Scouting and to share my love for the outdoors… that’s it… no other motive or gain.
I think that this form of media is strong and far reaching and I want to be a part of it to tell the story of Scouting.  Help me out.
So here is the first video of the year.  Its about backpacking lanterns.  I hope you enjoy it.. look for more to come… and after you watch it here on the blog.. subscribe to the YouTube channel also if you want.  To me the blog is more important and you will be getting the videos here anyway.

What kind of lantern is in your pack.  Leave a comment and let us know!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leave no trace, reviews, Scouts, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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: , | 3 Comments

LNT for Everyone

I was up at my local Ranger station up in Sandy to buy new maps of the Mt. Hood area.  While I was up there I got into a great discussion with one of the Rangers about Scouts, nope it JeffPionnerdidn’t have anything to do with policy changes it was about Leave No Trace.
The Ranger asked how much camping our Troop does up on Mt. Hood and in the wilderness areas up there.  I shared with him some of the great treks we have taken and all of the places that we frequent up on the mountain and the surrounding wilderness.  He told me that was great, but he was concerned.
I asked him what his concerns were and he quickly stated that “Typically he has trouble with Scout Troops camping up on Hood”.  I asked him how so.  The Ranger went on to explain the noise, the trash left, and the fact that they don’t practice leave no trace.  I told him that I was sorry to hear that and assured him that our Troop was not like that at all.  He went on to explain that it was not backpackers he was concerned about.. it was the car campers.  Troops that go up to the big camp grounds and pull in and camp.  “They are terrible in most cases” he said.
Now, I am not sharing this to promote backpacking, nor am I pointing the finger at those of you that do the car camping thing… I am sharing this because when we as Scouts do not practice Leave no trace.. it hurts all of us.  To this Ranger, pretty much all Scout units are the same.  And we have a bad reputation within their office.
Leave no trace is for all of us.  There are Front Country methods for those of you that car camp and there are back country methods for those of us that backpack.  USE THEM.  They need to be taught and practiced in every unit or we will no longer be welcomed in the areas we like to camp.
I am sure that this is not an isolated issue here.  I have seen units at Summer camp that drive me nuts the way they act and treat our out doors.  I blame the adults that allow it and fail to teach Leave no trace to their Scouts.  Yep.. I said blame.  If the shoe fits.. slip it on.. but remember that Leave no trace is for everyone.
Teach it.. Practice it… don’t screw it up for the rest of us.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Leave no trace, respect, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, Winter Camping | 5 Comments

Gear Glorious Gear Part 2

I left you in the last post talking about the “Big 3″  The Pack, the Sleep system, and the Shelter.  Now we discuss the “Next 3″.  The “Next 3″ components of your gear consist of the Cook kit, the First Aid kit, and Rain gear.  Now in most articles that you will read and in most backpacking forums and circles the Sleeping pad is listed in the “Next 3″.  But since I like to put the sleep pad in with the sleep system, and since my target audience is typically Scouts and Scouters, I think that logic would dictate that the sleep pad go with the “Big 3″.  Regardless I think it is important that the First Aid kit is placed in with the “Next 3″.
So let’s get into these “Next 3″ components.
First, the Cook kit.  When I say ‘Cook kit’ I am referring to that gear that will be used to prepare the meal, eat the meal, and clean up after the meal.  This would include your cook pot, your stove, your towel, soap, fuel, lighter, utensils, eating ware (bowl, plate, cup or mug).  For a backpacker, these kitchen items really need to be small and fully functional.  Most meals require a single pot so a full cook set really is unnecessary.  A small stove such as the Snow Peak Giga Power is enough to get water going and can even be used for frying up eggs.  Keep in mind that you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink.  The essentials of a Cook kits are:
Stove, bowl, pot, towel, scrubber, camp suds soap, wind screen, lighter, spoon or spork, cup or mug.
Next let us dive into the First Aid kit.  Everyone needs to carry some sort of First Aid kit.  It need not be big, but it needs to be able to provide the essentials to do First Aid.  Gloves, band aids, ace wrap, gauze pads, prep pads, mole skin, tweezers, and aspirin are a good start.  All of that will fit in a zip lock bag.  I would also consider throwing in some butter fly closure strips and tape.  The Scout handbook and the internet have lots of resources to give you tips on what to put in your kit.  Just have one that will first serve you.. and then a buddy.
Rain gear wraps up the “Next 3″.  This is important (not just here in Oregon) to keep handy.  Rain gear serves more than just to keep one dry.  It can be an outer layer of clothing.  It is a great wind stopper, can be used as a ground cloth.  Rain gear is essential in preventing hypothermia.  Yes, even in the summer a hiker exposed to the elements can fall into those conditions.  Staying dry and clean are some of the reasons to carry rain gear.  Poncho’s are nice as they can serve multiple purposes.  However I don’t recommend them to Scouts as they quickly become capes and provide less protection than Rain pants and jacket.   There are some inexpensive, light weight options out there.  Frogg Toggs makes a rain suit that retails for $20.  It needs to be taken care of, but the weight and protection pay for itself in one rain storm.
So that’s the ‘Next 3′ components of the packing list.
Those 6 items make up the bulk of your gear.  What’s left.. pretty much your little stuff and clothing.
“The Little Stuff”
Most new Scouts come out of Webelos ready for their day hikes with their 10 essentials.  Moving to the “Big Pack” the 10 essentials get spread out within the contents of pockets and gear in the pack.  You still need all 10, but they will be displaced throughout your gear.  A great idea is to build a ditty bag to catch-all your “Little Stuff”
Matches or other fire starting materials, your compass, head lamp, small lantern, duct tape, extra cord, hand warmers, lip balm and sun block and a bandana just to list a few items.  I keep all my “little stuff” in a ditty bag where I can find it and have access to it when needed.
Then you need to break down your clothing.  This pretty much is the most variable of your gear items.  Weather conditions, temperature, and length of trip will dictate your clothing choices.  The most common error is taking too much.  Give a serious look at the clothing you take.  See what you really need versus what you want and try to get all your clothing in a single stuff sack.
So there it is.  The Big 3, the Next 3, the little stuff and clothing.  That’s your gear in a nut shell.  Gear Glorious Gear.  Develop your gear lists and kits that you are comfortable with, you can use, and you want to carry.
Any questions, comments, or suggestions.. give me a holler!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Tweekin’ Gear

