Skills

What Pleases Jerry

IMG_6206It is interesting to hear what our Scouts think and say.  At most of their ages, they have not yet learned to filter their conversations based on who they are around or what the circumstances may be.  On the way to our last camp out a younger Scout asked an older Scout what they had to do at the camp out.  The response from the older Scout was this, “What ever pleases Jerry.”
Now I know this young man and I know that he was being sarcastic to a point, and on the other hand, I know that his comment was directed at the fact that I hold the older Scouts to a higher standard and ask them to demonstrate leadership.  This Scout would much rather sit around and do nothing in most cases… and by and large, that is exactly what he and his buddy did during the last camp out.
What this and other Scouts fail to realize is that his response to the younger Scout is actually 100% accurate.  “Whatever pleases Jerry” is actually the right answer.
So what pleases Jerry?
1.  When the Scouts have fun.
2.  When the Scouts learn.
3.  When the Scouts demonstrate leadership.
4.  When the Scouts seek and find adventure.
5.  When the Scouts develop the bonds of a high performance team.
6.  When the Scouts have a sense of accomplishment.
7.  When the Scouts get the opportunity to see and do something new.
8.  When the Scouts practice leadership and find success in their skills.
9.  When the Scouts learn that winning is better than losing in life.
and finally…
10. When a Scout looks back on Scouting, smiles, and knows it was worth his time.
That is what pleases Jerry.
So Mr. Older Scout… you nailed it!  And guess what.  The Scout you told that to lived up to that expectation.
Thank You!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Delivering the scolding… or promise?

BP“The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself.”
“The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of another brother.”
“The spirit is there in every boy; it has to be discovered and brought to light.”
“There is no teaching to compare with example.”
“To get a hold on boys you must be their friend.”
I know that it is bad form to start with a list of quotes, but all of these quotes are from the founder of Scouting, Baden-Powell.  They come to mind when I look back on this weekend and some of the things that I saw at our District Camporee.
The question is Why?  Why do some Scoutmasters feel the need to make Scouting a chore?  Why do they insist on not making it fun for the Scouts?  Why is there is a reason to yell or belittle a Scout?  Why?
I wish I could say that this is an isolated case and I am talking about one Scout Leader.  But I am not.
Here is the problem as I see it.  These leaders have no idea what Scouting is supposed to look like.  One particular Scoutmaster explained to me that what the Scouts lack is discipline and it was his job to make sure they are disciplined.  You see, I feel that is the parents job.
The same Scoutmaster yelled at his troop over a bent tent-peg.
Another leader explained to me that Scouting is supposed to make our boys gentlemen and respectful.  I asked if her example was helping as she screamed at a Scout for playing with his patrol mates.
Yet another Scout leader had a group of Scouts at attention as they were dressed up and down about not doing well in their uniform inspection.  The leader’s shirt was un-tucked and looked like he slept in it and instead of a Scout hat or Troop hat, he was wearing a hunting hat as he ripped a Scout a new one over not wearing his Troop hat.
Why?
And we wonder why Scouts leave.  I even talked with a Scout who would love to leave his Troop, but can’t because his Dad is one of the leaders.  Really?
This weekends Camporee was fun.  It was one of the better camporees we have had in a while, so why do the adult have to screw it up for the boys.
Again, they clearly do not understand what Scouting is all about.
We are not the Army.  We are not a boarding school for wayward boys.  This is Scouting and above all, the boys need to have fun.  It is that game with a purpose that will teach them the skills to deal with life’s challenges and develop those life long values that will guide them to be disciplined and self-reliant.
How can a boy discover that light when the adults around him are constantly looking to snuff it?  How can a boy learn to play the game, when the rules change or are unclear?  How friendly is the constant brow beating?
I think that some leaders need to take a look in the mirror and find out if they are delivering the promise of Scouting or just a good scolding.
