I got to hike 30 miles on the Ice Age Trail last week while visiting relatives. This was done as two separate 15-mile day hikes, one on the north-west part of the trail and the other on the south-east part. Even though this national scenic trail is not yet complete, the finished segments are great.
I did the Grassy Lake and Timberland Hills segments up north and Cedar Lakes, Slinger, Pike Lake, and Holy Hill segments down south. Segments vary in length, anywhere from 1 to 15 miles on this trail, so they are mostly useful for just tracking progress.
With the frozen ground and leafless trees, it's hard to imagine how different this will be when I thru-hike in the late summer. I made good time with the cold temperature, no bugs, and low humidity, but maybe a bit warmer and less wind in a shaded forest canopy will be even better. I know my hiking will be quieter - every footstep was a crackling of ice and snow or shlurping of sucking mud on the sun-softened southern slopes of hills.
I have to say again that the IAT volunteers have built terrific trail through their hours of relentless effort. Here's an example of some of their more impressive construction - a boardwalk over a swampy area. I'm looking forward to finding more little surprises like this one along the trail.
I'm thinking the Scouting program in the UK will see a sharp membership increase this year. The Duchess of Cambridge has signed on as a Scouting volunteer, helping at local cub pack events.
Scouting UK is working hard to get more volunteers, offering flexible opportunities to fit in where it makes sense. I believe this lets folks know they are welcome to help as much as they can rather than getting tied into a position with no known exit strategy. It sounds like thoughtful positioning and good marketing to me.
Can you volunteer some of your time this year? If you don't already have a role in Scouting, how about letting the scoutmaster, or crew advisor, or cubmaster know that you'd like to help out in some way. If you are in a position already, how about going through the unit roster and contacting a few people that could help spread the work a bit this year? Somebody needs to organize that Blue Gold extravaganza, that week of summer camp, or maybe that Camporee.
This 4x3x2 inch bag contains my latest MYOG project that weighs 1.4 ounces. My wife showed me how to use the sewing machine this weekend and I made this myself - I'm so proud! :-)
Sewing is actually a lot easier than I expected. The seams aren't perfectly straight, but it turned out like it was supposed to. And, it only took about 2 hours for the tutorial and completing the project. Now I'm looking forward to seeing what else I can create.
It's an insulated hat!
It's mostly intended for sleeping when winter camping, or at elevations such as those found on the Pacific Crest or Continental Divide trails which result in freezing nighttime temperature. I was expecting to use it this winter, but we've had much warmer than normal weather.
As you can see, the hat expands and has about an inch of loft all around. The drawstring is to hold it as snug as you like.
It is reversible so I can wear it with either my blue or grey outfit and stay fashionable. :-) As a matter of fact, it is so cool, I had to wear my shades when modeling it here.
What do cigarettes, guns, spray paint, knives, and rocks have in common?
They account for the majority of vandalism and litter I see on the trail and at trailheads. I often wonder what person does this. Maybe I know him. Maybe he's a friend of mine.
This Ice Age Trail route sign is a perfect example of someone with a gun, boredom, and low braincell counts. OK, that wasn't very nice, but really? I mean, Come On! This was at a point where the trail crosses a fairly remote dirt road and that small yellow sign makes a great target.
I also imagine the vast majority of trail vandalism is done by males, and probably young males. Does this sound like a good opportunity for discussion the next time you go hiking with some youth? Keep your eyes open for vandalism and ask what they think of it. Who does it effect? What cost does it have? How does it diminish the outdoors experience? What can we do about it?
This is a small kiosk sign on the IAT. It was slashed and cut with a knife which allowed water and freezing to damage it further. The IAT has many informational signs like this along its route. I learned about kames and kettles last week by reading these. Now this one will take volunteer time and money to replace - efforts that could have been spent on trail improvements elsewhere.
Another year about to begin - endless possibilities and opportunities ahead. Over the holidays, I've been enjoying time with relatives and away from computers. I got in a couple 15-mile hikes in the snow, received a few very cool hiking/camping items, and ate way too much. I'll tell you more about the first two next week. I even made two sets of moccasins for gifts and have one more to do today.
It's always a good thing to take some time to reflect on what you've accomplished and make goals you'd like to attain. January 1 is a perfect date to do this, being sort of a reboot of time each year. Being resolute is a characteristic of good leadership and self-discipline - defining success and then pushing ahead until success is reached.