Been looking at ways to reduce weight and tweek gear to make it easier to set up and take down.  One of my favorite sites is www.hammockforums.net.  Hammock campers are by nature seeking lighter alternatives to common camping gear and tasks.  They are not what one would call “Ultra light”, but by and large have some great light weight solutions to everyday camping issues.
I found a neat way to run guy lines and set up the tarp on the site and took some time to set mine tarp up using a new method.  Here is a quick video showing the new set up.
Enjoy.
If you have questions or comments, please leave them here or shoot me an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills | 3 Comments

Why Wood Badge?

For those of you that have been to Wood Badge you understand the great training, the lasting friendships, and the spirit of Scouting that comes in every Wood Badge course.  You get idea that every Scout deserves a trained leader and that in Wood Badge you are participating in the Advanced Leadership Course of the Boy Scouts of America.  You understand the committment that it takes in time and money to seek out the best training and then follow-up that training by spending up to a year and half working a ticket designed to make Scouting better for the youth we serve.  You get all of that.
So why should a Scouter go to Wood Badge.  Yes, it’s all of the stuff previously stated but it’s a lot more than that.
Why Wood Badge?  Well for starters it is the best Scout leader training the BSA has.  No matter at which level you serve in Scouting, Wood Badge has something for you.  Whether you are the Chief Scout Executive or a Den Leader, Wood Badge will teach you how to provide a great program for our Scouts starting with why we do this thing called Scouting.  The Wood Badge experience gives you insight to the World of Scouting, not just your little piece.  It reinforces methods and Aims and gets all Scouters on the same sheet of music, and yep, you will be singing a lot!
Wood Badge allows you the much-needed opportunity to step back into the hiking boots of a Scout and be that Scout as he experiences Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, and is introduced to Venture Scouts.  You get to learn like a Scout learns and in doing so you become a better communicator and teacher.  You learn to train and lead using the EDGE method.  I think you will find that this method satisfies every learning style and will assist you in sharpening your leadership skills.
Wood Badge sends you back to you unit with a song in your heart, a smile on your face, and a mission to make Scouting better.
The training at Wood Badge will make you a better Scouter, a better Spouse, a better employee when you use the tools taught in the course.  It gives you perspective on everything in your life and a method to work you future plans in and out of Scouting.  The Wood Badge training is world-class and is used in corporate America and in organizations big and small.
So why Wood Badge?  Well, for one thing, it is our direct link to Baden Powell’s training of Scouters.  The methods may have been refined, the uniforms certainly are different, and Scouting has changed with the times, but the Wood Badge is the Wood Badge and our history and tradition in Scouting is brought full circle in the Wood Badge experience.
When Baden Powell held the first Scoutmaster Training at Gilwell, he organized the participants into Patrols.  This is the foundation of a Boy Scout Troop and BP understood that we learn by doing and do it with our Patrol.  During the Wood Badge course the instruction all leads to doing.  Within the Patrol, the participants work together to become a high performance team.  Once this is realized, the experience can be taken back and applied in the Scouters unit. 
Wood Badge has four specific objectives and as a result of attending Wood Badge, participants will be able to:
First, View Scouting globally, as a family of interrelated, values-based programs that provide age-appropriate activities for youth.
Second. Recognize the contemporary leadership concepts utilized in corporate America and leading government organizations that are relevant to our values-based movement.
