As with many of us we wear multiple hats in Scouting. First and foremost we wear the Dad (or Mom) hat, then the hat appropriate to our unit, like Scoutmaster or Committee Chair. Then there often times is some District level hat, whether that is part of the District Training team, a District event, or serving on the District committee. Some are active within their Order of Arrow Chapters or Lodges, and so another hat is hung there. And for some, and the numbers narrow here, the Council comes a callin’ and more hats are added to the hat rack of Scouting. This is all well and good as long as the person wearing all of those hats can A. balance and manage the time, B. give full attention to all the positions that he or she has volunteered for, and finally C. Remember that this is Scouting and it is still a game with a purpose.
All of that to say… I am putting on my District hat right now for this post.
Thursday night at our District committee meeting I was asked to take on an additional responsibility, that of the District Committee Chair while we are looking to replace our retiring District Committee chairman. I currently serve as the District Program Chairman, so this was not to far a stretch and so I accepted the interim role.
That is neither here nor there when it comes to the subject of this post, other than to say that in the role of both the District Committee Chairman and the Program Chairman one of the reports that our District Commissioner gave disturbed me to no end and I am looking for solutions.
That report was on the Journey to Excellence status of units within our District. I’ll jump right in.
In November our Council wraps up it’s rechartering process. This way all units are good to go heading into the new year. If done right by the units, this is a nice way to end the year and start their Scouting calendar year off clean. Maybe it’s because I do not know anything else, but this works well for me.
In November we also close out our now Journey to Excellence (Former Honor unit, Quality unit, Centennial Quality unit) report. Now of all the programs listed in Parenthesis.. I like Journey to Excellence a lot. It is a fair way to rank and rate your unit. It is a good measure of how your program is delivering the promise of Scouting. In the Thunderbird District we have 129 units that rechartered this November.. well 124 actually turned them in on time.. we are still waiting on 6 of them… which will add to my point here real quick. Out of the 129 units only 35% of them turned in the paper work for their Journey to Excellence. That’s only 45 units (Packs, Troops, and Crews). 45!
So the question has to be WHY? The score card is easy to use, the goals are fair and offer a sliding scale from Bronze to Gold so that units have a way of stepping up their programs with rewards for small and large success’s. But why would only 45 out of 129 units report how they are offereing up the program?
Is it a lack of knowledge? A lack of training? A lack of buy in? Or does this tell us that the 84 units that did not report are not providing quality programs and do not want to tell that to the District and Council? I sincerely hope that this is not the case. I know that there are great Scouters out there in our District and I see the units around doing activities, service projects, and outings. So why not report.
My thoughts went back to the Good turn for America program. Our District struggled in getting units to report there also. We asked a volunteer to chase down units and assist with their reporting.. read.. do it for them. And amazingly, or not, the numbers went sky rocketing. Now I am not suggesting that this is all about numbers. I certainly am not, what I am hoping is that the Promise of Scouting is being delivered in the 84 units that have made the choice not to fill out the form.
In talking with one Scouter, I came to the conclusion that he just did not know how the process worked. So a lack of training on his part led him to not being able to go through this with his unit. I call BS on this to a certain degree. The program is not that tough to just figure out. He asked about tools that could be used to help with the process. I told him to go to Scouting.org and look up the Journey to Excellence. There he would find an easy way to set the goals of the unit, track the progress of the unit, and print the final report. Along with definitions, Frequently Asked questions, and support. I also reminded him that the number one function of the District is to support units and he could always call us.
Here is what I like about the JTE program. If you use the tracker, and I mean break it out monthly and see how you are, as a unit progressing through your program based on your goals. You will achieve success. The tracker allows the unit to see potential problems or short falls before they happen. It allows Troop committees to make adjustments, it is a nice tool for the Patrol Leaders Council to stay on track with their program. After all the main emphasis of the JTE is in program and participation. Most of us have a competitive gene in us. Our Scouts certainly do. So the Journey to Excellence plays on this part of the game. There are incentives within the unit to continuously improve. Better Performance means better Scouting for youth! Better Performance can earn a higher level of Recognition, and Key requirements are tracked and improvement can be quickly identified so they can see where they are on the field. It’s kind of like being in a 3rd and long and waiting to punt or 3rd and short and know you can score!
I also like that each year the requirements will change. Each year, the requirements will be reconsidered to reflect the improved performance by units. This is why it is important that ALL units report. Right now in my District 45 units will set the performance measurement for the rest of the District. New standards for 2012 are already out. You can see the Troop score card here.
So I am looking for solutions to this problem. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment or drop an email.
Share your Journey to Excellence success’s also in the comments section of this post.
Like I said. I know that there are good Scouters out there doing the right thing. But the Journey to Excellence program will help make Scouting better. Better for the main thing… Scouts.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This last weekend our Scout Troop headed up to Trout Lake, Washington to venture into the longest Lave Tube cave in North America, called Dead Horse cave. We tried to get up to the cave last year, but with record snow fall we could not get to the entrance. So the PLC put it on the calender again for this year and in a month that the snow should not be that bad, if there at all.
