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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

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!

We’re Back….

I will go into greater detail on the trip to Philmont in a later post… But I wanted to get a note out to let everyone know that we are back from Philmont with a ton of great memories and a longing to return to Scouting’s Paradise.
My initial thoughts are these:
First.  An incredible experience.  The BSA and the Philmont staff make sure that you have a great Philmont experience.  What you do on the trek is up to you and your crew, but I assure you that your planning, training, and committment to having a great time is up to you.  Philmont does their part.
If you are planning a trek for next summer… start now with your planning and training.  Communicate with Philmont, they are great in responding to your questions, needs, and concerns.
Train.  Train.  Train.  Latch on to a unit that has been to Philmont recently.  Find out how they handled their meals.  We learned late in the trek about dumping things that are not going to get eaten.  Every staff camp has the “Swap box”.. this is a great opportunity to trade food and dump the food that you are not going to use.  That equals weight.  Caution!!  Do not allow your Scouts to dump food for the sake of dumping weight… you will know pretty early in the trip what they like and don’t like…  It will be pretty much the same stuff you like… they need the food to get through the trek.. weight is important, but not worth sacrificing a meal.
Order meals from Philmont.  You can do this from their web site.  Read more about trail meals here.
I am a big fan of the Stinger Honey wafers.. yum!
Practice hanging bear bags.
Practice with the crews as they will they will be configured at Philmont.  Adults.. GET OUT OF THE WAY.. you are their for a cool hike.
Order sectional maps from the Tooth of Time traders!  The map that they send you is great and you will need to bring it with you.  It will be the map that your crew leader marks up at Logistics… DO NOT LEAVE IT AT HOME.  The sectional maps are more detailed and may get you out of a pinch on the trail.
Arrive at Philmont with no expectation of your experience or your crew.  In so far as your experience.  Let the mountain take you.  Open your eyes, your heart, and your mind and your Philmont experience will be fantastic.  Expect too much and you may let yourself down.. Philmont won’t.
As for your crew.  They will amaze you with how much they learn and how they grow.
Absorb the Philmont spirit.  It will talk to you from the time you pass through the gateway till the time you take that glance over your shoulder and glance at Arrowhead rock.
I will write more later on our Philmont experience.  I am also available for questions.
Have a Great Scouting Day!