Third,  Apply the skills they learn from their participation as a member of a successful working team.
And finally, Revitalize their commitment by sharing in an overall inspirational experience that helps provide Scouting with the leadership it needs to accomplish its mission on an ongoing basis.
So Why Wood Badge?  Back when I became a new Scouter helping out with my oldest son’s Pack I was invited to go to Wood Badge.  I did not give it too much thought, after all, I was just a Cub Scout Den Leader, why do I need more training?  Then I became a Cubmaster, and again, an invitation to Wood Badge was extended.  A group of Scouters that were (and still are) super active in the District kept encouraging me to go to Wood Badge.  They kept telling me that this “Mountain Top” Scouting experience was something that I really needed to attend.  And again, I blew it off thinking that everything was going great in the Pack and I really didn’t need more leadership training.  In 2004 I became a Scoutmaster, and again the same group of Scouters encouraged me to get to Wood Badge.  I went to a Wood Badge dinner in January of 2005.  It was a gathering to recognize Wood Badge participants that had completed their tickets and introduce Wood Badge to prospective participants.  My wife and I went and enjoyed the evening.  The room was filled with the most enthusiastic Scouters I have ever seen.  They were from every corner of the council and represented every level of Scouting.  Toward the end of the program a Scouter stood in front of the crowd and asked if “There were any Beavers in the house?”  At first I thought he was referring to the Oregon State Beavers.. but what happened next sealed the deal for me.  About a dozen Scouters stood up and broke out in song, when they were finished, the whole room (well those Scouters with beads on) stood and sang.  They all sat down and about another dozen different Scouters stood and sang a verse about Bobwhites.. and so it went till the whole room was singing.  The staffers closed out the song and everyone began hugging and shaking hands and there was nothing but smiles and laughter in the room.  I sat there with my wife with a big grin on my face.  My wife looked at me and said.. “Well… go sign up.”  And that night I registered for the next course. 
I participated in WE1-492-1-05 and was placed in the Beaver Patrol.  I did have a “Mountain Top” experience and took all I learned back to my Troop.  In 2009 I was asked to be on Staff.  I had to turn it down because I was over extended as not only the Scoutmaster of my Troop, but the Scoutmaster of a Troop heading to the National Jamboree.  In late 2010, I was asked again to be on staff for the 2011 course and I immediately said yes.  I served as a Troop guide for W1-492-11 and as I have shared with my fellow Troop guides and the mighty Buffalo Patrol, “I had a great experience when I went to Wood Badge, I fell in love with Wood Badge on staff.”  Early this year I was asked again to staff a Wood Badge course.  And again, I said yes. 
The people who attend Wood Badge and those that staff Wood Badge are the greatest Scouters out there.  Their dedication to Scouting and the youth we serve is second to none.  Their committment to training and making the Scouting organization better is beyond compare.
So Why Wood Badge?  Why Not?
If you have been invited to attend Wood Badge, please consider it.  You will not regret it.  If you are concerned about time and money.  Contact your local Wood Badge staff, ask at your next roundtable, there are ways to get you into the next course.  The benefits of Wood Badge outweigh the excuses not to go.  You are a dedicated Scouter, I know this, because you waste you time reading my blog.  SO if you have not been to Wood Badge..  GO!  And you will have a great experience.  I promise.
If you are a Wood Badger… What’s your Critter?  Leave a comment and share your Wood Badge story.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Ideals, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, planning, Scout Law, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Wood Badge | 4 Comments