The best part of the discussion I had with our Anti Powell was when he pointed to my Troop, at the time they were all playing Frisbee in a field between the camp sites.  Loud laughter and complete grab ass was in full effect.  He pointed out that camporee was not about playing.. it was about competition.  I explained that there is certainly a time and a place for everything.  He said, “Look at your camp site… no matching tents, no patrol boxes, no discipline.”  I explained that we are a backpacking troop and do not have patrol boxes or matching tents, and so far as discipline, we have plenty of that.  It comes with living the Scout oath and law.  Then in a moment of arrogance, I pointed out that what he was looking at was the Troop of the Year and we are doing it right.  With that, I bid him a good day and joined the boys in the game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Camporee was a fun time and a great experience for our Troop.  They all had fun and competed well.  It is unfortunate that there are leaders out there that just don’t get it.  If only they took the time and put in the effort to delivering the promise of Scouting, using the same energy they put into yelling, berating, and making life hard for their Scouts, they would have great Troops.  The boys are there and willing, they need good adults to have the heart of a Boy and do Scouting the way the founder wanted it to be.
If only.
I had a great weekend with the Scouts of our Troop.  It’s why we keep playing this game.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 3

bepreparedThe motto of the Boy Scouts of America is “Be Prepared”.  Prepared for what?  Well, any old thing said our founder.  Being prepared for your backpacking trek is an absolute must.  When planning your next trek you need to consider those things that can go wrong.  Preparedness will reduce the risk and make the trek a lot more fun.
Andrew Skurka, an Ultimate hiker, Adventurer, and Guide, shares on his website “When I embark on a trip, I always try to abide by the Boy Scout motto — “Be prepared” — by bringing three types of resources, either carried on my back or between my ears, to help me achieve my goals:  Gear, e.g. clothing, shelter, stove, etc.  Supplies, e.g. food, water, fuel, etc.  Skills, e.g. how to hike efficiently, select good campsites, purify water, start a fire, navigate on-trail and off-trail, ford snowmelt-fed rivers, stay warm when it’s cold and wet, etc.”
Training.
Being prepared for those things that can go wrong starts with training yourself and your group to do things right.  Practice packing, unpacking, setting up gear, looking at the individual gear and group gear that is on the trip.  Map reading, first aid, and an honest to goodness understanding of where you are going.
Before a trek learn about the conditions you are walking into and how to deal with them.  Trail conditions, weather, and the condition of your crew.
Planning.
You know the route and conditions but what can go wrong?  Plan for it.  Injuries?  How do we react if someone twists an ankle?  Big cuts?  Sickness?    What are your bail out plans and how have you communicated them?
There is a fine line between over packing for your plan and making sure you are prepared to react.  I have hiked with guys that carry 65 lb packs because they plan for every contingency.  You can build kits for every plan, but what about that great tool between your ears.
In our Troop we have very few rules.  Rule number 1 is always to Have fun.  Rule #2 is no one gets hurt, if you are hurt you are not having fun.  Rule #3 is refer to the Oath and Law.  That is it.  Not getting hurt and putting yourself in a position to get hurt is a person thing and starts between the ears.
I have heard the saying “stay low and slow” on the trail.  That means to keep a good pace that reduces chance of injury and to stay grounded on the trail.  Jumping, climbing, and choosing to venture on bad trail increases the chance of injury.  Assess the risk and then go if it is safe.
Look at what you carry to react to or mitigate risk and risky situations.  We all carry the 10 essentials and in a lot of cases we carry gadgets and neat tools to make our backpacking experience fun.  Do you know how to use it all and have you ever needed it.  If the answer is no to one or both, get it out of your pack.
So what can go wrong?
Injuries.  Probably the thing that we worry about the most, but the fact of the matter is that we rarely have injuries that can not walk themselves off the trail.
Getting lost.  This is a big one.  More people get lost because they rely on guide books, GPS, and the fact that because they shop at REI they think they can take their shiny Subaru to a trail head and go hiking.  Learn to read a map and use a compass.  Train yourself on terrain association and staying oriented on the trail.  Don’t wander or allow group members to wander off or away.  Have a plan to rally should something go wrong while on the trail.
