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Trail Journal

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.
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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.
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Posted: 19:03 08-13-2014 1102
Half Hike
Appalachian Trail Hike
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!

Hike On

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Posted: 13:41 08-11-2014 1100
Where's Waldo?
Wheres Waldo
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.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:44 08-10-2014 1099
New Fundraiser?
Country Meats Fundraiser
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 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.

Scout On

PS: The new Ghost Fire flavor was my favorite, but it might be too hot for some of you. :-)

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Posted: 17:41 06-03-2014 1092
Last Chance for Ring
Joy Jewelers
Two people have already won a Scout Ring from Joy Jewelers. On Sunday, the third and final winner will be selected. It can't be you unless you enter the drawing.

The Joy Jewelers scout rings make a cool recognition item. Rings for Boy Scouts, Wood Badge, Sea Scouts, and Venturers can all be customized for the individual.

Just enter your email address on my Contest page for a chance to win a $250 ring, a $25 scout shop gift card, or a $50 coupon.

Starting Monday, a new prize will be available but I'm not telling what it is yet. You'll have to check back to see. I will say that I've tried it and it's Very Tasty!

Scout On
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Posted: 9:15 05-29-2014 1091
Custom Uniforms
Tallest Boy Scout

Jodi asked about uniforms:
"I am 6'9" and have yet to find official pants that don't hit me mid-ankle. Even the un-hemmed ones go to a 38" inseam when mine is 42". The shorts are almost obscene, but I've bought a pair of official pants, then cut and hemmed them to an appropriate shorts length. My shirt is somewhat loose/baggy, but it's the size that was long enough and I plan to have it tailored a bit when I can. The socks never fit either. Belt, neckerchief, and hat are all totally fine. What do you recommend for those who cannot find official clothing? Thanks!"

Uniforms that fit can be a big/small problem for scouts and scouters on either end of the growth charts. Fortunately, even the tallest scout had a uniform - it was custom tailored for Robert Wadlow around 1931. Robert was 7ft. 4in. when he was 13 years old and here he is in his uniform.

I don't know if the BSA made Robert's uniform or not, but they're available to help you now. If the range of standard uniform sizes don't fit you, you can still be properly uniformed by contacting the BSA for a Made-to-Measure uniform. I've been told by the ScoutStuff folks that it takes about 12 weeks to receive a custom-made uniform, so plan ahead and Be Prepared!

See this page for their contact information.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:46 05-27-2014 1090
Respect Wildlife
Nature Requirement
I completed Second Class requirement #6 on my hike this morning - identifying 10 kinds of wild animals. In just a couple miles, I saw a: chipmunk, grey squirrel, rabbit, red-wing blackbird, Canada goose, mallard duck, cardinal, baltimore oriole, goldfinch, and robin. There were many more birds and animals flying and scurrying about, but those are my 10.

Actually, I complete that requirement nearly every time I walk around at this time of year. It's pretty easy to complete this nature requirement since the animals are out enjoying the warm spring weather. Finding animal evidence in the dead of winter can be much more challenging, at least here where it's all covered under feet of snow.

What do you notice in the accompanying photo? The top half is a photo of a Canada goose on its nest I took while hiking this week. She knows I'm there and is trying to be invisible while keeping an eye on me.
The bottom image is the same nest the next day. There are broken egg shells, but no birds. Canada geese leave the nest almost immediately after hatching so I expect the parents and goslings are out and about somewhere around here.

When doing your animal identification, or any outdoors activities, remember to respect the wildlife you find. I took those pictures from the other side of a small pond, probably about 60 feet away.

Give animals lots of room, take pictures from far away, and don't harass them at all. Especially this time of year, babies are abundant and some adult animals are very protective. For your own safety, as well as the animals', keep your eyes and ears open for signs of wildlife and don't invade their space.

Respecting Wildlife is one of the seven principles of Leave No Trace which scouts should follow on all outings.
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Posted: 10:50 05-22-2014 1089
Loyal Cat

I'm not a cat person, but this cat has cornered the market on LOYAL, HELPFUL, and BRAVE. I usually think of cats as being self-centered, pampered, and nonchalant. I guess I really need to expand my view on felines.