The temps have been dropping and with the Dead Horse cave being pretty much at the base of Mt. Adams we kept an eye on the weather and told the PLC to be prepared for cold temps. The 10 day forecast called for around 21*. We conducted a shake down on Monday night before the trip and found that some of the guys were carrying too much and in appropriate gear for cold weather.
We pride ourselves on learning from mistakes, but more importantly being a self-proclaimed expert when it comes to cold weather camping. I have spent a great deal of time teaching both the ASMs and the Scouts about cold weather camping, and so it troubles me when we teach and take great care in instructing the Scouts to be better prepared for their outdoor adventures and they choose not to listen or act on the instruction. What I will tell you though is that with experience comes knowledge and we all learn from mistakes and our lack of preparedness.
So what I have summed up in our first cold weather experience for this year is simply its all about Skill and Gear.
Camping in the cold and extreme cold requires a different skill set than you typical 3 season adventure. It requires thinking and constant awareness. This raises a challenge when we are doing this with younger Scouts. I am going to make a sweeping generalization, but the young Scouts do not always think before they act. They take the path of least resistance, they make choices based on what seems to be fun and not what is right based on conditions. For example, they see snow. Snow equals snow balls and snow angels. Fun, yes, but the right thing to do when you need to be able to sustain in the cold for three days, No. So much of the skill we talk about with our young men is staying dry. We stay dry with Skill and Gear. Wearing clothing that will keep us dry and staying out of the snow. Simple things like using your pack cover to kneel or sit on when setting up your tent or cooking rather than plopping down in the snow. Or staying on the path rather than breaking trail if you don’t need to.
So we teach them before we head out and then stay on top of them during the trip and hope that it starts to sink in.
ATTN: SHOE COMPANIES. I don’t care about fashion and style! You have assisted in the creation of a generation that can not and will not tie their shoes. I BLAME YOU for laziness.
I can not tell you how many Scouts have trouble tying their shoes and keeping them tied. This is a major issue in the cold. This weekend I could not believe how many of the new Scouts would rather allow their boots to fill with snow than tie their boots up. GEAR. It is so important to keep your feet dry and warm. A good pair of boots and a set of Gaiters is extremely important in keeping your feet and lower legs warm and dry.
Ok, so I can go on and on, the point here is that just like when you are building something, the right tools are required to do the job right, and with the right skill set and the right gear camping in the cold is fun and exciting.
It’s all about developing in these Scouts those skills. There are Scouts today that are more than likely not happy with the way I assisted them this weekend. I was nice, I am not a yeller, but because of the way that they have been taught to be lazy and have things done for them, they had a little more of me than they wanted.
PLAN OF ACTION.
Saturday night, the ASMs and I sat around the camp fire after the Scouts went to bed. We talked about the challenges we had and how we were going to fix it.
First. Gear. We are putting together a list of recommended gear and must have gear. We will distribute that list to the parents at a mandatory parent meeting. It will be made clear that if a parent does not attend the Scout will not camp with us in the winter. That simple.
At that meeting we are going to show the parents what kind of gear we want to see the Scouts have. We are offering solutions for the lack of gear that some of the Scouts have. Between myself and the other Assistant Scoutmasters we have a lot of gear. We are all willing to loan gear until the Scout can get his own. We want ever Scout to have this experience, but we can not have a Scouts go unprepared.
Prepared for cold weather camping requires the right Skill and the right Gear. I can not make exceptions when it comes to the safety of our Scouts.
Second part of the plan is to change the shake down plan. We currently do them the meeting before the camp out. We talked with the PLC and we are going to start doing the night of the camp out. We will not leave the meeting hall till the gear is right. A parent will have to stick around to either make adjustments or take the Scout home when he does not meet the conditions for the camp out.
The Scout will not go with us if he is not prepared.
And finally. We will make sure that our older Scouts are prepared and able to assist with the training. Our troop has become every young in the last year, with as many new Scouts as we have brought in there is a need to go back and retrain everyone and ensure that we all are on the same page when it comes these skills. In the long run we will have a better trained and ready group on our next winter adventures… which by the way is in January. So the time line is short and the urgency of matter is there. We start tonight.
Skills and Gear equal success in the winter.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
The SMMPodcast show #95 is now available for your listening pleasure… well for those of you that still enjoy the sound of my Scouter voice.
In this show I talk about shaving weight and reducing volume in your backpack. Take a listen to the show and let me know what you think.
As I recorded the show it became very obvious to me that this content would be better communicated in a video. So I am going to record a video around mid November and get it posted here.
In the video I want to show you some of the tips and tricks that I use to reduce weight and volume in my pack. It may not be the item itself.. but how it is configured and set up that reduces the weight and volume.
Again, let me know what you think about the show and now would be a great time to get questions in to answered in the video.
