Philmont

Bad Week as a Scouter

lifepinI should start by saying no one got hurt, no one died, and no one is going to jail…
It was August and we were heading home from Philmont Scout Ranch.  Our two crews from the Troop stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado to eat at the Golden Corral Buffet, a restaurant that our Scouts came to love on the trip down to Philmont.  I sat at a table with a handful of older Scouts and one in particular, I will call him Phil.  Phil was a life Scout and a real active member of the Troop.  Phil is a Senior in High School now, but at the time was enjoying his summer and just had a great time at Philmont.  Phil has a little brother in the Troop that is real motivated and did a great job in pushing Phil to get going on advancement and taking a more active role in the Troop.  So Phil and I started talking about his 18th Birthday and soon it would be on us.  We talked about his goals and what he was planning on doing after high school.  He stated that he was planning on joining the Army.  Immediately I had some advice for him and we started talking about wrapping up his last requirements for Eagle.  He had 8 months till he turned 18 and if he got going, he could knock out those last merit badges and focus on his Eagle Project.
About a month ago Phil decided that he really wanted to earn his Eagle rank.  So, we started looking into how he could finish the merit badges and get the project rolling.  Phil showed moments of absolute motivation and effort that I wish all our Scouts had in them.  He also showed moments of “let it ride”.  He fell into the trap of Maxing the minimum.  Last week he got some critical merit badges complete and his Eagle Project approved.  This week he hit a road block when he discovered that he was going to have a challenge that time would not allow him to over come.  Tonight, he decided, along with discussion with his Dad and then me, that he could not finish before he turns 18 on Sunday.
Tonight I went to his home and sat and talked with him, his brother, and his Dad.  We talked about the lessons learned through this process and that although he will not be an Eagle Scout, he has learned much from Scouting and that he is a better person for it.  I shared with him that I am not an Eagle Scout.. in much the same fashion, I ran out of time when I was approaching my 18th birthday.  I to joined the Army and turned 18 while in Basic Training.  Instead of Eagle Scout, I earned Private First Class.  All was not lost though.. the things that I learned in Scouting made me a successful soldier and in 24 months I achieved the rank of Sergeant.  I shared all of this with Phil to reinforce that even though he can’t be an Eagle Scout he can take what Scouting gave him and what he learned and earned and apply it for the rest of his life.
Over the past few weeks and in particular the last few days, I have done everything that I can possibly do to assist this young man in becoming an Eagle Scout.  I have looked for loop holes and work arounds and at the end of the day the lesson learned is that there is a process and that process needs to be done right.  No short cuts, no loop holes, and no work arounds.  With every thing we had we tried, we could not help the Scout that waited.
This is the first time I have ever had to look a young man in the eye and say that I am sorry he can not be an Eagle Scout.  This is the first time that we have run the course and not succeeded.  Not that the Scout is a failure, but that the Scout did not finish in time.
I am exhausted.  This young man has worked hard, but he started to late to get motivated and get it done.  I have seen a strong work ethic emerge in this young man and I hope that he learned that when he puts his mind to it, he can and will be successful.  This short fall is not the end of the world and a great lesson in life.
He’s going to keep working on his project so it will benefit the community.  That is a great thing.  His service will be lasting, something he learned along the way in Scouting.
What I have learned in this process is that I need to do a better job of setting the Scouts up.  I will not do the work, nor will I nag the Scout.. but what I will do, and what our Troop will do from this day forward is simple.  On their 17th birthday we will sit down with the Scout and his progress record.  We will explain the process and encourage them to start getting real serious if they want to be an Eagle Scout.  They will have 365 day notice that time is running out.  They will know beyond a shadow of a doubt what they need to finish and we will give them the tools to be successful.  What they do with it from there is up to them.
I will not scramble like this again.  I will not get in a position of working merit badges with a Scout 3 days before his 18th birthday.  It is not the way the process is designed and does not demonstrate what it takes to be an Eagle Scout.
I feel real bad for Phil.  I wish he was planning an Eagle Court of Honor right now.  What I know for sure is that Phil has learn some valuable life lessons this last month and I feel that he will go on to do great things with his life because of it.  I certainly hope so.
Scouting was real good for Phil.  He did well.  He just came up short.  That’s life.. as hard as that is to hear.  What he does with that knowledge is up to him now.
I gave him a coin tonight, it is the coin that I was allowed to have made when I became a Command Sergeant Major.  I can’t award him the Eagle Medal, but the coin is to serve to him as a reminder of hard work and dedication and the rewards for effort.  I am not an Eagle Scout, but I made it to the very top in the Army, so can he… if he wants to.
This has been a bad week for me in Scouting… but one that I learned alot and I hope that Phil did to.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Ideals, Methods, Philmont, planning, Scout, Scoutmaster conference, Values | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Scouting for all?