When hiking with a group always stop at any trail intersection and wait for the group to catch up.  Stop and check the map every once in a while.  Make sure that lots of people in the crew have a map.
Weather.  We can not control the weather, but we can plan for it.  Rain is not a downer on the trail if you are prepared.  Know when the weather is going to change by monitoring the forecast in the area.  Know that it will get darker sooner if you have heavier cloud cover.
If you are not prepared to hike during hours of limited visibility, be prepared to start looking for good camp locations before it gets dark.
Water.
Have a plan for water.  Filtering, boiling, or carrying a lot of it.  You need water.  Plan your day around your water availability and resources.
Sit down and list all of the things that you think will go wrong on your trek.  Think of ways that you can reduce those risks and plan for how you are going to address them when and if they happen.
Planning prevents poor performance and when you are backpacking you need to be aware and be prepared.
Know all of the skills that will make your trek fun.  Make sure that you share that knowledge with the members of your group.
Skills, Gear, and Supplies will get you through the toughest times on the trail.  What you have between your ears will go along way to making it a fun trek.  Your skills and attitude will reduce the risks that come with backpacking.  In short.  Be Prepared.
In our next segment we will talk about preparation of gear and what to consider for your next long trek.
Have a Great Scouting Day.

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 2

bearcanisterWe have picked our destination, did a good map survey, know how long we are going be gone, and are super pumped that we will soon be on the trail.
The next thing that we need to plan is our food.
Why do I plan food second?  Food is an important part of your backpacking trek.  It is the nourishment that will keep you on the trail, it takes up space in your pack, it has weight, and it requires preparation before you leave and while on the trail.  How are you going to cook it?  What type of foods are you taking?  What do you like?
To many people think that trail food is trail food, but you can eat pretty much what ever you like on the trail.  You just need to plan and prepare it.
Freeze Dried meals and quick, easy and light and are a good option on the trail.  Dehydrating your own food is another great way to eat well and enjoy your meals on the trail.
Of course you can also pack in fresh foods or prepackaged meals.  All of these are good options.  I thought I would take a few minutes and discuss some thoughts I have on meal options.
When I plan for meals on the trail I take into consideration a few things.
1.  How long am I going to be out.  This is a big consideration as it will determine whether or not I can take fresher foods out with me.  Taking a nice steak out for dinner works if it is going to be cooked in the first day or two.  It requires a little more cold storage, which in turn becomes more weight.  I like a steak in the woods every now and then, but knowing how long I am going to be out is a consideration that I need to add to my decision-making.
2.  What are the conditions going to be.  The weather plays a large role in my decision-making.  Do I need to take more “warming foods” because of the cold, or can I get away with meals that are just filling.  That steak I mentioned.  Great winter camping food.  It will keep longer and the smell and taste are great motivators on a snowy night.  Along with the food, beverages need to be planned for due to conditions.  I like my coffee in the morning no matter what, but I may not take coco in the summer and drink water instead.
Hot beverages are a morale builder in the cold.  They do not really do much to warm the body, but you feel like it anyway.  They need to be planned for.
If it is real rainy, you will want to plan for foods that can be eaten on the move, or provide quick nutrition.   Same goes for winter camping.  You want food that is quickly prepared and consumed.  You may not want to wait around in the rain to long for your meal to cook.  Then when you get to camp and get shelter set up, a longer prep time meal is in order.
3.  Hot meals and Cold meals.  How many hot meals do you want to eat on the trail.  Hot meals require cooking.  Cooking requires fuel and time and pots or pans.  Decide how many hot meals you need for your trip.  Typically one hot meal is good enough for a day, and typically that meal is your evening meal or dinner.  This gives you something warm and solid in your belly for a good nights sleep.  Eating a quick non cook breakfast and trail lunch are great options to reduce the amount of fuel you need to carry and make you day on the trail fun and easy.