If you've not made any new year's resolutions yet, take ten minutes and jot down a few so you can check your progress over the year. Here's a couple of mine:
The Rudolph animated classic is one of my favorite shows ever. A small band of outcasts brave the wild world, bond together, and save the day. How cool is that?
Rudolph starts out as a teased, klutzy little guy but turns into a strong, confident leader at the end. Ring any bells?
Hermy wants to be something more than just a toy maker. He doesn't fit in with the crowd. Too bad they didn't have the Dentistry merit badge for him. But, he practices his skills, accepts others, and is brave through the challenges.
Santa is shown as a cranky, worried, unaccepting grouch - but he eventually learns that everyone is valuable. Hopefully, our adult volunteers are more like Yukon Cornelius - out on adventure, ready to help, and afraid of nothing.
Good ideals and lessons are sprinkled throughout the show, along with some fun old music. Check out Google's holiday doodle - click the button under each letter to animate Google's holiday doodle.
After enjoying the show, search for let it snow and see what happens. Be patient for 15 seconds then click and drag your mouse around.
Or, gravity and click the I'm Feeling Lucky button.
The next few weeks are a perfect time to check in with past scouts that are home for the holidays on break from college to enjoy time with family.
Our troop has a special meeting early in January where they recap the year and get commitment to the year ahead. This is a perfect time to invite past scouts back to see how the troop is doing and hear from them about their recent adventures. We have recent scouts in MN, AZ, CO, MA, WI, ND, and IA so having the current scouts hear what they've been up to is a good thing.
To do this successfully, you'll need contact information for scouts after they leave your troop. This is a great task for the troop historian as scouts age out - keeping a file of past scouts, their addresses, emails, and phone numbers. If you send a short alumni newsletter twice a year, the list should stay up-to-date without much effort.
We use terms like positive role model, camaraderie, teamwork, and strong character when encouraging scouts in their choices. despair.com has taken motivation and applied a thick lathering of reverse psychology to it. If you have a few minutes and need an irreverent chuckle, here's 100 more from which you might get an idea or two for a scoutmaster minute.
How about printing one of the small pics and taking it to a PLC meeting or your troop leader training? Asking the guys what's wrong with it or how it could be made 'better' might be an indirect way to help them understand their responsibilities.
And, if you want a trip to Yellowstone or Breckenridge but haven't entered yet see New-Skin contest - just 1 week left.
The best all-around, most useful knife I have is my Victorinox Tinker with BSA emblem. I use the small blade on it for all my whittling and to carve fire pistons. I've used all the gizmos on it at some point except the wire stripper. :-)
If you don't have one yet, this is a perfect day to get yours. Scoutstuff.org has knives on sale for 25% discount, plus free shipping on orders over $50 - today (12/15) only. Easy way to get your Christmas shopping taken care of for scouts and scouters you know. There's a 21 knife selection, from single blades to multi-tools.
On this hike, it was 5 degrees - see the frost all over my head? :-)
I've decided 5 degrees is about as cold as I enjoy being out hiking miles. Colder and the layers of clothes make walking less enjoyable. But, down to 5 and my trail shoes, longjohns and nylon pants, fleece jacket and rain coat, mittens, hat, and scarf work perfectly without being overly bulky. This week it's popped back up to 40 with mist and fog so I've got at least a few more days to hike.
In wilderness first aid, we discuss what time of year is the most dangerous for hypothermia. When your body loses more heat than it can generate for long enough, your core temperature drops, resulting in hypothermia. Often, the first thought right out of the gate is "January!" but then we chat a bit.
Hypothermia can happen any time of year, but the colder the temperature gets, the faster your body loses heat. So, January makes sense. But, in the dead of winter around here with -20° days, we expect cold so we wear parkas, mukluks, mittens, and balaclavas to insulate us. Besides that, and just as important, everything is frozen solid - that means it's not wet. You can hike through miles of snow and stay completely dry.
Staying dry is a great defense against hypothermia. Hiking at a steady rate without working up a sweat, dressing in layers, ventilating your clothes, and wearing rain gear are all good ways to minimize moisture on your skin. Water transfers heat 50+ times as much as air.
So, spring and fall tend to have more wet weather. Which is worse? After warm summer days, a wet Fall day feels cold so we protect ourselves. A 35 or 40 degree day in Spring feels tropical and people are tempted to go out with inadequate protection - especially youth. When they get wet, real trouble can happen quickly.
Whether heading out for an afternoon hike or a long trek, staying warm and dry should be part of your preparation.
Yet Another Eagle Scout - yesterday was his ceremony and I gave him this fire piston which I carved. The kit is from wildersol.com.