Merit Badges or Fun?Allow me to play devils advocate here for a minute.  There has been quite a bit of discussion lately via email and in Scouting circles in which I find myself regarding Scouts in our programs.  One argument is that Scouting is for every young man, the converse is that Scouting is not for everyone.
Boys enter our program with certain expectations and needs.  Those Scouts have parents that also have certain expectations and wants.  What I have seen and heard lately is that some parents and Scouts are not getting what they thought they would out of Scouting.  I have been in discussions in which parents believe that their son is not having fun in the program.  The question that I ask is simply, is Scouting really for everyone?
I submit for the sake of discussion that maybe Scouting is not for every boy.  It may be that what Scouting offers is not what they want or need.  It may be that the boy is not ready for the adventures that Scouting offer and well-intentioned parents do not really understand what Scouting is all about.  It is also true that many Scout leaders do not know what Scouting is all about and therefore have promoted a program that misses the mark when it comes to achieving Scouting’s aims.  This has led to young boys joining troops that quickly disappoint or fail to deliver on the expectations they and their parents had on the join night.
Scouting at its core is about adventure and when a boy joins a unit that is full of adventure he may not be ready or willing to participate.  Now, some would argue that participation is really not something that is of real importance in Scouting, but it is through participating fully in the program that the Scout gets the most out of Scouting.  I had a mother say to me the other night that her son does not attend winter camp outs because he did not have a good experience during last years winter camping season.  Why?  Well, maybe he does not like camping in the winter.. I am ok with that.  But does that paint the whole program as a negative thing?  No, but maybe the Scout is not ready or willing.  Once a boy starts down the road of picking and choosing those activities that he does not wish to participate in he will find it easier to reduce the level of activity he does.  This is not true in all cases, remember that I am not suggesting anything here other that this is a question that we should ask.  Maybe Scouting is not for everyone.  Here is what I am saying…
Scouting is not for everyone.  Scouting should not change to meet the Scouts needs.  Scouting needs to stay the course on being an organization that has values, ideals, and adventure.  Scouting should not “dumb down” to allow for boys to have a club to join.  There are plenty of clubs out there that he can find a place in.  Now, before you all jump on me let me say this here and make it very clear that I am not talking at all about Scouts or I should say boys with disabilities.  This discussion has nothing… I repeat nothing to do with disabilities.  That is another discussion and I think that needs to be addressed another time.  I will say that there are ample opportunities for boys with disabilities to participate in Scouting and I encourage every young man who shows interest to try Scouting no matter the “ability”.  I will also say that no.. I do not consider ADD, ADHD, Autism, and a lack of focus a disability.  Not when it comes to Scouting and the Scouting program.  We prove over and over again that Scouts that have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and Autism can participate in Scouting and high adventure activities.  My Troop is proof of this.  Moving on…
Scouting should not promote that everyone will be an Eagle Scout just because he joins and has a pulse.  Scouting should continue to push the Scout to discover his world and find his limits.. then push them outside of his comfort zone.  If Scouting decides to become the YMCA or Boys Club it will no longer deliver the promise.  It will just become another after school club and that is not Scouting.  That is not what Baden Powell, William Hillcourt, James E West, and the rest of the men that founded and established the direction for Scouting had in mind.  We can met Scouts where they are, but we can never get away from the intent of the Scouting movement.  We can not stray from the methods that lead us to achieving the aims and we can never allow Scouting to just be another club.
Not everyone wants what Scouting offers.  Numbers, while they drive much of what the professional Scouters track are not the program.  A great program that stays the course will bring in the numbers of boys that seek adventure, values, and ideals that are the hallmark of the Scouting program.  Numbers for the sake of numbers will be just that and we see this play out each year with amount of boys that leave our units.  They don’t want to play the game with a purpose and we should not make them.  A football player is not allowed to join a team and then make up the rules of the game or change the team uniform.  He joins and plays the game that has been established.  Not everyone can or wants to play football, not everyone can or wants to be a Scout.  I recently sat with a group of Scouts and asks a few simple questions.  The first I asked was if they thought Scouting was nerdy.  They all said that they did not think so, but their friends at School did.  I asked what they thought the ‘nerdy’ part of Scouting was.. aside from wearing the uniform.  I figured I would take away the obvious answer.  They all said that their friends really didn’t know what we do.  I asked them if they ever tell them what we do.  They all pretty much said, no.  They did not want to bring it up so they could talk about something else.  Then I asked why not?  Why not tell their friends that we rock climb at Smith Rock, that we snowshoe and build snow caves.  That we have hiked the Oregon Coast trail, shoot shotguns and paddle the Deschutes river.  That we backpack miles of the PCT and go caving in some cool volcanic caves.  That we spent a week hiking in the Canyon country of New Mexico and that we have gone across the country to tour our Nations Capital and camp with 70,000 other Scouts.  I asked why all of that sounds ‘nerdy’.  They couldn’t tell me.  But these are the guys that want to do all of that.  These are Scouts and they want to be Scouts.  Their friends could not nor would they be willing to do all of that, even given the chance.  One of the Scouts spoke up and said that his friends thought Scouting was all about doing good deeds and being in Flag ceremonies.  His friend said he didn’t want to be in a club that did crafts and sang songs.  So I asked this young man what he told his friend.  He had a great answer, he told me that he said to his friend that “yeah, we sing songs, but it’s out in the middle of the woods at our campfire at the end of a day that was full of fun”.  But then again, that’s a kid that wants what Scouting has to offer.
Ok so what’s the point here.  The point is simply this.  We beat ourselves up to make sure that every boy joins Scouting.  Why?  If they join great, but if they quit, did we fail?  Did Scouting fail?  No.. they just did not fit in our program.  I have seen many Scouts come and go from our Troop and I can honestly say that the ones that left did not want to be there.  It was nothing we did to chase them away, they just did not want to be in Scouts.
I have said it many times, I would rather have a Troop of 10 motivated boys that want to be there than have a Troop with 50 that don’t.
Am I not supporting Scouting by saying this?   Nope I am delivering the promise of Scouting to those that want it.
Once again, I am a fan of the writing of William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.  I have a copy of something he wrote way back when regarding the 10 Essentials of Scoutmastership.  It goes like this.