Thanks for all your support and listenership!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Ok.. lets talk about food. I love to try new stuff on camp outs, like I have said in posts before, meals and food occupy a large amount of time on outings. And since I am a Do as I Do kind of leader, I figure the more creative or at least having a variety out there, the Scouts will see these meal options and eventually try them.
What has happened is that many of the Scouts have taken a liking to expanding their meal options. Looking into different ways to prepare pastas, rice options with different meats and yes even veggies.
Since we have a “No Ramen Alone” rule, noodles with extras have increased ways in which our Scouts prepare and eat also.
Prepared meals of the freeze dried or dehydrated variety have also made its way into the packs of our troop, and once again there are many options there also.
I have given many of them a try and some are better than others in my opinion.
Of course every one is familiar with Mountain House and the wide variety it has made available to the backpacking community. Now since this is a Blog and only my opinion here, Mountain House is my least favorite of the dehydrated options. they have a nice selection, are easy to prepare and when cooking for small groups (2 or 3) they are a great choice. I do think that they are a bit spendy at about $8 a meal on average. Some are cheaper than others, while the Beef stew (4 serving) will cost you around $10. This can get spendy and if buying Mountain House I would suggest buying it in bulk. Costco sells it on occasion by the case.
Another option in the dehydrated/freeze dried category is The Backpackers Pantry. Again, some really nice menu items and again, a bit spendy. I do like the “Complete Meal Packages” for 4 that they offer. The price for feeding 4 is pretty good for what you get. The packaging is good and the preparation is easy.
Alpine Aire Foods is yet another option in prepared meals. They are in about the same price range, and they have some nice menu options, but I have to be honest, I did not find them the best when it came to taste, and to me.. well, why eat it if it’s not good. The Beef Rotini was hearty, but I was not crazy about the pasta.
Hungry Hikers is a company that is local to me. They have some good meals that are very tasty . Not a huge selection, but enough to give you a variety. The biggest drawback to Hungry Hikers is the price. Very spendy for what you get. When you are providing this as an option for your Scouts, make sure they sell lots of Popcorn to afford these marvelous meals. The Chicken Pot pie is my favorite. I like their stuff, I just don’t like the price.
I will not talk about M.R.E.’s. they are novel to kids and some “Wilderness guru’s” think they are cool, but they are heavy and while you may get them at a surplus store on the cheap.. you get what you pay for.
My favorite dehydrated meals to date are from the Packet Gourmet. The food is really good tasting, easy to prepare and pack. Not to spendy and they give Scouts a 15% discount when you sign your unit up for a discount code. When talking price, I found them to be the most reasonable. The discount code costs nothing and it is easy to use. They ship the product real quick and have nice customer service. I highly recommend the Packet Gourmet. They even give away meals to get you hooked. Check them out. I even tried one of their desserts.. YUMMY!
Finally, there is always the “Do it Yourself” option. As I write this post I am dehydrating spaghetti with meat and sauce. It was left over from dinner tonight, so I figured why toss it in the disposal when I can toss in the dehydrator. I will make about 3 good servings and costs almost nothing to make. Investing in a Nesco dehydrator (around $75) is a great way to expand your meal options on the trail.
Full meals, snacks, and trail seasonings, and more are easy to make.
I hope this gives you a few more options to discuss with your Scouts. They can eat real well on the trail without Ramen.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Planning and preparing for an awesome time on the trail typically revolves around food in one way or another. I mean, face it.. we walk till we eat.. then we walk some more till we get to camp… and eat. We wake up, and eat. Point is meal planning is important. We will get into that more later, but I wanted to share with you one of the ways that I plan and prepare meals. I test them at home first.
I stumbled on this Krusteaz ”One Step” muffin mix at our local store. It’s great because you just add water.
I use silicone cups to do the baking in. You can pick them up everywhere. They are easy to clean and reuse.
Enjoy the video.
Bake some of these next time you are out on the trail.. You will not be disappointed.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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!
Its been a month since I posted my last podcast. I won’t go into too much detail here, but lets just say that “the tribe had spoken” and it looked like I was being voted off the island so to speak.
The good news is that my Scouting life is going great and some great local Scouting friends got me back on the right track.
So Show 94 is out and in the show we talk about my Troop getting the annual plan finished and things are looking up for Scouting around our area.
Take a listen to the show and let me know what you think. There are many ways to send us feedback. Leave a comment here, drop us an email, shoot us a voice mail and use PTCMedia.net to leave feedback.
I spent some of today making muffins on the backpacking stove, a video is coming soon on that. A real quick, easy, and yummy idea for the trail.
If you have never baked with your backpacking stove.. the time is now.
Listen to the podcast HERE
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 show is about Summer Camp and Annual planning.
We talk about providing incentives for older Scouts and getting younger guys to attend.
After summer camp we discuss some of the elements of the Annual Planning session and some keys to making our Scouts successful in planning and executing a great year of Scouting.
A few reminders on the show about the SMMPhoto contest!
Enjoy the show.
Listen in on iTunes, Stitcher, or on the web!
Have a Great Scouting Day!