Month: September 2011

Backpacking- Planning and preparing

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!

When did things change?

I just came home from the High School.  I volunteer to work the concession stand during the JV Football games so the parents of JV players can watch their sons play.  There were a couple other Dads working with me and during the slow periods of the game, we had a chance to watch the game.  The JV player played their collective hearts out, but still came up short when the last tick of the clock passed.
The discussion that I had with the other Dads though was priceless.  The other night at our Troop meeting I talked during my Scoutmaster Minute about having heart… About never giving up and never letting failure get the best of you.
Today, those Dads and I asked each other when things changed.  Not that “when I was a kid” it was harder… but when I was kids giving up was not an option.  And it should never be an option now.  Our Varsity Football team has had a rough couple years, and I can see why there is frustration and bitter feelings, but this year they are 2-2 and have a promising schedule.  So why give up?  They got down in the last game and many of the players just gave up.  Lost cause?  Never.  Going to lose anyway?  Then go down with a fight!
You see failure is something that is easy.  It becomes an attitude and once you fail and do nothing about it.. it is so much easier to allow it again.  The next thing you know it is a habit.  With teenagers this needs to be nipped before it gets out of hand.
Life is hard and the sooner we expect our kids to be winners the better.  Failure is not an option in life.  Winning is everything.
Or let me explain.
Winning comes in many forms.  The Score is not always the measure of a win.  Follow me here.  The JV team lost the game today 38-34.  They were down with 9 minutes left in the game.  They could have given up.  But they stayed in the game and played until the whistle blew signaling the end of the game.  They had the ball with 14 seconds left and were driving down the field.  One more play and they had a chance to win the game.  They fell short on the score board, but they did not get beat.  They walked into the locker room knowing that they played the game well and in the end… had a chance to win.  This chance will become the building block that will lead them to victories in the future.  The point here is that those players will not go away without learning from a missed tackle, a dropped ball, or a bad throw.  Yes ladies and gentlemen… when you make mistakes you live with the results.  A missed tackle leads to a score for the other team or a much-needed first down that leads to your loss.
That is life.  Not everyone gets a participation ribbon, and not everyone wins every game, but failing to try will lead to failure.
So when did things change?  When did it become ok to quit?  When did it become ok not to give 100%?  When did “Doing your best” not really mean your best?  Think about that… what does BEST mean?  It dies not mean I gave it a shot.. it does not mean I tried, but it got to hard so I quit.  It means BEST.
Here is how Best is defined:
adj. Superlative of good.
1. Surpassing all others in excellence, achievement, or quality; most excellent: the best performer.
2. Most satisfactory, suitable, or useful; most desirable: the best solution; the best time for planting.
3. Greatest; most: He spoke for the best part of an hour.
4. Most highly skilled: the best doctor in town.
adv. Superlative of well2.
1. In a most excellent way; most creditably or advantageously.
2. To the greatest degree or extent; most: “He was certainly the best hated man in the ship” (W. Somerset Maugham).
1. One that surpasses all others.
2. The best part, moment, or value: The best is still to come. Let’s get the best out of life.
3. The optimum condition or quality: look your best. She was at her best in the freestyle competition.
4. One’s nicest or most formal clothing.
5. The supreme effort one can make: doing our best.
6. One’s warmest wishes or regards: Give them my best

I think that it would serve our young people to look at that definition and see if they, when they say they did their best are they at least within the definition?
So I wonder when things changed.  No one would ever dare give up when I played ball in school.  Our team mates were our friends, they were the guys that we knew we could count on, we knew they would never give up.  I don’t see that in all the kids today.  They are more concerned about themselves and not their team mates.  Life lessons missed.  In life they will need to be dependable, they will need to be counted on.  Giving up now will set them up for quitting later.
Maybe it’s just me and those two other Dads in the snack shack today.. but hope was restored watching that JV team.
This is all just as relevant in Scouting.  Quitting on a patrol, giving up when the challenge is to hard, not finishing when you are being counted on.  All of these tests of character beg the question, when did things change?

“I’ll never give up; cause if I do; I give up on the ones beside me; I’ll never give up; cause if I do; I give up on the ones who believe in me; if the person next to me is down; I will pick him up; and he the same; I’ll never give up; I’ll believe in the cause; I’ll fight to the end; and WE WILL WIN!… THIS IS THE RAIDER PROMISE” – 

This is the Raider Promise, they say this before and after ever game, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone made a promise to never give up, to help other people at all times, to live a set of values, to be a good member of a team or patrol.  Wouldn’t it be nice?
And you wonder why I think sports are valuable…

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Where do we go now?