A belief in boys that will make you want to invest yourself and your time on their behalf.
A zeal focused upon one point-the boy’s happiness through his formative years- “A happy boy is a good boy, a good boy is a good citizen.
An immense faith in Scouting as the program that will best serve to mould our youth into fine men.
A realization that to the boys Scouting is a game – to you, a game with a purpose:  Character, building citizenship training and physical fitness.
A knowledge that to your boys you are Scouting.  “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”.
A steadfastness of purpose to carry out a planned program with energy and perseverance, patience and good humor.
A willingness to submerge yourself and make boy leaders lead and grow through and effective application of the Patrol Method.
A desire to advance in Scoutmastership by making use of training offered and material available on the subject.
A readiness to work hand in hand with home, church, sponsored institution, school, Local Council, National Council for the good of the individual boy and the community as a whole.
A love of the outdoors in all its phases and a vision of the hand that created it.

With an effective program that offers the “want to” so a boy joins, stays, and grows in Scouting we can see that Scouting is a great program.  But that is not for everyone.  If you as a Scouter can honestly read the 10 essentials of Scoutmastership and apply it to your unit you will create that environment.  If you do not feel that you can do that, well then you prove the argument, that nope, Scouting is not for everyone, to include adults.
Before I get lots of hate mail… I am playing devils advocate here, but the point for me is taken well.  I do not think that everyone needs to be in Scouting.  I think those boys that want to be in should and once in we will do everything in our power to deliver to them the very best program.
Now, I do want to hear what you think.  Please leave your comments, I would not ask if I didn’t want to know.
Thank you all for all you do in Scouting!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

Scouting Lighter

Yesterday I stumbled upon a great You Tube Channel.  It;s called Scouting lighter.  From what I gather, this Scouter put this together as part of his Wood Badge Ticket.  So +2 for this fella!  A backpacker and Wood Badger!!  WhooHoo!
Anyway.. I found his You Tube channel full of really great information.  I picked out this one video in particular because it really explains what we are trying to do in our Troop and more to the point what I am doing with my gear.
Enjoy, and I highly encourage you… Nay Demand.. .that you subscribe to his channel!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: #52to16, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Philmont, planning, Skills, Wood Badge | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

How light can you go?

