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Did you have a family reunion this summer? What about your Scouting family?
When a scout finishes his time with a troop, that is all too often the end of his Scouting experience. He's off to college or work, and no longer has time for Scouting. And, no one ever tells him he's still welcome to come back and visit.
Troops usually put effort into recruiting boys, and then effort into keeping them involved until they turn 18. After a scout ages out
, or makes the earlier decision to stop participating, that is often the end of the troop's effort with that person, but maintaining a relationship with past scouts has many benefits for both the troop and scout.
The past scout has contact from home, support when he may feel alone out in the world, and reminders of the values presented in Scouting.
The current scouts learn more about life after high school, see that Scouting values will stay with them, and are shown that their troop cares about them, even outside Scouting.
So, how might your troop better maintain relationships with past scouts?
- Contact Info - maintain email and postal address information of past scouts and their parents.
- Newsletters - troop scribe can maintain a list of alumni emails and include them on newsletters and other communications of interest.
- Christmas Cards - a recap of the troop's year and plans of adventures to come.
- Annual Troop Photo - include scout names, patrol names, and adult changes that happened since last year.
- Winter Break Party - college students are often home on break from Christmas to mid-January. That's a perfect time to invite alumni to a winter party so they can catch up with old patrolmates and see how the troop is getting on.
- Family Picnic - Early June can be open for many young people finishing a year of school and not yet starting a summer job. Perfect time for a reunion party.
- Birthday Wishes - historian duties could include sending a birthday card to past scouts, signed by the current patrol leader of his old patrol, the senior patrol leader, and the scoutmaster.
- What Else? - leave a comment below with ways your troop stays in touch with past scouts.
The BSA is working on improving long-term relationships with past scouts and keeping them involved as adults.
The BSA Scouting Alumni Association
offers a patch to new alumni, along with a bunch of other tidbits and quarterly newsletter. There is a cost to be a member.
If you're interested in acquiring another square knot, there is an Alumni Award Knot
for scouters that identify, engage, and participate with BSA alumni.
Posted: 14:45 09-18-2014 1116
It's been 6 years since Heather Dorniden won this 600m collegiate race, but her demonstration of perseverance will never fade.
It might be a bit long for a Scoutmaster Minute, at 2.5 minutes, but I think the message of never giving up no matter what happens is worth it.
At least having this video stored on your phone to share with a scout when he's frustrated with some challenge would be a good bit of encouragement.
To fall from first to last in the blink of an eye and then have the strength to get back up and keep racing - and win - is just inspiring!
Some people quit the race, others get up with a goal of just finishing, but a few push on doing the very best they can until the finish line is crossed.
Or, if you prefer a hollywood version...
Posted: 10:33 09-15-2014 1115
What Weighs Us Down?
My Philmont pack started out at 45 pounds in 2005. My long-distance hiking pack now weighs under 25 pounds. You can see the difference in this image.
My time on trail is much more enjoyable and there is nothing I used to carry that I'd still like to have along but don't. Besides picking an interesting location, reducing our burden in the wilds is about the best way to make backpacking more fun - making the experience fun is a key element to a successful scouting program.
What is it that was so heavy and weighed down my pack so much? Well, it was mostly inexperience and obediently following a Philmont checklist.
So, here's a handful of advice to help you move your troop to lighter, more enjoyable, trek adventures.
Since Christmas is looming on the far horizon, and summer is pretty much over, now is a good time for scouts to review their gear and consider what to replace for next year.
- The Big 3 - shelter, sleeping system, and pack comprise a large part of the total weight a backpacker carries, sometimes more than 16 pounds. A person can drop the combined weight of those items to under 9 pounds without a lot of effort.
- too much clothing - On a 3-day or 3-week trek, the clothing needs are identical.
Just 2 or 3 pairs of socks and underwear, 2 shirts, 1 pair of zip-off pants and 1 pair of shorts - not a fresh one for every day. You can wash items on the trail and dry them as you hike or rest in camp. Additional items for warmth and rain, depending on the season and location, and you're set.
- too much water - We stop at a stream to get water. Everyone fills their 3 water bottles and we're off hiking again. Two hours later, we pass another stream and fill bottles, even though everyone has 1 empty, 1 partially used, and 1 untouched. That's an extra 2 or 3 pounds of water carried by each person.
Using your route map, figure out where water stops will happen. Take on just enough water, plus a bit extra, to reach the next stop.
Fill your stomach with water first, then your water bottles. If you drink your fill right at the water source while filtering, you need to carry much less in bottles on your pack.