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 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!

The Light at the end of the Tunnel

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!

The BigFoot Challenge

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. 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 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 website.
So take the Bigfoot challenge…
Teach a Scout, Be an example, Join Leave No Trace and remember to reduce your footprint.. after all Bigfoot has been doing it for years!

Have a Great Scouting Day!


This past weekend our Troops plan was to float a portion of the Deschutes River in Central Oregon.  We all knew going into this activity that there was risk as well as the opportunity to challenge our selves.  What we could never plan for was how well the Scouts did in the adventure leading to the adventure.
The Big River Campground is three and half hours away from our meeting hall, so we left a little earlier than we typically do to give us time in the day light to set up camp and relax for the night.
An hour out of town one of the cars in the convey starts “acting up”, so we pulled over, checked out and pushed on.  Two hours into the trip that same car came to its final leg in a town called Madras.  The car was finished, could not move.  So we parked it and started planning on first how to recover the car and then second how to keep moving to camp.  We decided to leave the car where it sat, right behind the Sonic.  The owner was kind enough to let us keep it there.  The next part was a bit more of a challenge.  We had to transport 4 Scouts and a Driver to Sunriver… another hour and half.
We squeezed one more small Scout into a seat belt and left the remainder at the Sonic with the driver.  The rest of the Troop moved on to the campground.
On the return to the Sonic from the campground one of the ASMs that was the shuttle car struck a deer on the highway.  The deer was extremely hurt and so a call to 911 sent the State Police to the scene.  They took car of the deer filled a report and the ASM was on his way back to Madras.  Not a scratch on his car.
They loaded up the car and turned around heading to camp.  By the time they arrived in camp it was 3 AM.
So where are the Scouts during all of this… well most of them do what all Scouts do when they get in the car… sleep.  But what was surprising was the first year Scouts that proved that they wanted to be helpful.  They volunteered to stay back.  They helped unload, move and reload gear, they seemed to be everywhere doing everything.  Hats off to them.
The adventure on the water was amazing.  We floated the river returning back to camp around 6:30 PM.  Needless to say spending a day on the river, a lot of the boys having a limited amount of sleep made for a real quiet night in camp on Saturday.
On the way home we rearranged all the kayaks and stopped into Madras to get the broken down car.  We got it into the boat trailer, again the Scouts of the Troop giving 100% in chipping in to help as went and got the Troop Cheese Burgers and Fries.
We ate and returned home.  Stories to tell and adventure had by all.
That’s what its all about.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Whats the Main thing

Monday night another young man joined our Troop.  He is a 6th grader, never been in Scouts before and looking for adventure.  I met him and his parents and he joined right into the gathering activity fitting in with his new Patrol mates as if he’d been in the Troop for years.  His parents had some concern, I mean, what parent wouldn’t be a bit aprehensive about send their son off with strangers.  In the course of our conversation I asked them what they wanted their son to get out of Scouting.  Fun, life lessons, adventures?  What was it that they considered when they brought their kid to us?
The first thing they talked about was their boy growing to be a bit more responsible and independant.  Then they talked about life skills and fun.  They understood that in Scouting their son will develop leadership and responsibility.  They asked about service to others and character building.  In short.. they asked all the right questions.
They want their boy to one day earn his Eagle award, but that was not the main thing.  They want him to have fun with a group of young men that have a common interest and shared values.

You see, sometimes we get so caught up in merit badge extravagangzas and how many seat belts we need for a camp out that we forget that main thing.  What is it?  Citizenship, Character, and Fitness.  The program is centered on those three things and when you keep them in the middle and build your unit around that… well it grows, its active, and it a fun place to be.  The other night at our Troop meeting we welcomed a new Scout.  He is number 41 on the roster.  We have had our share of gains and losses, but in the end they come back to a fun unit that is full of adventure, fun, and lessons for life.  all of that wrapped up in the main thing. 
As our new parents watched as the Scouts did a Kayak relay in the parking lot Monday night, they commented on how friendly the Scouts were and how they all seemed to be a good group of boys.  Thats the character of our unit, and it comes from staying focused on the main thing.  The rest will come. 

Have a Great Scouting Day!