traceI have said it over and over, the older I get the lighter my pack has to get.  The pack I carried out of base camp at Philmont was 55 lbs.  That is the heaviest pack I have carried in a very long time.  Why was it so heavy?  Well, Philmont has not embraced a lighter style of camping yet and I am sure that one day it will start getting lighter gear, but for now, Philmont is under the impression that “it’s always been that way, and it works”.  Well… I am here to tell you that you can go lighter and still have a great Philmont experience.  Now before anyone gets the idea that I am bashing on Philmont here.. that is not the case.  Knowing what I know now about how Philmont “camps”.  There are many things that I could have done to shave unwanted pounds.  Take for example the food.  We just grabbed the food and unlike our at home routine, did not repackage and reduce the containers.  That would have taken lots of volume as well as weight out of our packs.  We put lots of uneaten and unwanted food in the swap bins at every staff camp.  Getting that stuff out earlier would have helped.
But lets talk about shaving weight in our packs.  We are on a constant journey to reduce weight in the pack.  Getting my base weight down is an effort that I am constantly thinking about and testing and trying new or other ways of packing my gear.
I will never be an “Ultralight” guy.  I just don’t agree with the basic philosophy of going totally ultralight.
Some argue that Ultralight is defined by base weights that are 20 lbs or less.  Some say that you need to get lower than that to be considered “Ultralight”.  There are those backpackers that are considered “Minimalist” toting pack weights of less than 12 lbs.  As much as I would love to carry a pack that was that light, reality kicks in and I am not willing to sacrifice comfort or safety.  And there I think is the difference.
Comfort and safety.  I read a story once about a guy that ventured off into the wilderness with only a knife.  While he did survive and accomplish what he was trying to prove.  I find it hard to believe that he was comfortable and in one way or another at some point could have jeopardized his safety.
We make choices in materials like down or synthetic when it comes to sleeping bags.  Weight can be shaved by pushing the limits of the rating.  Taking a 50 degree bag out when it is in the 30’s and just wearing extra clothing is a technique, but lets remember why we camp in the first place.  It’s not to survive.. it’s to have fun.  I don’t know about you, but freezing my butt off is not fun.  So I will carry a little heavier bag and look elsewhere to shave weight.
I make up weight saving in using an alcohol stove.  The stove and fuel weigh significantly less than canister stoves and liquid fuel stoves.  I don’t really sacrifice performance and certainly not my safety.
I do not take a lot of extra clothing.  But I don’t get wet and dirty either.  I wear my rain gear when it is wet and also when I have to do some scrambling.  A pair of gaiters keep my pants dry and clean as well as my socks.  I use poly materials that wick sweat and keep me warm.  Switchback style pants are a great way to reduce the amount of clothing taken.
Toiletries are another way to get weight down.  You won’t need a whole roll of TP.. so don’t take it.  Moist wipes are a great way to clean up the undercarriage and reduce the need for bulky and heavy soaps and wash cloths.  Camp suds work on dishes, clothing, and your hair and body.  Just a drop or two goes a long way.  Again, reduce and save on weight without sacrifice.
My goal is to get to 18 lbs base weight.  I am hovering in the 25 lb range now.  I don’t want to be “Ultralight”, but I do want to be able to backpack longer and farther and master the gear and packing of it.  I will not sacrifice comfort or safety.  I won’t use my socks as shoulder straps and wander into the woods with only a knife.
According to most experts in the field of backpacking, up to the 30 lbs weight range is emerging as the new sweet spot for mainstream recreational backpackers—light enough to feel reasonably comfortable on the shoulders, yet stocked with a luxury item or 2 (camp sandals, for instance, or maybe some freeze-dried ice cream).  I am all for a comfort item or two and won’t skimp on food.
I am going to document my quest here on the blog to get the weight down and share some tips that I find work well for me.  Remember that you should always hike your own hike and what works for me, may not work for you.
So to start with..
TIP #1.  Your pack.  The bigger the pack, the more you will put in it.  Get a smaller pack, something you think you will be comfortable with, one that will allow you to get what you think you need in it, and a little extra and then start whittling down the load.|
I went from a 5500 cubic inch pack to a 3800 cubic inch pack.  Going down to about 60 liters forced me to start looking at the gear I was taking and what I really needed.  What I have found is that given the gear that I currently have 3800 cubic inches is about as small a pack as I can go to.  I use this pack for all 4 seasons and even used it to carry the 55 lb load at Philmont.  The pack is recommended to go up to a 40 lb load.  I suppose I was just careful enough to max it out.  I will tell you that I have no desire to carry 55 lbs again so I am happy with the pack that I am using.  For what it’s worth the pack I am using is the Granite Gear Nimbus Trace.  It’s not the lightest pack out there, but is rugged enough for the type of hiking I do.
So get a pack that is comfortable and meets your needs and start your load from there.
What do you carry?  Let is know.
Look for more tips here on the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

 

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, Philmont, Skills, Winter Camping | 6 Comments

Give to Get?