This short video also shows that our motto "Be Prepared" needs to be followed everywhere and all the time. You never know when you'll be required to provide immediate aid to yourself or someone else. In the blink of an eye, a seemingly safe, fun activity can turn disastrous and we need to be ready to step into action.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:54 05-14-2014 1088
Look Up
Since it's had over 12 million views in the 10 days it's been out on YouTube, you've probably already seen this video. But, if you haven't, sacrifice 5 minutes of your life to hopefully change your view on how you're spending your life.

My favorite line in it - "Smart Phones and Dumb People".

I'd love to hear it set to some Rap Beat or Rock-n-Roll music. :-)

Scout On in the Real World
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Posted: 9:28 05-05-2014 1087
Gregg H. Rox!
Silver Beaver Gregg Hilferding
Gulf Ridge Council presented a Silver Beaver award to Gregg Hilferding who works at in Florida.
The silver beaver is the top recognition a council can present to an adult volunteer, and I wholeheartedly applaud their choice in Gregg. Rather than duplicate it all here, you should check out ClassB's article listing all Gregg's involvement in Scouting. He has certainly set the bar high for volunteers!

Scout On
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Posted: 16:32 04-22-2014 1086
Without Bugs
SansBug sleeping tent

How bad will the mosquitos be at camp this summer?
When was the last time that bunkhouse mattress was cleaned?
Are there mice running around these floors at night?

Whenever a night is spent at scout camp, these sorts of questions might keep you awake. I've stayed in some pretty nasty places where I would have liked a little protection between me and the insects and vermin sharing the wilds with me. I know of a few young scouts just starting out that missed some great campouts because they were scared of the bugs.

A tent works fine, with mesh screen and floor, to keep the blood suckers at bay but most scout tents are 2, 3, or 4-person varieties. They take up a lot of space, weigh quite a bit, and are cumbersome. I know of a better idea for many situations.

I've just received a SansBug shelter to try out. It's a very cool automatic pop-up bug-free zone so campers can sleep in comfort! Besides being a small, light solution to the "can't sleep worrying about creepy crawlies" problem, it is a ton of fun to set up. All you do is Let Go - it pops itself open and you crawl right in.

The fine mesh of the SansBug lets breezes blow through but prevents bites, disease, and general pestering from all flying and crawling insects - that's mosquitos, spiders, ticks, bedbugs, and all their little friends. Not to mention snakes, scorpions, and lizards.

SansBug at Scout Camp

SansBug can be set up on a floor, tent platform, bunkbed, cot, or inflatable pad - wherever the scouts are spending the night. If your scouts stay in canvas tents at summer camp, the SansBug is a perfect replacement for the hanging mosquito netting you use now. Even if you are sleeping indoors, the SansBug keeps your tender skin completely isolated from whatever's out there.

At less than 2.5 pounds and folding into a flat 20-inch disc, it's very easy to pack - even one for every scout. People have used SansBug shelters in Thailand, Afghanistan, Haiti, and even Scout Camp! A church took 30 SansBug tents to sleep in on their mission trip to West Africa, for example.

So, what are the drawbacks of this nifty little invention? Well, it's not rain protection - but a tarp above it can fix that for outdoor use. If you open it in your living room with candles, flowers, and stuff sitting around your wife mom might get mad at you. It really does POP open.

I'm planning to hike at least half of the Appalachian Trail this summer - anyone want to join me?
I was planning to use my tent and avoid the shelters that have been built about every 10 miles along the trail because they are notorious for mice and other critters. Visiting with all the other hikers that use the shelters would make my hike much more enjoyable, so I would miss that.
With a SansBug available, I now have to rethink that plan. I could save a lot of time every day since I wouldn't be looking for a camping spot every night, setting up my tent, and taking it down in the morning. Just pop up my SansBug, throw in my gear and I'm ready to tell stories around the campfire until the mosquitos swarm - then I just hope into bed. And the mice can scurry around all they want.

Scout On
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Posted: 11:11 04-18-2014 1085
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