I love the cinnamon toast crunch bars for breakfast, throw in a pop tart and you have a feast.
cintoastcrunchBreakfast.  They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  On the trail, some quick energy to get you going is essential.  But it need not be complicated or big.  Breakfast bars or breakfast drinks are fantastic means of protein and energy to get you going.  This is where planning is important for your day on the trail.  A quick breakfast before you hit the trail for the day is enough when you know that your lunch is only hours away.  In most cases lunch is on the go, so if mid morning hunger strikes, there is always a pouch of nuts or granola just a hip pocket away.  It is also important to plan for how you going to eat your breakfast meal.  On colder mornings, an idea is to pack up and hit the trail.  Hike for about an hour or so, then stop and eat.  This allows for the body to warm on its own, the temperature to rise and you get a quick jump on the day.  If you get to a camp site that will require a climb first thing in the morning, climb and then eat breakfast.  Putting your face in the sun and eating a nice cup of oatmeal is a nice way to start a day on the trail.
Lunch.  I am not a big fan of “lunch” on the trail.  The mid day meal should be quick and easy.  More like snacking along the way.  Trail mix, Jerky, and powdered sports drink are good.  Throw in some cheese sticks and you have a nice “lunch” on the trail.  I was over the course of the day.  Eating when we take longer breaks or at a point of interest.  I plan for enough snacks to get me about three servings over the course of a day.
Dinner.  The evening meal for me is the big one.  This is the meal that marks the end of a great day.  It is tasty and filling.  I am a big fan of dehydrating my own food.  There are lots of resources out there to help you with recipes and dehydrating tips.  My favorite site is the Hungry Hammock Hanger.  This guy has got it going on for back country cooking, specializing in dehydrating your meals.  The thing that I really love about it is that I cook it all, eat some, dehydrate some and get to eat it again on the trail.  This method is great for portion control and taste.
Prepackaged meals like Mountain House and Pack it Gourmet are also great options and can be prepared to cook in groups also.
Plan and Prepare.
Preparing your meals are an important part of your outdoor adventure.  Repackage everything.  No cans, No boxes, no extra wrapping.  Get in your mind to reduce your trash to 1 zip lock quart bag.  Everything needs to be reduces to be packed out in that bag.  I am not a fan of eating out of bags, some folks like the idea so they do not have to clean pots and bowls.  There is just something about it that I don’t like.  So even Mountain House meals get repackaged into a smaller zip lock bag and re-hydrated in my pot on the trail.
Reducing the amount of trash you have and marking the food makes life easy on the trail.  I have seen a numbering system or just writing the day for the meal on the bag.  This works great when planning for group cooking.
nalgeneWater.
Water plays a major role in meal planning, preparation, and clean up.  Know how much you will have available when planning your meals.  If you are boiling water for your meals, there is no need to filter, or at a minimum running the water through a coffee filter to get the sticks and rocks out is all you need.  Save filtered water for drinking.  Same goes for cleaning.  There is no need to filter if you are going to boil your dishes clean.  A small amount of camp suds goes a long way too when clean up is concerned.  Do not skimp on water.  You need it to stay hydrated and you need it to re-hydrate.  Make sure that when you re-hydrate your meals that they are completely re-hydrated.  Eating partially re-hydrated meals is not good for you and will lead to issues on the trail.
Protection.
You need to protect your food.  First from spoiling and then from critters.  Get in the habit of preparing your meals so they will have the least amount of chance of going bad.  Be careful not to cross contaminate your food when you prepare.  Then get in the habit of using a bear bag and hanging it.  No matter what the conditions or circumstance, get your food away from your camp area and get it high.  Bears are typically the least concern, but protecting your food is important.  If your food is robbed by critters, your trip is over.  Check local ranger stations or land managers for regulations.  A lot of areas are starting to require bear canisters.  They are a nice way to protect your food.  Waterproof, odor resistant, and nice to have in camp.  It is work having a few in your group for smell-able items that need to be protected.
Remember that when you protect your food, you are also protecting you.  Getting the food away from camp keeps you out of harms way.
Meals are a big part of your backpacking adventure.  Do not take this process lightly.
We will talk about planning for problems in our next post.