You remember Hannibal Smith's favorite line on A-Team? "I love it when a plan comes together." You usually hear it right after everything goes completely wrong and things finally just plop into place, resulting in an unimaginable success. That happens so often in Scouting!
This Eagle went through three or more project ideas, hitting dead ends along the way until Presto! he found a perfect one and nailed it. A couple years ago, he almost couldn't finish a backpacking trip - but the other guys pulled his gear and they all supported him to the end of the trail. Seven years ago, he almost didn't even go on to Boy Scouts. And, now he's an Eagle - and will most likely get a palm next month before he ages out.
Every path taken by a scout is full of failures, from poorly cooked meals to cut fingers to cold feet to slipping knots. Fortunately, the plan of Scouting is very flexible and adapts to unforeseen challenges. After all, the personal challenge really is the plan.
Most new scouts, when I ask them, will readily say their goal is to be an Eagle. No idea how they'll do it, or what it entails, but that's what most of them want. I tell them they can absolutely reach that goal as long as they do two things. First, make a plan - look over what's required and set smaller milestones of how to reach their goal. Second, remember that no plan is ever followed exactly - things will come up, things won't go right, people will let you down, you will make mistakes. As long as they modify and adapt rather than get discouraged, no setback in Scouting will be big enough to stop them from reaching their goal.
It hasn't failed me yet, when looking back over the Scouting career of the Eagles I've known, that every one had obstacles, bumps, detours, and apparent catastrophes. None of them have breezed right through. But in the end, the plan came together because that scout had a goal and kept at it - and THAT is probably the most valuable thing they'll get from that Eagle medal.
This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of New-Skin for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.
FCFY - Free Contest For You Read to the end for the bonus
This Sunday, a scout that I've known since Tigers will be having his Eagle ceremony. Even though I'm not the scoutmaster any longer, he called and asked if I'd say something at his ceremony. I said, "Sure, what would you like me to say?" :-)
Being fairly literal, he said I could mention how he cut himself three years in a row. That's a running joke between the two of us - three years at summer camp he cut his hand or finger with his pocketknife. I've used him as an example in my wilderness first aid courses and when presenting first aid merit badge.
But, he's not unique in his ability to get injured. With 70 scouts in the troop, we've been fortunate to have no serious injuries, but tons and tons of nicks, scrapes, cuts and small wounds that are great for scouts to practice first aid. I bet you have your share of stories from your scouts, too.
Bandaids get sweaty, dirty, soggy, and just plain gross, especially at camp. Besides that, they really get in the way when doing woodwork, cooking, or knot tying.
Here's three products from New-Skin® that are very useful for common scouting problems.
Liquid Bandage - a super easy, clean alternative to bandaids. Just paint it over a cut and you're good to go. Keeps out dirt and helps the wound heal. It's also useful for preventing blisters by making a protective layer.before the blister forms.
Poison Ivy Treatment - a foaming soap that lifts, captures, and removes the oils that cause the rash. It also soothes the itching for quick relief.
Scar Fade™ Gel - for those injuries that leave a mark. Twice daily application helps minimize the visible scar as the wound heals and is much less intrusive than pads that are often used. I know boys like to show off their scars as they get older (remember Jaws?) but making them less obvious is a good thing.
No matter how careful we are, and how well scouts stay on trails, stuff still happens and having these simple products in your troop first aid kit can make life much better on campouts, hikes, and even at meetings. A 1 ounce bottle takes up little room, but can provide quick, safe care immediately.
There's a cool New-Skin sweepstakes until December 22 where you could win a 4-day adventure. Depending on what you like, it could be the ski slopes of Breckenridge, CO or the warmth of the Botanical Gardens in Atlanta, GA or (my favorite) a hiking trip in Yellowstone! You might need the liquid bandages skiing, but not the poison ivy treatment. In the gardens, the poison ivy treatment might come in handy. But, I'd take them both to Yellowstone.
You must be at least 18 to enter, but it doesn't cost anything. Please leave a comment here after you enter the contest and say why you want to win the sweepstakes and how you might use New-Skin® products. You can post the url of your sweepstakes page too, if you made one - I'll click on it to give you a vote.
You can get New-Skin® stuff at Wal-Mart and other local drug stores, so it's not a big deal to add them to your home first aid kit, too.
So, you wanna hear the bonus? On Dec. 24, I'll randomly choose one of the comments here from people that entered the sweepstakes and send that person a little whittling knife from whittlerbob.com.