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High Adventure Tenderfeet
Philmont first class rank requirement So, here's a trick question: What rank is required to attend Philmont, Northern Tier, or Sea Base?

You can find many troop websites listing a minimum rank requirement of First Class. You can even find council requirements listing First Class as a requirement. But, those are not BSA high adventure base requirements. They've been set up by that particular unit or council to help ensure the scouting skills of participants.

There actually is no rank requirement at all for any of the national high adventure bases. A 17.5 year old Boy Scout that has yet to earn Tenderfoot can be on your crew!

Would I recommend that? not normally, but if you have a boy experienced in the outdoors join your troop in 10th grade to do exciting camping with his buddies, you don't need to force him through months of sign-offs and three boards of review before doing the high adventures.

What, you still don't believe me? :-)

Scout On
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Posted: 14:42 10-04-2010 527
Searching for Popcorn
Whre does all that popcorn come from that scouts sell?
Well, don't try finding it at any of these places - you'll most likely get lost in your efforts. There are corn mazes across the country this month and many of them have been designed with Boy Scout themes to commemorate the centennial.

There are way too many to list, but here's a few...

Scout On

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Posted: 15:01 10-01-2010 526
Base Camp Open House
Base Camp Climbing Wall An exciting time for Scouting here in Minnesota. The Base Camp open house happens tomorrow (Oct. 2). If you're in the area, or traveling through soon, you really should check it out.

I got to tour the facility earlier this week and it is amazing! I expect it will be heavily used during the winter months when it's too cold for some folks to camp outside. Base Camp has lots of meeting spaces, a library, offices, plus a few real attention-grabbers:

This climbing facility is just too cool for words - you've really got to see it to understand what I mean. There are manual and auto-belays as well as a great bouldering wall and the equipment is stored in a hidden area under the mountain.

The climbing surface is so realistic, you have to touch it. I bet most people that come to climb will say - "Where's the handholds?" - expecting a climbing wall with screwed in holds. This wall is a completely natural textured cliff with handholds whereever you can find purchase.

Even the floor will surprise you - it looks just like pea gravel, but when you walk on it you notice it is shredded, colored rubber.

The coolest thing about the climbing is right outside. Walk just south of the building and look at the rock beside the road - it is exactly like the artificial rockface inside! They've done a super job of making the wall match what you would climb if you were on the rive bluff faces.

If you've followed my blogging much, you've read me criticize some BSA things. I'm usually concerned with how our money gets spent. This Base Camp facility has been a big expense, but it appears to me to be a great investment for the future of scouting in the Northern Star Council. With our bitter cold winters, an indoor facility to practice scouting skills year-round has huge potential.

If you are not based in the area, but your troop makes plans to visit Northern Tier for canoeing, you should consider stopping at Base Camp. It is right at the MSP international airport so you might be able to do a lay-over night right here on your way 'Up North'.

Check out more at the official Base Camp site.

Scout On
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Posted: 8:42 10-01-2010 525
Natl Outdoor Badge Tracking
National Outdoor Badge To help scouts keep track of the various requirements of miles, nights, hours, and adventures for the National Outdoor Badge awards, I've created some documents.

Hopefully, they'll make the broad range of requirements more manageable for your scouts.

See the National Outdoor Badges page for the PDF files.

Scout ON
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Posted: 16:17 09-27-2010 524
Quack Quack
Cub Scout Duck Call There's not a hunting merit badge yet, but that doesn't mean scouts can't excel at hunting skills.

A Webelos scout is the winner of the inaugural duck calling contest at Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge, WI. He completed a 3-day waterfowl course at the refuge and then entered the calling competition.

The course is for 10-15 year old hunter-certified youth to learn waterfowl identification by sight and sound, silhouette, wing beats, flock patterns and behavior.

The contest included these calls: long-distance call, mating call, feeding call and comeback call. The emphasis is on difficulty, accuracy and repetition.

Read More

Scout On
PS: The scout is my nephew. :-)
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Posted: 7:30 09-24-2010 523
BSA Uniforms
BSA Uniforms Somebody at BSA learned Flash programming this summer. The new site takes you on a fun-filled, whirlwind tour of uniforming from Tiger Cub through Scout Leader. Hold onto your hats and watch your little scout spin in circles and walk across your screen. Wow!

Cute, but I don't see the value in weird music, spinning, stumbling scouts, and dragging patches to shirts. The best part of this extravagant, interactive experience is the link to Documents on which has the useful, printable patch placement sheets with pictures AND text.

