Last day of the month - that means contest winners are chosen tomorrow. Make sure you enter for this month if you haven't yet.
As the guy always taking the photos of scouting activities, I have only a handful of shots that I'm in after 8 years and hundreds of days camping and backpacking with the troop. This morning, I tried out a Stick Pic so I can take pictures of myself, like Scoutmaster Jerry does here.
In this photo, you can see that a landscape shot can include the hiker, even if he's the only one around. This works by connecting your camera to the end of your trek pole, setting the timer delay, and then pressing the button. It looks like you've got your own camera crew along because you don't have your arms out holding the camera.
Getting the whole crew in a photo is now pretty easy and that poor old scoutmaster doesn't need to be left out!
Of course, my first video attempt was spinning around in circles :-) but I'm excited to get more experience with this little bit of gear so I can get more interesting shots on the trail. Take a look at the short video below to see how it all works and find out how hot it is here in MN today.
The guys that invented the Stick Pic have given me a few to give out as prizes when I return from my Arizona Trail hike. We'll find out who wins in May.
Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. I believe that from what I notice at summer camp every year. I encourage my sons to get exercise, but with the mind-bending, breath-taking, realistic virtual worlds contained in XBox and other gaming systems, it's no wonder so many guys would prefer that to the work of real life.
Fortunately, we don't give up - we keep trying new ways to convince scouts to get out there. Scouting, especially high adventure prep, offers great opportunity to helping youth get fit. Now there's a way to be recognized for overall daily activity. Have you heard of the ScoutStrong program?
ScoutStrong was started in 2011 and has a goal of getting 1/2 million youth to earn the award by 2013. It's about the easiest award anyone could earn - you just have to move around! ScoutStrong promotes regular, active lifestyle habits and making healthier choices. Many different activities can count towards the award, from aerobics to yoga, just track the time you spend each day. The ScoutStrong Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) Challenge award can be earned by Scouts as well as families, volunteers, staff, and scouting alumni.
No doubt Russell is a great Wilderness Explorer, but I think he'd benefit from ScoutStrong also.
I'm challenging all you guys to give ScoutStrong a shot and try to beat my efforts. I'll be hiking the Arizona Trail from March to May, racking up a ton of points towards the ScoutStrong PALA Challenge.
I'd like to see if anyone, or any patrol, troop, district, or council can beat my tally. Individuals that accumulate enough points could win a ScoutShop gift card or other items. Go to my ScoutStrong Challenge page and get started!
A short video about ScoutStrong:
You can see some BSA leaders that completed the challenge in 2011.
It looks like 21 people have created accounts to earn the ScoutStrong Presidential Active Lifestyle Award in Northern Star Council. I wonder if other councils have had better success? Anyone? Anyone? Leave a comment if you or your scouts did/are doing/will do ScoutStrong. And, I double-dare you to take on my personal challenge!
Along the Scouting trail, boys join and boys drop. Interests wax and wain. The perennial problem for units is maximizing retention and minimizing attrition so that scouts can benefit more from the program. In order to gain ground on the problem, we need to identify ways to make significant impact with minimal effort. Once the big, easy fixes are in place, then incremental improvements can be made.
On the trail from Tiger Cub to Eagle Scout, I believe the biggest black hole that swallows up the most potential is the Webelos Graduation. Around February in 5th grade is when I've consistently seen the most scouts drop from the program. They've reached the end of Cub Scouts, parents are tired of Pack meetings, scouts have made 4 or 5 pinewood derby cars, and the luster of Scouting has worn thin. To top it all off, the Pack holds an extravagant Graduation Ceremony to congratulate the Webelos on their achievements in Cub Scouts and their completing the trail. The End. Stop.
Ah, Graduation - the culmination of years of hard work. A perfect time to find something new to do. No wonder boys use this event to leave Scouting.
By changing the emphasis on the end of the Webelos program from graduating to transitioning, the attrition drops. I've seen this first-hand. When leaders, parents, and scouts understand that the reason for Cub Scouts is to have fun while preparing to be a Boy Scout, Webelos is not thought of as an end, but as a stepping stone to greater adventure. A good example of this is this Webelos Ceremony. It explains that the skills learned in Cub Scouts are meant to be used as tools in Boy Scouts. Without moving ahead and using them, they are worthless souvenirs.
The BSA has been making efforts to improve the Webelos transition. See this scouting.org page for specific advice for Pack and Troop volunteers. All interested parties (Cubmaster, Webelos Den Leader, Scoutmaster) should be working as a team to make the Scouting experience seamless through all levels. There are many resources to use, including Troop Open Houses, Den Chiefs, OA ceremony teams, and recruitment events.
How about setting a new 2012 resolution: No Webelos Left Behind
Any Boy Scouts doing the Inventing merit badge? How about Cub Scouts doing the Science, Computers, or Mathematics belt loops? Or maybe Webelos working on Engineer or Scientist activity badges? Any of these guys might be prime candidates to enter the BSA Innovation Challenge this spring.
Edison Nation and the BSA are asking youth from 7 to 21 years old to put on their inventing hats and come up with ideas that could be made and sold in stores. Edison Nation will do the design, prototype, and patents of any selected inventions. The inventor splits royalties. All the details are at BSA Innovation Challenge page.
Reading through the requirements, I did notice that each entry costs $25 - ouch. But, their information says, "Each entry will be reviewed by a team of Edison Nation product development and intellectual property experts. Your submission fee helps defray a portion of the actual cost of reviewing each submission." So, I guess it's to cut down on Pet Rock type inventions but I hope it doesn't eliminate some great idea from a kid without a wallet.