When I was a young boy, my family instilled in me the value of being helpful.  By my parents example they showed us how to be of service to our community, to our church, and to our neighbors.  They were active in social functions that typically came with a cause.  My Dad is a pretty good handy man and would often drag me to helping those that needed cabinets fixed or other repairs.  We spent the better part of the spring of 1979 working in a Monastery doing odds and ends and the pay was great.  Onion Soup. 
I never once heard my Dad complain or ask for compensation for anything he ever did.  It was just a part of the deal.  Even to this day my parents are advocates for helping other people at all times.
And so as I grew up this attitude of service has stayed with me.  In church they always ask of people to give their time, talents, and treasure.  I always jokes that my treasure is limited but my time is free.. oh.. and limited talent too.
And so it is in Scouting.  Saturday at our Program and Training conference I sat in and listened to a discussion about Friends of Scouting.   The presenter asked the question why do we or why do we not give to FOS?   A few answers went around the room.  “To attain Presidential status and get free camping”, “To get a patch”, ‘To get the free advancement patches for our unit” were just a few.  The common theme.. To Get.
Most people Give to Get.  And that is the wrong approach when giving.  We give for the program.  We give so that our Council can maintain its outreach programs, maintain the camps we enjoy, and provide program for those that maybe would otherwise be left out.  We should not give because we get something in return, we give because we can.
Back in 2008 I had the good fortune to give to the Council’s endowment through the James E. West Fellowship.  Many Scouters half-joking could not resist to tease that I bought a knot.  It was and is not about the knot.  After thoughtful discussion with my wife, we decided that we could afford in our budget to give the $1000 over the year to help our Scouting programs.  Knowing where the money goes was important to me and knowing that all of it would be used for bettering Scouting programs in our Council was the answer I needed.  So we gave.  Yes, we got a knot, but that knot to me is a demonstration, just like my parents showing me how to give and be of service, people who know and understand what the James E. West Fellowship is see that I am a servant leader.  I wear it to be an example of giving.  I put my money where my mouth is.
Many families take advantage of all that Scouting has to offer.  We teach that “A Scout is Thrifty” and he pay’s his own way.  But many families make excuses that the economy is bad, or we can’t afford this or that.  I understand that times are tough, but times get tougher when we make bad choices.  This may offend, but tough times are tougher when we make a choice to be lazy, wait for hand outs, or not accept our part in whatever it is that you value.  Time and time again I hear Scout parents talk about how expensive Scouting can be.  How much did you pay for those cigarettes?  The average price of a pack of smokes today is $4 to $6.  For the $60 spent on a carton of cigarettes you could send your kid to camp in a month.  But who am I to tell you how to spend you money?  The fact is, smokers value it over other things.  No one needs to smoke, they make a choice to smoke.  But for the money they literally burn, they could help their son have a great Scouting experience.  Now, I’m picking on smokers here, why?  Because they are the easy targets.  You can see the dollars physically being burned with them and I can’t help but pick that out when they say they can’t afford Scouting.  Truth be told, It pisses me off when they make excuses about money then light up a cigarette.  I wonder about priorities and that obviously they are being selfish.  That goes for lots of things.  How many times do you eat out a week.  I know for my family that’s at least a $40 to $50 trip.  So you limit that activity and use the money for something better.  I’m not suggesting that a night out is not called for here and there… but isn’t Scouting worth it?
Dollar for dollar you will not find a better value than Scouting.  If you believe that, and make an effort to support that, than doing what it takes to keep it going should be a priority of yours.  If not, then keep letting others do it for you…and the beauty is that you can expect everything that is offered.
I give, and expect nothing.
I love the Scouting movement and think that there is no better place for our young people to learn and practice what they learn to be productive members of our Country.  Learning skills, teaching, practicing leadership, developing a sense of citizenship, and becoming men and women that value Character and understand that it certainly does matter.
I do this without pay or the expectation of compensation.  My reward comes in seeing these kids grow up. 
The fact of the matter is that to do this it costs and who better to provide than people who know and understand the value of the program?
But why expect something in return?  Is that the spirit of giving?  I have heard it said that “The only thing that take with you is what you leave behind”.  I saw a great example of this in August down at the Philmont Scout Ranch.  Now I do not think that I will ever be a millionaire, and I don’t think that I will ever be donating major tracks of land to the Boy Scouts of America.  But what I do know is that my time is free, my talents are available, and my treasure, well I give what I can.  And I think that is all one can ask for.  With no strings attached, and nothing expected in return.. We give.
I am once again on the Wood Badge staff, and once again I give of time and talent, and I am sure some of the treasury will be spent.  This is something that between my wife and I we have decided is good.  It is good for us, it is good for those that come to the course, and it is good for Scouting.  We both understand that the value of Scouting is greater than any dollar amount.  The program is greater than any one leader.  Scouting is life changing and worth every penny, every hour, and everyone’s talent.
Give.  Not to Get, but because it is part of being a servant leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Philmont, Scouting, Service, Values | Tags: | 3 Comments

How far is it?