Can't help but wonder how much we all collectively spent on this one. :-(

Scout On
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Posted: 14:59 09-21-2010 522
Wall Drug Rabbit After every driving trip the troop takes 'out west', I swear to myself that's the LAST time we stop at Wall, South Dakota! But, when it comes round to planning the next long-distance trek Wall Drug always gets listed as a place the scouts decide to stop.

Unfortunately, it winds up usually being a convenient gas stop so I've got no excuses to skip it. But, man, what a zoo! It's the best place to find license plates, it's always the hottest town across the prairies, and all those Black Hills Gold stores are always going out of business. :-)

You've got to admit, there are some places across the country that just are America, good, bad, or just silly. From the world's largest ball of twine to the world's largest potato, from the first McDonald's to the first baseball diamond, when you're traveling through, how can you skip them?

Sure, after the second or third time seeing a run-down, paint-peeling, antlered rabbit it tends to lose its charm. But, remember it's still the first time for some of the guys and it may be one of the silly things they'll talk about a year later...

probably just about the time when the next trip gets planned.

Scout On
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Posted: 22:40 09-10-2010 521
10K Mosquitoes
boy scout mosquitoes Mosquitoes are a bane to all campers. They can carry disease, they itch, they buzz, they squish, they swarm, they even get in your ears and eyes.

I love the first frosts in the fall. Camping in late September and October is my favorite time because the bugs are usually gone. The cold weather takes care of the little pests until the warmth of spring. Plus, humidity and heat tend to be lower.

One would think that at 10,000 feet up a mountain, where trees are sparse, the air is dry, the wind continually blows, and there is frost some mornings in July, a respite from the bloodsuckers could be had. But, no, No, NO!!! The skeeters were thicker and more aggressive than any lowland Minnesota mosquitoes. The only difference is that they were out earlier in the day and laid low once the temperatures dropped with the setting of the sun.

This trek was the first time I've resorted to using mosquito netting, but it did a great job - and what a fashion statement, isn't it?

For thick mosquitoes, wearing long loose-fitting pants and shirt, plus a head net works a lot better than bug repellant. Light nylon pants like the BSA zip-offs work well. Just be careful when you sit and the fabric is pulled tight against your skin because bites can go right through.
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Posted: 16:42 09-09-2010 520
A Helping Hand
boy scout river crossing As scoutmaster, I get to witness the development of young men outside the daily routine. Most of the greatest growth I've seen is during times of trial. This past weekend, we had a 'Wilderness Survival' campout with scouts building shelters and sleeping out rather than in tents. Well, with zero rain and beautiful, cool breezes blowing, there's not much challenge in 'surviving' a night. It was fun building and lashing structures, and teamwork was evident, but no urgency to perform was required.

People are like teabags - you find out how strong they are when they're in hot water. Most of the time, those teabags are a lot stronger than they ever thought they would be and without the hot water, they would never learn how much they could accomplish.

These are two pictures from our backpacking treks. The top is a young scout three years ago(now an ASPL and Junior in high school) struggling across a rain-swollen river. This was 3/4ths of the way through a 15-mile hike in a miserable day of rain. The bottom is another scout doing his first water crossing this summer.

These two scouts thought they needed help crossing, so I made sure I was there with them, lending support as needed. I'm downstream and a step behind so I could grab them, but not be in their way. I'm not leading them or making the way any easier for them than it was for everyone else. And, when we were across, they understood I hadn't really helped them at all - they made it on their own.

Sometimes a helping hand is one that is just ready and willing, not doing anything. The security of knowing someone is with you can be all that is needed for a scout to push himself and reach goals he just wasn't confident enough to reach alone. "Confident" isn't in the Scout Law, but it certainly is a goal I have for each scout.

Scout On

PS: I'm wearing the same pair of BSA zip-off pants in both pictures - 4 years of hard scouting and they still work.
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Posted: 6:46 09-03-2010 519
Bomber Mountain
bomber mountain memorial Backpacking can give scouts a great sense of accomplishment at the end of a trek. But, having something more than just mountains and miles to explore can make a trek even more memorable.

One thing I've found to be of high interest to scouts is discovering wreckage, whether it's old cars, trains, logging camps, or especially airplanes.

Right next to Cloud Peak in Wyoming, you can find Bomber Mountain. In 1943, a plan enroute from Pendleton, OR to Grand Island, NE clipped the top of this mountain ridge and disintegrated across a long stretch of rockfield. Now, it's a day hike from the Misty Moon area to the bomber wreckage. There is a memorial plaque on the shore of Florence Lake below the ridge, as seen in this photo from this summer.