What are your favorite trail meals?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Planning a Backpacking Trek pt. 1

philmontmap1.jpgWhether it is for your Scout Troop or you are heading out into the wilderness by yourself or with buddies there are some things that need to be planned before you go.  To get the most of your backpacking experience if you follow a few steps, you won’t forget something and will set yourself up for a worry free backpack trek.
First.  Figure out where you want to go.  Once you do some online research or hit a few guide books and talk to friends, pick a trek.  Next, and way before you get your heart set on the amazing adventure.. Get the map or maps for that section of trail.  Do an exhaustive map recon of the trip.
During your map check look for:
Trail head location.  Can you get there and are there facilities at the trail head?  Restrooms, safe parking, water?
If you are making your trek a loop, can you get in and get out at that trail head or do you need to move the car to a different location and shuttle to the trail head.  This would apply for an in and out hike too.  You may need to check with local guides for shuttles, but you better plan for it or you will find yourself in a pickle real quick.
Look on the map for camp locations along the route.  What is the water availability along the way and in camp locations?
What is the terrain like.  Check out those contour lines… Don’t be surprised once you get on the trail.
This is a great time to learn to really read map detail.  You should know the trail so well from studying the map that you recognize the terrain and land marks as you hike it.
This is also the time where you plan for bail outs.  Locations on the map that will allow you to get out if the weather turns south or someone in the party gets hurt.  Road intersections, crossing trails and mile markers that will allow for quick decision-making when out on the trail.
Now that you have your map and you know where you want to go and see, how far do you want to make the trek.  You will need map in hand to figure this one out also.  Your distance will determine a lot in the trip planning.
How far can you go each day?  How many days are you going to be out on the trail?  Based on the trail, how far can you push or relax daily?    What is the trail like and how difficult?  This will determine how far you may get each day and how far you will want to go total.   But there may be a certain location or destination that you are looking at getting to.  How far do you need to go to get there and answer all the questions that we listed above.
Also consider the time of year you are heading out.  Crowds, snow, and closures are all things to consider.  You need to make sure that you have appropriate permits for the area that you are heading into and think about your group size.
I am a big fan of trekking to a destination.  Mileage means far less to me than seeing something cool.
Planning using your map will get you started on a great backpacking trip.  In our next post we will talk about gear selection and what to bring.  In the next few post we will discuss food, problems, and preparation for a long trek.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

The Road

roadsI can not remember where or who I heard this from, but I recalled a quote the other day that I thought was a good way of illustrating our job as Scout leaders and parents.
“We are not building roads for our children, we are building children for the roads.”
Essentially it is saying that we can lay out everything to make life easy for our kids or we can prepared them for the road of life, which we all know is not easy.
When I thought about this quote, it got me to thinking about some of the ways we discuss our Scouting programs.  As you all know I am a fan of traditional Scouting and doing things the right way.  I am not a fan of giving everyone a trophy and I know that not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout… nor should they be.  If they have been properly trained in their young lives to work hard, then they will reap the rewards of hard work.
The road of life is difficult and only made easier by getting on it and traveling.  Know that it is hard, but stay the course.  The beauty of the road is that you get to pick your destination.   You can pick the path of least resistance and when you get there you will find that it took you to a place a fewer rewards.  You can get on the highway of success and its direction will lead you to the world of Success.  But you need to know that there will be detours and pot holes, but if you negotiate them, you will be successful.
So as Scout leaders and parents we need to encourage our children to take that road and prepare them for the detours and pot holes.  We do not need to drive them there with the knowledge of the location of the pot holes and hardships.  You can build the road, nice and smooth.  Pave it with gold and make it a fast lane for your child, but he will not get the most out of it and will fail to learn lessons along the way.
On the other hand, we can train him up to set a course, know how to go around a detour and take it slow on a pot hole filled road.  He will learn and develop and by the time he gets where he is going he will be a man who you will be proud of.
Last night at Round table I had a little chat with a Scouter about Eagle Scouts.  He made the comment that every Scout should be an Eagle Scout and that the sooner they get it, the better.