Under the Dining Fly

It was our third night on the trail at Philmont.  We had hiked into Harlan Camp from Dean Cow that afternoon.  It was a monster hike taking us out of Dean canyon, under the highway, over the Cimarron river and then back up through Vaca Camp and then into Harlan.  We got into camp with enough time for the crew to reload shot-gun shells and then shoot some.  After camp was set up and dinner cooked, it was time for the Burro racing event and then settling into our nightly in camp routine.  Part of that routine was our nightly round of Roses, Thorns, and Buds.  A great time of reflection and a nice time to get something off your chest.  By day three on the trail we were all dealing with what they call “Day Three syndrome” at Philmont.  In reality it didn’t really hit our crew that hard, but the back to back long days and lots of miles were taking its toll on the crew this evening.
After the Burro racing, the crew made its way back to camp and got the “oops bag” hung.  As was the common trend the rain was heading in for the evening.  We dodged it on the hike that day, but the clouds rolled in quick and it began to thunder.  The crew thought it may be a good idea to do Roses and Thorns under the dinning fly.  Now if you have never been to Philmont you may be thinking pop up or big tarp.  Nay Nay.. at Philmont the dining fly is about 3 feet off the ground.  It is a 12 X 12 tarp with grommets all around.  It is pitched low using trekking poles.  It is the first thing to be set up in camp and is the host of the crews toilet paper for those trips to the Red Roof Inn in the middle of the night.
Needless to say it is a tight fit when you get a whole crew under the fly… but we did it.  We got under right as the rain started.
And it rained, hard.  And the thunder boomed, and then the lightning started.  A spectacular show of light in the sky.  The crashing of the thunder kept the Scouts of the crew oohing and awhing why we shared our Roses and Thorns.  The show really picked up as we wrapped up our nightly discussion, but the rain was telling us to stay put.  So, as darkness fell on our camp, the jokes added to the symphony in the sky.  All the while one member of our crew took the time to count the flash to boom.  Announcing each lightning strike with the distance.  It started to get funny as the distance announcement seemed to always follow the punch line of a joke.  Then, just when we thought the laughter could not get more loud, here came the gas.  Yep, whatever we had for dinner started to revisit us in the form of an aroma that would gag a skunk.
And the rain kept coming down, harder still and the lightning became more frequent.  And then it was a flash of light, a boom of thunder, a fart, and .. “Wow!  That one was 1 mile away”.    Then again, a flash, a boom, a fart… “Wow that one was 6 miles away!”.. and then a Flash, a boom, a fart.. and another voice chimed in.. “Wow! That one was three feet away!”  An eruption of laughter!  It was laughter that I had not heard in years.  The crew laughed so hard most of us were in tears.
Then silence.  Just the sound of rain on the tarp, the crash of thunder, and the sighs of a group of backpackers that were having the time of their lives.
We laid there under that tarp for another hour or so and finally it was time to get to our tents.  The rain never let up that night and as we climbed into our sleeping bags the only sound we heard besides the rain was voices from inside the tents looking forward to another great day on the trail at Philmont.
It started to sprinkle here today, for just a minute.  And just for a minute I thought of that night at Harlan camp.  A flash, a boom, and a fart.. How far was that?
          Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, Just fun, Philmont, stories | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Stinger Honey Waffle

Here is a great energy snack for your next trek.  The Honey Organic Stinger Waffle.
I had never had one of these tasty treats until they appeared in our food bags at… You guessed it.. Philmont!
I immediately fell in love with these and would search every swap box for them.  As luck would have it, there seemed to be plenty.
The Stinger Waffle is perfect with a nice cup of coffee, but is tasty anytime.
The waffle is light weight, great tasting and available online or at local sporting goods shops.  I’m already getting stocking up for future trips.
I am always looking for good trail snacks that are better for you than candy bars, and trail mix gets old.  This is a great option.
Now I did not care for the Stinger Energy bars while at Philmont, so I won’t say that all of the Stinger products are to my liking, but the Stinger Honey Waffle may just be my favorite snack on the trail.
Give them a try next time you hit the trail.  Let me know what your favorite trail snack is.  Leave us a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, gear, Just fun, Philmont | 1 Comment

Gear pick of the week

Since I am a self-proclaimed gear junky I thought that I would start a new weekly post to the blog introducing some of my favorite gear and some of the cool gear that is out there.
This is not an ad for the gear, simply gear that I use that I love, hate, or must have in my pack.. or gear that I want to put in my pack or stuff that I think would be nice to have.
This week we kick off the gear pick of the week with the Sea to Summit X-mug.
This is a great little mug that is collapsible and light weight.  The jury was out on this little piece of gear, but after a few trips with it and taking it to Philmont, I am sold.
The X-mug holds about 2 cups of liquid, hot or cold.  I was a bit worried about how it would handle the super hot water, but after many cups of coffee in it, it is holding up just fine.  The mug is compact and stores anywhere.  I keep it in my cook/eating kit, and it did spend some time in my pocket at Philmont to and from Advisor porch time.
The Sea to Summit X-mug is made of food grade silicone and cleans up real well.  The reinforced rim at the top keeps the mugs shape and gives a nice place to hold on to the cup without burning your fingers.
I used to carry an REI insulated mug, but find that the Sea to Summit X-mug serves all the same functions, from drinking to using it as a measuring cup.  Inside of the X-mug are gradient markings for measuring.  This mug is not insulated, but my coffee never seemed to get cold.
I highly recommend the Sea to Summit X-mug.  It is a piece of gear that I carry and at least until the next piece of cool drink ware comes along.. it will remain a must have in my pack.