Thoughts on gear

As you are fully aware by now, I like gear.  I have had many discussions with parents of the Scouts in my Troop that my obsession with gear is rubbing off on their sons.  Half jokingly I often reply that it’s a good thing.  I say “Half jokingly” because I think that gear is an important part of the camping experience…  Well no duh right?
A long time ago in a Scouting world far far away I had a Scoutmaster that would talk about having the right gear for the type of camping that we were doing.  He would wax on about taking care of that gear so that when needed it would be there for you.  “If you take care of your gear, it will take care of you” he would say.  And I believe that.
Later in life as I started to get back into camping and backpacking, I began to toy with different types of gear.  Cook kits, stoves, backpacks, sleep systems, tents, hammocks, gizmo’s and gadgets that make camp life fun and easy.
It seems that the more you play with gear, the more you find your likes and dislikes, what works for you and what doesn’t.  In the backpacking community there is a saying online when offering advice, gear reviews, and opinions.  YMMV.  That’s.. Your mileage May Vary.  Meaning, to each his own and what works for me, may not work for you or you may get different results.
So back to our Scouts.  Now, I don’t want to break their bank, but I do want them to start learning what they like and what works for them.  I understand that I do have an influence on these young men and that when I come out with a new piece of gear or start playing with a new camp gadget, they tend to watch and learn.  I do want these guys to develop a habit of exploring what works for them.  I want them to try new things and not just gear that someone says is a must have a piece of equipment.  Developing that habit now will keep them interested in being outdoors and hiking.  It is a way that will test them and keep their minds thinking about different ways to accomplish different tasks.  I assume that my old Scoutmasters wanted me and my Troop mates to develop an appreciation for the outdoors and that is what I wish for my Scouts.  Gear is a big part of that.
When your gear fits, works, and is fun to use, you have a tendency to want to go out and use it.  A backpack that is ill-fitting and squeaks a lot is not something you want to take on the trail.  A comfortable pack will keep you on the trail longer.  If you are cold at night because you got a cheap Walmart sleeping bag rated for slumber parties, you won’t want to be in after your first miserable night.  Spending a little more up front though and getting a good sleeping bag makes for toasty comfortable nights of good sleep and you want to be out in it more.
It seems that I have turned a lot of our Scouts in to gear junkies.  And that may or may not be a good thing for their parents, but it’s a great thing in my opinion for the Scout (YMMV).
With the fast approaching Holidays coming up, I am encouraging our Scouts to get their list together.  Ask for a new pot set or stove.  Maybe that single person tent you have been eye balling or better yet, join the hammock way of a great nights sleep.  How about some new gaiters or winter boots?  New rain gear is aways in vogue here in Oregon.  Maybe it’s just a new spork that tops your Christmas list, either way this is the perfect time to add to your backpacking gear loft.
Thanksgiving a time to be with family and give thanks for all we have.  It’s also a great opportunity to corner Grandma and Grandpa and slip them a copy of your gear needs.  Or you can slip it into the Dinner conversation.  “Grandpa, can you pass the gravy?  You know, there is this pot set that I have been looking at that would be awesome for making biscuits and gravy while on our next camp out.”  You know, be subtile, but get your wish list in where ever you can.
The other side of the gear collection is what you can share.  As I collect new gear I have two bins.  One for the stuff that I really love and can’t part with and the other for the stuff that I have tried, didn’t really fall in love with, but there’s nothing wrong with it, just not my cup o’ tea.  That stuff usually ends up going home with one of the Scouts.  This last camp out and set of rain gear that my boys out grew a set of gaiters, and some odds and ends made their way into the packs of a few of our Scouts.  I don’t mind sharing (giving away) gear that I’m not using.  If it helps with meeting their gear fix needs than I really find it nice to be an enabler. 
So parents, understand that yes, I am trying to turn your son into a backpacking gear junky.  And yes, I am trying to develop in them the habit of discovery.  And yes, they are doing a great job in joining the cult of Backpacking gear guys.  You don’t have to worry about them wearing uniforms.. errr wait.. scratch that..  You won’t have to worry about them hanging out in gangs.. ahhh.. scratch that too… Ok.. yeah, they will be with their partol and they will be in uniform, but you will never have to worry about them wearing foil hats and chanting to the golden pogo stick.  They will be out in the woods having the time of their lives, comfortable, cooking great meals, singing songs, and exploring a world of adventure.  And all that great gear is going to help them in their journey!
Thanks for being patient and understanding.
Now I have to go play with my stove and put new guy lines on my tarp.. you know we have a camp out in January I need to prepare for.
Oh and my list of gear that I need…
A new wind screen for my cook kit.  An underquilt for my hammock.  Griz beak doors for the Tarp.  Oh, I can go on and on.. after all, if it’s gear, I want it.
Whats on your gear list for this Christmas.  Leave a comment and share you gear needs and wants.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills, Winter Camping | Leave a comment

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