With a little internet research, you can find many plane wreck sites, some of which can make for an interesting hike destination or stop. Scouts might like to plan a trip to see one in your area.

If you do visit a site, please remember that most likely people died there and be mindful of that.

Here's a few samples:

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Posted: 18:17 08-25-2010 518
Pictures Work Fine
Leave No Trace Photo It's not every day that you find a rock shaped exactly like your home state! That's something cool to take home and keep forever for a souvenir to rekindle memories of a great trek through the mountains. Besides, it's just one little rock.

Now, that's a difficult choice to make in regards to Leave No Trace. Will taking one little rock really impact the experience of any other person that visits the area? Probably not. What are the chances that any other person will ever even see that rock, let alone recognize it looks like Minnesota? Probably zero. Will the rock wilt, rot, or decay once it is taken from the environment and brought home, like a flower, stick, or bone? Nope, it lasts forever.

So, why should a scout follow the LNT principle of "Leave What You Find" and leave the rock where it was found? Well, here's a few thoughts to think:
  1. A picture weighs nothing - taking the rock means you carry more.
  2. This picture can be shared around the world on the 'net instead of the rock stashed in a box at home.
  3. You know the rock is still out there and we might see it on another trek. Or, someone else just might see it someday.
  4. There are tiny critters living on the rock, even if we can't see them.

In our case, there actually was not much discussion. The rock was found and passed around. I asked what the plan was for the rock and the scouts said they needed to leave it there. They had their expectations set before we even started our trek that we'd be following the Leave No Trace principles to our best ability. So, there wasn't much disappointment at taking a picture and putting it back.

Once the principles are understood and the expectations set, minimizing your impact on treks, campouts, and other outings starts becoming just the new way your group does things. It's not an ongoing struggle of enforcement. But, there is always room for improvement or change in techniques and decisions.

Scout On
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Posted: 6:48 08-23-2010 517
Bob the Ranger
wilderness ranger When people are concerned primarily with their own advancement, enjoyment, wealth, and success, even at the expense of others, conflicts are bound to occur. It's common to hear about swindles, robberies, and other similar crimes. We have people in business continually trying to bend or bypass the rules and laws in order to take advantage of someone else.

To combat this greed, there are new regulations constantly being created. And, people trying to find new ways around them.

These regulations are enforced and there are penalties if you get caught. If there was no enforcement then many people would ignore them.

This is where many people get their view of policemen - people that enforce laws and imprison bad guys. But, that is a small part of the service they provide. They also perform first aid, help lost kids, provide information, make people feel safe, and many other good deeds.

In the wilderness, you might meet a wilderness ranger, employed by the US Forest Service or other land management agency. These rangers are similar to police. They have the duty to enforce regulations, such as group sizes, campfire use, and campsite locations. Many people think of them only in this role - the role of enforcer - and therefore are apprehensive when meeting one.

Unfortunately, some of the rangers also see themselves mainly in this role and they promote that confrontational view of the community. I've met a couple of these rangers over the years. They let you know that it's "their" wilderness and your group is visiting, and by gosh you'd better watch yourselves. These rangers must have the worst job in the world - being out in beautiful country but not able to enjoy it because they are too busy looking for "trespassers" causing problems.

On the other hand, there are some rangers like the one I talked to on both my treks this past month. His name is Ranger Bob and he embodied what I think a ranger should be. He checked our permit to make sure we were 'legal'. He asked us our plans and how our hike was going. He pointed out a couple good sites to camp that were well away from other groups - in a way that I understood he wanted us to use them, but not in a forceful authoritarian way. Then, he let me know that fires were prohibited in the wilderness and he appreciated me bringing young guys out to enjoy the countryside.

A few minutes after he left us to continue his hunt for illegal fire sites, he came back and asked if we were interested in viewing some wildlife. He then led us around a small stand of trees to see two moose in the creekbed - moose that two other groups had gone past, completely oblivious. We would have missed them to if he hadn't made the extra effort to point them out.

Now, that's the kind of guy I'd like to be. Someone willing to give advice, share experience, educate visitors in proper techniques, make sure they understand the rules, and provide enforcement only when necessary. Helping folks understand what they should do, why they should do it, and how they should do it best. And, you don't have to be Bob the Ranger to do just that - we should be doing it all the time in Scouting.

Scout On
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Posted: 15:34 08-18-2010 516
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