Here I am at Philmont having a nice cup ‘o joe with
With the Sea to Summit X-mug.

OK.. here are the stats on the mug.
The cup hold 16 Fl oz or 0.47 liters.
It is not insulated and will not fit in a standard cup holder.
Made of Food grade silicone with reinforced nylon rim.
The dimensions are; 4.25 x 2.75 (collapses to 0.5) inches.
And it weighs 2.4 ounces.
Dishwasher and microwave safe.
Retails for $11.95 just about everywhere.
So that is the Sea to Summit X-Mug.  Let me know if you have it and what you think.. Also, what cup or mug do you use out on the trail (or trailer for you heavy campers).
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Camping, gear, Just fun, Philmont | 2 Comments

Whispering of the Pine

“Philmont does something to people—it is not something that can be put into words easily. Something ‘‘gets into your blood.’’ A love for the land, the atmosphere, the people—all these work together in you to make Philmont an experience that you can never forget. The base of that experience is the presence of God—an awareness that all we have and all we offer to others comes from God. The brotherhood that we share as God’s children and as Scouts brings us to a sense of peace, a feeling that in some strange way, everything is all right. In that sense, we can call Philmont a ‘‘Scouting Paradise,’’ a glimpse of that ‘‘Paradise’’ all of us are called to and will one day experience.”
This passage is taken from the Chaplains Aide booklet “Eagles Soaring High”.  It is the passage that leads to the Day 9 relection.  Since we were on a Short Trek, our Chaplains aid skipped around a bit, so that the reflections matched up with the places that we were on the trail.
The title of the relection is “Country that I love”.  So for those of you playing along at home.  The reflections center around the Philmont grace and the Philmont Hymn.
What I found impressive at Philmont was the never-ending use of the theme.  A love of Philmont.  It echoed in every part of the trek.  The Wilderness Pledge not only reinforced the ideas of Leave No Trace and Good Stewardship, but a willingness to protect Philmont.  The Tour of the Philmont Villa tells the story of Waite Phillips and his generosity to the Scouts.  It concludes with the question, although never spoken, but what will you leave behind?  How will your generosity manifest?  The Philmont grace reminds us of the good things that we have in life and that we need to be thankful for everything that has been given to us.  The conservation project leaves not only our mark on Philmont, but makes it better for Scouts that will one day pass on the trail that we lay before them, just as Scouts before us groomed the trail so that our Philmont experience was just that much better.  And the daily devotions led by the Chaplains Aide remind us as we sit among the Aspen and Purple Mountains that Philmont is greater than ourselves and truly is Scouting’s Paradise.
So when the passage tells us that “Philmont does something to people”… it certainly does.
I can honestly say that I have left Philmont, but Philmont has not left me.  Now it’s back to the daily grind and loving being back home with my family, but the Whispering of the pines still echo in my mind.
So what does Philmont do to people?  It changes them in many ways.  Some of the changes may not happen for a while, some came home different, but everyone changed.  They all tested themselves in one way or another.  They all found strength on the trail.  They all learned a skill or sharpened one.  They all found peace in the mountain.  They all had a great adventure.
Some fell in love with Philmont right away, while others took the whole trek, some are even still reflecting on how Philmont has made a change in their lives.  And yep, some still resist the whisper, but it’s there.
I am fortunate to have been able to go to Philmont, I am fortunate to be a Scoutmaster, and I am lucky to have walked the Country that I love.  Some of the Scouts find it hard to think beyond the next climb, they find it difficult to open their eyes and ears to what is around them.  The ‘coolest’ of Scouts will hear the whisper of the pines… it’s just a matter of time.  For the seven Scouts of 810-N2 and the other Advisor, I know we changed.  I find myself whistling the Philmont hymn and I catch myself singing ‘the Tooth of time’s been chewin’ on me’ as I go about my daily life.  I have relived the climb up to Shaefers peak and laugh to myself when I think about our Burro racing team at Harlan.  The walk in the rain from Ute Gulch into Cimarroncito and the bear sighting just outside of Hunting lodge all bring a smile to my face.  But I knew we had changed when I watched the crew as they sang the Philmont hymn at the closing campfire.  The mood was somber, but the look of satisfaction as they all sang together for the last time as a crew.  The next morning as they proudly wore their Arrowhead award, being marked among the Scouts that have completed a Philmont trek!  Yep, they changed. 
I look forward to watching these Scouts grow and take what they learned at Philmont and use it in life and in our Troop.  They are better people for the experience and I know that Philmont is a part of them.
If you have never been.. go… if you have been.. you know what I mean.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, High Adventure, Philmont, Service, Values | 1 Comment