- Nalgene water bottles - These are the silliest, most common, constantly perpetuated myth in Scout Camping. You have to have a Nalgene - they are indestructible! But, they also weigh 6 or 7 ounces each, empty! A disposable plastic water bottle weighs less than 1 ounce and holds about 60% as much water. A scout told to bring 3 Nalgenes is carrying over a pound of plastic when he could be carrying just 5 lightweight bottles and saving over 13 ounces. Also, having 5 smaller bottles means one destroyed bottle is a minor impact. And, the bottles are free rather than $10 or so for each Nalgene.
- too much food - I can cut 2 pounds off my pack by eating a big meal just before starting a trek and as soon as I finish. This can be food left in a vehicle, or a restaurant or store stop. For the days on the trail, people talk about 6000 calories a day and more - that is totally overboard. Scouts rarely hike more than 10 miles in a day, and that takes only about 1500 calories. Add to that the base need of 1500 calories a day and you've got 3000 calories per day. Nearly everyone these days already has a calorie surplus in stored fat, so even a daily deficit of 500 calories is just fine for a few days.
With a well-planned food supply providing about 125 calories per ounce, a person needs about 1.5 pounds of food per day. If you packed for 6000 calorie days, that's an extra 1.5 pounds you're packing for every day of your trek - a 4-day trip has 6 extra pounds.
Don't forget the food packaging! You can cut 10-20% of the weight by repackaging into zip-locs.
- too much fat - Most of us, especially adults but scouts too, have more fat than we need on our bodies. Taking a couple months before your trek to whittle away at that extra weight means less to carry, and fewer calories needed each day. Losing 10 pounds of body fat is 10 pounds you don't have to carry over the mountains.
- too much stuff - A deck of cards, cribbage board, MP3 player, scout handbook, and other items to fill every pocket, crevice, and gap in your pack. They all add weight and are rarely needed. Just leave it at home.
- Fear - We carry too much of all these different things because we fear. Fear being hungry, so we carry too much food. Fear being cold or dirty, so we carry too much clothing. Fear being bored, so we carry toys, games, and books. Fear is Heavy.
We overcome our fear of things going wrong by preparing physically and mentally, and by honing our skills and planning our trek. When we're confident in our tested abilities, we put our faith in ourselves rather than in our equipment.
A final note - Scouting is an outdoor classroom. We're not here to create super-skilled wilderness experts, but to help boys grow into self-sufficient citizens of strong character. The challenge of becoming an experienced backpacker is just another opportunity for a scout to work on his character, physical abilities, and teamwork. It's ok to carry 40+ pound packs, but a lighter pack opens up many more opportunities and expands the classroom.
Posted: 9:25 09-10-2014 1114
Scouts in the News
Here's a few news blips about Scouts this week. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
- Most Pathetic - troop treasurer embezzles $16K from scouts.
This is a way too common occurrence. A few tips to help prevent this sort of thing:
- Use checks rather than credit cards.
- Require monthly financial statements, verified by a second person checking the bank statements.
- Require multiple signatures on transactions.
- Require receipts for reimbursements.
- Most Inattentive - someone steals $3.5K from scouts in a cigar box left unattended.
The story says it was full of donations which should be a mistake since scouts do not solicit donations.
- Best Eagle Project - Eagle service project to create book-exchange free libraries.
When I hiked the Ice Age Trail last year, I saw a few tiny book-swap libraries in front of people's homes right on the street. This might be a cool idea for an Eagle candidate in your troop!
- Best Memorial - scouts and friends finish Eagle service project for deceased scout.
When a youth dies, there's not much we can do, but this troop paid their respects by completing his project for him.
- Silliest - scout leader hottest husband in country?
Silly, just silly. :-) Not so much the story, because he sounds like a great guy, but the whole idea of hottest husband contest.
- Best Campout - assisted living seniors.
This troop found a great way to interact with older community members in a meaningful way.
If you'd like to see your scouts "In the News" locally, check out these tips
. We could all use a little good press out there.
Posted: 16:08 09-09-2014 1113
Hiking 4 miles just as the sun came up today offered me a cool, crisp, clean, clear hour outside. I was reminded that fall is just around the corner and summer is fading quickly as schools are open and wearing white is now a no-no.
As I was sitting outside at lunch, writing my latest story and noticing this little guy soaking in the sun's warmth on a flower stem, I also thought of all those scouts that have put off their 2nd Class and 1st Class nature requirements over the summer. Depending on where they live, they will soon be in for a difficult time completing them. Identifying 10 wild animals and 10 native plants is still easy to do around here now, but with leafs dropping, birds migrating, animals hibernating, and snow covering the ground, it will be nearly impossible in two months or less.