A program like this might be just the thing to get a few scouts interested in doing the Inventing merit badge. By going through the process, many of the merit badge requirements can be completed and there is a reason for doing them. The deadline for the program is May 7, so doing the merit badge during these cold months would work out great for most troops.
Using your mind to help solve problems and create new things is a great way to be a productive citizen.
Here's a video explaining the Edison Nation program:
My sons got me these Outdoor Products trek poles for Christmas and today I tried them out for the first time. I was a little clumsy. I hit my foot with the pole a few times. I kicked the pole with my foot a few times. The tips skidded on the ice a few times.
Now, don't think I'm complaining here - I'm just letting you know that there's a short learning curve for any new piece of gear and gear should be used as intended. The rails-to-trails path I used today was flat with no need for the extra push or support from the poles - I was just trying them out. I'll just compress the poles and hook 'em on my pack when going along a path like this on my long hikes.
I expect I'll find them very useful when I start my rough trail practice next month. For now, I'd like to let you know my first impressions. And, basically, I think these would be great for scouts/scouters heading to Philmont or other backpacking treks.
Here's my thoughts on these Outdoor Products poles:
They are aluminum with rubber handles and cam-locks. I like how the locks flip and hold rather than screw. You will need to adjust the cam-lock mechanism to ensure it clamps down hard enough to hold.
There are three sections to the pole so they compress down to 25 inches which makes stowing on a pack pretty easy when not being used. Since they are easily adjustable, they can be shared with others without much hassle. The sections come completely apart so I really have 6 short aluminum tubes for emergency use.
Without the rubber foot and basket, each pole weighs 9.7 oz. I don't plan to use the basket since it will just catch on brush and my pants.
The rubber handles feel good to me, but the dense plastic makes them heavy and I'm anxious to see how they feel on hot, sweaty trails.
The shafts adjust from 25 inches compressed to 54 inches extended. The carbide tips, baskets that easily unscrew, and rubber foot covers are all pretty nice.
These poles will also be my shelter supports on my long hikes and they seem solid enough for that job.
I like the metallic green color - it's pretty low-impact. They come in blue, too.
So far, I think I got a great present here! I believe they're a good item for folks like me that haven't used trek poles before and are learning how it all works. The $30 for the pair makes them a scout-affordable item as well. You can get poles that weigh half as much, but justifying the $$$ to ounces exchange rate can be a challenge.
How did you spend your Saturday? I had a great (but long) day doing Red Cross Training. I presented CPR/AED in the morning and then Wilderness and Remote First Aid all afternoon and evening to a great bunch of Scouters preparing for high adventurs this summer. Some are going to Philmont, others to Seabase, and a couple to Okpik at Northern Tier next month. There were a couple of Venturing folks preparing for a canoe trip, too. I'll be completing the class tomorrow afternoon.
It's fun to hear the adventures different troops are planning and to discuss how to best prepare. Each BSA high adventure base requires a WRFA certified person on every crew, so don't wait too long to get your crew ready. Sometimes the WRFA classes are hard to find.
The Red Cross could always use more instructors, too. If you like to teach, have some outdoors experience, and would like to do first aid and CPR training, consider contacting your local Red Cross chapter to find out more. It's another good way to spend your Saturdays, or other days of the week.
I knew Spanish versions of the Cub Scout handbooks were online, but I didn't realize English versions were available also. Browsing around scouting.org I found these huge PDF files. These are the 2008 printings, except for Wolf which is 2006.
I had a friend join me on my hike yesterday. I was very surprised to see him since he's usually just a summer hiking buddy and doesn't enjoy being out at all once it frosts up. I can't recall if I've ever seen a mosquito out on the trail in January before, but this guy was out and about due to the record high temps this week. Click the image if you want to see a very short video of his dance moves.
Actually, the weather has been great for getting in more hiking. I'm off now for 8 miles and it's 34°F but snow's expected and the temp drops throughout the day. Back to real January tomorrow. Unfortunately, that's not enough for the scouts going on their Okpik campout this weekend. Looks like no quinzee huts or Zero Hero awards this year. But, they've planned a 5-mile hike as an alternate activity, so that'll keep them moving and warm.
A headlamp is a great outdoors tool. It frees up both hands, lights your way or work area, and is convenient. I've got a few different ones (one I even found ontrail at Philmont) that have evolved from incandescent bulbs to LEDs, reducing the weight and power usage. But, I just got a way cool upgrade.
I received a Photon Freedom LED light. It is a single LED but is dimmable so I can choose the brightness, and corresponding power consumption. I can't show you how bright it really is, but this tiny light delivers as much light as my previous 4 LED headlamp. It weighs just 0.25 ounces and is as bright as my 7.6 ounce headlamp. When I add the clip, it weighs 0.4 ounces. To reduce weight, I removed the keyring, cut the tiny magnets off the clip, and left the lanyard on the table.
I'm impressed (it has a big 'fun factor') and am very excited to use it on my long hikes. I don't expect to do any night hiking, instead using it for a camp light. The clip allows the light to swivel around into any position, and is tight enough to hold it in position.
This one light should last for at least a month of hiking, but I ordered a bunch of CR2016 batteries for cheap online and will take a few, just in case. It's supposed to last from 12 to 50 hours, depending on the brightness I use. Since I expect to be in my shelter right after nightfall each day, I don't think I'll put many hours on it.
I'd prefer rechargeable batteries and Photon has a version that can be recharged. There's also a solar charger accessory which could be useful, but may weigh more than carrying a few extra batteries.
I also received an ultraviolet version from my brother, concerned about scorpions on my Arizona Trail hike - he figured I could use it to see them before stepping outside or into by shoes. :-) For the extra .25 ounces, I'll probably take it along - who knows what I'll find with it.
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.