The Mountain

“Once in a while you find a place on earth that becomes your very own. A place undefined. Waiting for you to bring your color, your self. A place untouched, unspoiled, undeveloped. Raw, honest, and haunting. No one, nothing is telling you how to feel or who to be. Let the mountains have you for a day…”  Sundance

The night before we headed out into the back country of Philmont, we sat with our Ranger and talked about the trek.  She introduced us to Roses, Thorns, and Buds and we shared our expectations of the trek.  I feel that this was a great way to set the tone for the trek as it got our collective minds off the weight of our packs, the miles we would walk, and the challenges we would face.  What I really thought touched me the most was how the Scouts in our crew opened up.  Now, it is fair to say that for many of the members of our crew opening up may have meant that they had no idea what to expect and that they looked forward to having fun on the trail.  But none the less, it was in the context of a nice discussion about what they wanted from Philmont.
When it was my turn to share my thoughts on expectations, hopes, and desires for the trek, I shared a simple thought about hiking.  A while ago I either read or heard an old-time backpacker talk about hiking.  He said that when you hike or backpack, you are either hiking to something or away from something.  People hike for many reasons and deep in our hearts and minds there is a deeper purpose for why we put on a backpack and wander into the wilderness.  Sometimes, we are doing both, hiking to find something and hiking to get away from something.  That was my Philmont experience.
I was hiking to get away from the hustle of everything that the daily grind has to offer.  I was hiking away from stress and drama.  I was hiking to find me.  Now that is pretty deep, and in all honesty I don’t think that I ever really lost me, but deep inside I wanted to search for some parts of me that I thought were absent.  The wilderness of Philmont was my hope in finding an absent spiritual self, an absent happiness, and a test of my physical abilities to push myself with these young men.
On the second day of the trek we were backpacking from Anasazi to Dean Cow.  We woke up and broke camp, ate breakfast and hit the trail.  The route took us up and over a few canyons.  At one point we had been climbing for miles.  Our Ranger suggested to the crew leader that at the top of this next ridge would be a great place to stop and take a ‘packs off’ break.  So we continued to climb and reached the top of the ridge.  Jackie, our Ranger, asked that we all follow her out to this great vista.  It over looked the route that we had just traveled and the vast expanse of land looking into the North country of Philmont.  The sun was shining bright and the sky was clear.  We all took up places among the rocks on the bluff and Jackie began to talk about the Philmont Wilderness pledge.  During that discussion she also talked about Philmont and what it meant to her.  She shared her personal story about Philmont and to summarize, Philmont is a special place to her and is a part of her.  She warned that it would also become a part of us and we would all find a special place in our lives for Philmont.
Then she read a quote from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid;  “One in a while you find a place on earth that becomes your very own.  A place undefined.  Waiting for you to bring your color, yourself.  A place untouched, unspoiled, undeveloped.  Raw, honest, and haunting.  No one, nothing is telling you how to feel or who to be.  Let the mountains have you for a day”  After she shared this quote with us she asked that we separate for 5 minutes.  Go to a place where we could not see or hear one another and think about what that meant to us.
After five minutes we returned and shared out thoughts on the quote.  It was then that I found what I was hiking for and Philmont took its place in my heart.  It was on that bluff that I saw the beauty of Philmont and would later see more.  It was at that moment that my Philmont experience started to really take shape.
At the opening camp fire and member of the Philmont Staff got up and talked about Philmont and asked that we try not to ‘define’ it.  I got it sitting on the bluff.  Philmont can’t be defined because it is something special, beautiful. majestic, challenging, breath-taking, fun, in many ways to everyone.  We all see it differently and as the week went on and we shared Roses and Thorns each night the Philmont story for crew 810-N2 took shape in each of us.  Each one of us had a shared experience and experienced individual triumphs, challenges, and emotions.  Each of us found something spiritual in the mountains, each of us found laughter and fellowship in the crew, each of us found a piece of ourselves that can never be found in the noise of the city.  Letting the Mountain have us for a day we found what we were hiking for.
For me and our crew it seemed that our Philmont trek was less about backpacking, but more about letting Philmont have us.  After day two on the trail I gave myself to the mountain and as a result the mountain gave back.
I think it is true that when you hike you are either hiking to or away from something, I am glad that I found what I was looking for at Philmont.
And yep.. I wanna go back to Philmont!

Silver on the sage,
Starlit skies above,
Aspen covered hills,
Country that I love.
Philmont Here’s thee,
Scouting Paradise,
Out in God’s country, tonight

Wind in whispering pines,
Eagles soaring high,
Purple mountains rise,
Against an azure sky.
Philmont here’s to the,
Scouting Paradise,
Out in God’s country Tonight.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Philmont, Values | 2 Comments

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