If you've got scouts hoping to reach 2nd or 1st class before spring, some encouragement to look for animals and plants might be just what they need.
Posted: 15:24 09-02-2014 1111
AT Hike page Updated
I've posted my trail journal, photos, and map from my short Appalachian Trail excursion. You can review it all at AT Hike page
I've been out walking 4 to 8 miles on the local trail this past week to keep my knee moving. It's feeling much better and I will be spending days over the next month taking in some local hikes around the Twin Cities. I have a book titled "60 Hikes Within 60 Miles" for Minneapolis and I'll check out a few of those.
Posted: 12:36 08-29-2014 1110
I think a good question to ask yourself when you are participating in a recreational activity, such as a long hike, is: "Is the effort I'm expending worth the enjoyment I'm receiving?"
Most outdoor activities include some strenuous effort that result in rewards. For example, hiking to a mountain top, or paddling across a lake, or climbing up a cliff. Parts of the activity are grueling work, but the rewards of beautiful views, exciting rapids, or new terrain are worth the expected work.
When the answer to the question is "No, the effort is more than the rewards," then it's no longer recreational. And, I feel, it's time to stop. That happened to me earlier this week, for the first time on my long hikes.
My left knee became painful the second evening of my hike, most likely because I was pushing too hard on very rough, very steep, downhill portions of the trail. The next day, the discomfort grew until it hurt on every step - up, down, or level. For 3 more days, I continued on with the hope it would eventually work itself out but it maintained a fairly consistent irritation.
So, when I arrived in Duncannon, PA on Sunday night, I had a plan to visit a doctor in the morning and then make a decision. If the knee should feel better in 2 days or less, I would continue. If it would take longer than that, I could not afford to sit in a town for 3 days or more because I would miss my already small window of completing the trail before winter weather.
Monday morning, the doctor checked me out and said it looked solid with no major tearing and I could continue to walk on it - but recommended slower pace and even terrain. She said continuing my hike on the trail would most likely not make it worse, but it would not get a chance to heal and the pain could take a long time to abate.
This is when the question came up. A 2 hour debate with myself and I concluded: "No, I'm not enjoying this." The ongoing discomfort from the past 4 days would continue for the near future and I would not have fun.
I arranged a 20-mile shuttle to Hamburg, PA where I caught a 1,106-mile greyhound bus ride home. Late Tuesday night, after 24+ hours touring the country, I was home. I took yesterday to rest and come to grips in my head with my first long distance hiking failure.
Failure is the description that I keep coming back to for this hike. I had a goal to walk a certain distance in a certain time and reach the trail end. I failed to do that, actually didn't even come close. So, my trail record is now 3 wins and 1 lose. I completed the AZT, SHT, and IAT. I didn't complete my first effort with the AT.
It's pretty easy to start coming up with better ways to look at failed goals to make them not seem so bad. I hiked 123 miles in 5 days. I walked in 3 states - WV, MD, and PA. I learned a lot for future hikes. I met some interesting people. But, for now, I'm just sticking with 3-1 and admitting to myself that, however I look at it, I didn't reach my goal.
I'll share tomorrow some of the things I learned on this short trek and my plans for some shorter hikes the rest of this year.
PS: This picture is the last one I took on my hike. I am resting on a mountain before the final 600-foot steep, rocky, drop into Duncannon.
Posted: 9:50 08-21-2014 1109
The shelter I stayed in last night was 1.5 miles from a scout camp. The visitor registry had dozens of entries from scouts that had hiked there over the summer for their advancement requirements. Lots of fun to see. Other than that, haven't seen any scouts on the trail. But, met a hiker who is an Eagle scout.
Posted: 7:19 08-17-2014 1106
Day 01 - Cowell Shelter
I walked 68165 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 32 miles today.
My first day on the Appalachian Trail has been spectacular! At Harper's Ferry, this sign started my journey at about 6:30am and I'm now settled in Cowell shelter almost 32 miles from my start. Check out my current location
on the map.
I've already met more hhikers than on my entire AZ Trail hike, but nearly all are day or short-trip folks. I found one guy that has been hiking the whole trail and is now following behind me. Another guy, Rising Star, let me hike with him to this shelter. He's a wealth of information, having hiked arund here often. He's heading to NY, but we'll separate tomorrrow.
The cicadas are amazingly loud tonight as the sun has set and things cool down.
Posted: 19:03 08-13-2014 1102
Tomorrow starts this year's long hike for me. I'll be taking a plane to D.C., then bus, metro, and train to Harper's Ferry, WV where I'll find the Appalachian Trail.