Again, I thought about the road.  Did we build the road for the Scout or did we build the Scout for the road.  I don’t know the answer in his particular case, but how many Eagle Scouts have we seen that are not prepared for the road.  I personally can tell you that I have seen many.  While I am proud of their accomplishment, I wonder if we as Scouters are not quick to reward and less enthusiastic to take the time and build that young man.
The road of life is a tough one.  We owe it to our children and our Scouts to build them ready for the road of life.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Learn to Lead Yourself

lead-learn-word-cubesI have spoken about the five principles of leadership that we use in our Troop to develop both our Junior Leaders as well as our Adult Leaders.
To recap, those five principles are Learn to Lead Yourself,  Focus on the little things, Model Expected Behavior, Communicate Effectively, and Be a Servant Leader.
In this post we are going to focus on the first of these principles, Learn to Lead Yourself.
Simply put, if you can not lead yourself you can not lead others.
To illustrate this point we talk often about the way you act.  You set an example of what you would like in those that follow you.  You, as a leader can not get away with the “Do as I say and not as I do” philosophy of leading.  It just does not work if you are trying to be a good leader.
The way in which you carry yourself, your habits,and your skills show the follower that you are a leader that is worthy of following.
You pack your pack correctly and assist others in getting theirs right.
You take your promise to live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily lives seriously.  This is important in showing those you lead that you do not compromise in your values and you are consistent in the way you act and expect them to act.
Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman of IBM, said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others as what he does from day-to-day to lead himself.”
Learning to Lead Yourself takes work.  The learning part comes in developing those skills, attitudes, and habits that make you a better leader.
This means that you spend time in the study of leadership.  It means that you take extra time to be trained in skills and develop methods of instruction to help others.
It means that you never stop learning, this becomes a habit.  Once developed you long for more learning and skills development.
This goes for youth and adults alike.
I know many Scouters that will do training because they have to and I know Scouters that do training because they want to.  They see value in adding to their skill sets in the bigger picture of how they deliver the promise of Scouting.
I also have seen this in our youth.  Youth that seek more adventure and know that they must develop that knowledge base before they can execute certain skills and tasks.  On the other hand, leadership is just a block to be signed on the way to Eagle Scout.
This concept of learning to lead yourself is nothing new.  It has been taught for years by leadership guru’s and is a foundation of leadership development.  It is a means of focusing on the leadership qualities that we need in order to be effective leaders.  Think about what you want to see in a leader.
You want the leader to be Trustworthy.  You want the leader to be reliable.  You want the leader to be accountable.  The leader should demonstrate integrity.  Well, if those are the things that you want in a leader, you need to focus your learning, habits, and attitudes to becoming that person… that leader.
Like I said before, if you can not lead yourself, you can not lead other people.
So how do we learn to lead ourselves?
First.  Find out who you are.  What kind of leader are you?  What habits do you currently have?  What are your skill sets that contribute to your leadership?
These may be hard questions to answer.  You may not like what you hear, either from yourself or others.  Find a leader that you trust and appreciate.  Ask them to assist you with these questions.
Second.  Find out what skills you need to develop to be an effective leader.  Make a list and a commitment to mastering those skills.  Take extra training and opportunities to learn and practice those skills.  Make changes in your habits and attitudes to get better at leadership and skills.
Third.  Commit to be a life long learner.  You need to always stay a couple of steps ahead of those you lead.  Get out in front with learning, practicing, and sharpening your leadership skills.  There is always something new and there are always way to improve.  Perfection is a curious thing.  It is something that can be seen, but moves farther away as you get closer.  It forces us to get better.  Shoot for perfection in leadership with the knowledge that I can not reach it, but the closer I get, the better I get.
Be patient but persistent.  Stay focused on making yourself better and those that you lead will be better.
The first step in effective leadership is getting the leader right.  That leader is you.  Learn to lead yourself and you will be on your way to being an effective leader.
Have a Great Scouting Day!