The trail runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine which is about 2180 miles, but I'm only doing the northern 1165 miles this summer/fall - that's why I'm calling this my "Half Hike". Other commitments both in the earlier summer and in October have allowed me only 55 days to hike so this is how far I figured out I can go - at a pretty brisk pace.
About 2000 people or so start hiking from GA to ME each year and they all start around the same time. This creates a big bubble of people moving up the trail. Since they have different paces, the bubble spreads out the farther north it moves. I will be starting my hike at the very tail end of the bubble, and hopefully will catch up to hikers every day. I'm excited about this, but also a bit concerned...
Who will I most likely find on the trail? Well, those that are slow, injured, or got a late start. Possibly people not having a really good time. But, they've all made it over 1000 miles, so I plan to be as encouraging as I can, and learn as much from them as I can quickly.
I'm starting on a fairly easy area of the trail so I have a few hundred miles to "warm up" before reaching what seems to me like the most challenging part - the White Mountains. Since I'm hitting these barren mountain tops late in the season, I will see cold temps and possibly snow. I'm hoping for a warm, dry Indian Summer in the northeast! :-)
As usual, you can follow my progress here
since I'll be carrying my Spot tracker that will blip to a satellite every 15 minutes or so, and I'll be blogging every day.
I've made it possible to read comments you leave here on my cellphone and reply to them - assuming I have coverage out there. Just a 'howdy' can be a real boost when I've been plodding down the trail for days on end, so I look forward to hearing from you.
Also, I would appreciate it if you could tell any hiker friends you might have about my hike so they can follow along.
Finally, anyone living anywhere near the Appalachian Trail is welcome to contact me and hike along. An unexpected night off the trail at someone's house has always been a great surprise!
Posted: 13:41 08-11-2014 1100
With the blog being dormant for the past few months, I've had a few folks ask, "Where are you?" - not many, but a couple.
Well, that little thing called 'life' has gotten in the way of blogging. And, unfortunately, not much of life has involved Scouting. Passing on the scoutmaster position to another volunteer, giving unit commissioner a try, and helping with a new troop (that didn't work out) all resulted in my actual scouting time dropping to nearly nil.
But, I have trained about 150 Scouts and Scouters in Red Cross Wilderness First Aid this year, helping them prepare for those high adventures. I even did a crash course for a troop 2 days before their plane left for SeaBase and they had missed the step about certification being required! It all worked out.
There have also been some Leave No Trace talks and lightweight backpacking presentations to some scout troops interested in those things.
So, I've been doing Scouting support, but nothing really too interesting that would help you all deliver a better program.
Now, I'll be gone hiking for awhile. Last year, I did the 1,100 mile Ice Age Trail through Wisconsin and before that the 800 mile Arizona Trail. This year's adventure is what I call a "Half Hike" of the Appalachian Trail.
I'll tell you a bit more about it tomorrow, but just wanted to let those two people know I'm still here. And, I'll be blogging from the trail starting in a couple days.
Posted: 15:44 08-10-2014 1099
Tired of selling wreaths, nuts, mulch, or whatever it is your scouts sell to raise funds? Looking for something new to try? Country Meats
might be that something new
you need to reach a new audience and fund your adventures. To get the word out, Paul @ Country Meats is contributing 2 dozen smoked snacks to my monthly contest
as one of the prizes you could win. That will be a tasty treat for the scouts on your next campout.
I met Paul online a few weeks ago and then chatted on the phone. He's a friendly, sincere, hardworking guy that runs the family business in Florida. He has a great story to tell on CountryMeats.com
and their smoked snacks are really super! Paul sent me samples of their 14 flavors, ranging from sweet to mega-hot, and I really liked them all.
Paul's hope is that Scout troops will take advantage of the Country Meats fundraising program, and he's made it simple and fun to test drive. Click to his company website and you can request a free sample of the snacks to satisfy yourself that they are as good as I say.
He also has a patch collecting incentive program that rewards scouts with unique patches as they sell more snacks. Scouts and patches - good idea! More important than the patch program, the percentage of funds that your troop receives seems very generous to me. It shouldn't be too difficult for a few scouts to raise a few hundred dollars.
I can see these being a big hit outside a Gander Mountain, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shop, or any outdoors store on fishing or hunting opener.
Oh, one other thing - as you flip through your next Scouting magazine keep an eye out for the Country Meats ad. They're supporting the BSA through advertising also.
PS: The new Ghost Fire
flavor was my favorite, but it might be too hot for some of you. :-)
Posted: 17:41 06-03-2014 1092
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