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I'm off on my next hike in a week.
The plan is to hike from Harper's Ferry, WV south on the Appalachian Trail to the terminus on Springer Mountain, GA.
After checking out buses, planes, trains, and automobiles, I've decided to go by rail across the country. Bus was $90, plane was $100, and train was $150. So, why did I choose train?
First off, I will only ride a bus if it's the very last possible option. My Greyhound experience last year was enough to last a loooong time.
Even though the plane was less money, it got me to Washington, DC so I would need to take a commuter train to the trail, and it landed at night so I'd need to pay for a place to stay.
The train takes a bit more than a day and costs more than flying, but I step off the train right onto the trail, I can pack all my food and gear at home, it arrives at mid-day, and I stay on the ground. Plus, I've not been on a long train ride in many years so it will be more of an adventure.
I've looked over the AT Guidebook, set up resupply spots, figured out how far I'll hike each day and where I'll spend each night. Of course, as soon as I set foot on the trail, the plan goes out the window but it's a good exercise to get a general idea of what to expect. You can check out my rough hiking schedule if you're interested. If it all works out, I'll reach the end by Oct. 15, but I can take as long as I need.
If you know someone along the trail that would like to visit with a hiker, send me an email. I'd always prefer a home over a tent or shelter any night on the trail. And, I'm hoping some Scouts might be able to join me hiking for a couple hours or days.
The 23rd World Scout Jamboree is under way right now in Japan. You can even see live streaming videos on this page (but it's 1:00am right now). The 24th will be held in 2019 at the Summit in West Virginia. Scouts from around the world will be visiting our country in just 4 years, and it will be a super opportunity to meet international brothers and sisters. Wouldn't it be cool to already be friends with some of them before they arrive?
The new Tiger Family Stories adventure, the Arrow of Light Building a Better World adventure, and the Citizenship in the World merit badge all have requirements to communicate with scouts in other places. A Webelos or Boy Scout getting to know scouts from other countries now just might meet some of them four years from now at the Jamboree!
Pen Pals are a great way to make international friends. There are over 600 units signed up in the Scout Pen Pals program here on Boy Scout Trail, including scouts from Canada, UK, and Australia. It's a great way to start a relationship between Scouting groups. It can take a little time to get things rolling, so now is a great time to start looking for Pen Pal units that will be ready to swap messages when your scouts are ready. Talking to scouts around the world is exciting and fun, not just to complete requirements.
Check it out today!
The BSA is creating digital versions of more merit badge pamphlets this summer and real scouts are needed to act in a set of instructional videos. Real scouts with real skills are being used - and I think that's a totally awesome idea!
This is a great opportunity for 15 minutes of fame for scouts in your troop, but it requires fast action on your part.
If your troop meets the following needs, then keep reading:
- Located in contiguous U.S.
- Great skills in at least one of these areas: Camping, Cycling, Hiking, Lifesaving, Swimming
- A scenic area where outdoor videos could be shot, like a nice park, lake, trail, or forest
- Scouts interested in acting
Here's a sample video:
Oh, one other cool thing - participating scouts will get a limited patch like the one displayed above.
So, you're interested?
Well, send an email to Kat Medina at the BSA BEFORE June 26 and let her know your troop number, location, and that you're interested!
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One good thing I like about the new Cub Scout program is its stronger push for outdoor activities, including camping. Only a couple years ago, Tigers were finally allowed to camp, now every rank except Tiger requires camping. This may mean a scramble for some Packs to offer the needed camping opportunities over the next few months.
The different kinds of camping available to Cub Scouts are:
- Cub Scout day camp is organized by the council, and is a one- to five-day program for Tigers, Wolves, Bears, Webelos, and Arrow of Light Scouts. It is conducted under certified leadership, with the day camp director and program director trained at BSA National Camping School. Pack leaders often make up the nucleus of the day camp staff. Check with your council and district for day camp staffing and attendance opportunities in your council area.
- Cub Scout family camping events are often organized through the council or district. These are overnight events involving more than one pack, with the local council or district providing many of the elements to enhance the outdoor experience, such as staffing, food service, housing, and program. These are sometimes referred to as parent–pal, dad-and-lad, and mom-and-me activities, or adventure weekends.
- Pack overnighters are events involving more than one family from a single pack. They are focused on age-appropriate Cub Scout activities and conducted at council approved locations. If siblings participate, the event must be structured accordingly to accommodate them. Adults giving leadership to a pack overnighter must complete Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (BALOO, No. 34162) and must be present during the campout.
- Webelos and Arrow of Light den overnight camping introduces a boy and his parent to the basics of the Boy Scout camping program. These campouts are conducted under the leadership of a trained Webelos/Arrow of Light den leader and include two to six nights of camping. Webelos dens are encouraged to have several overnight campouts each year. These campouts should be parent–son events under the direction of the Webelos den leader. Webelos and Arrow of Light dens are encouraged to visit Boy Scout camporees, Klondike derbies, and other outdoor overnight Scout events. The purpose of these visits should be for the boys to look ahead with anticipation to their future as Boy Scouts. Webelos and Arrow of Light Scouts should not participate in activities designed for Boy Scouts and should not spend the night at events that are Boy Scout–based.
With this increased emphasis on camping for Cub Scouts at all ranks, I've noticed more talk about 'getting around' the BSA requirements for camping as Cub Scouts. Here are a couple examples:
- We're just going to get a few families from our den together and camp, but not as a den. We'll do a bunch of advancement requirements, but we're not camping as scouts.
- A couple families are going camping, but not filling out a tour plan, so it's not scouting.
- BALOO training is simple, and a waste for anyone with any camping experience, so you don't really need it. You also don't need Hazardous Weather or those water safety classes because they are just online wastes of time.
- Our council never even checks tour plans, so we just camp whenever and wherever we want without them.
- Just don't wear uniforms and there's nothing BSA can do about it.
- Don't sweat all the BSA rules - just call it family camping and do it.
- Just plan an all-day Den outing on Saturday and on Sunday at the same camping location. Families can camp there if they want, but it's not part of your scouting activity.
Age Guidelines for camping are spelled out on this GSS page. In order for Cub Scouts to camp, all the following are needed:
- Youth Protection, and Health and Safety, guidelines are followed. That means all adults in attendance need to know what these guidelines are.
- Under the direction of a BALOO TRAINED pack adult leader. That means a trained person is in attendance at the entire campout.
- Held at a council-approved location, typically a council-run camp but other sites can be approved based on Pack Overnighter Site Approval Form. That means camping doesn't take place at an unapproved, unsafe, inappropriate location.
- Every scout has a specific adult to whom the scout is responsible. This is typically a parent. It should not be a den leader being responsible for a handful of scouts.
- Only age-appropriate Cub Scout activities take place. That means Tigers do not build fires or use knives, for example.
- A completed Tour Plan. See video about online tour plans. A plan may not need to be submitted to council, but completing one for every outing ensures the proper planning is being done.
- Individual scouts and families are prepared to camp. Using a Pack Overnighter Checklist is a good idea.
At your next Pack Leader meeting, start the discussion about properly planning enough camping for the scouts to fulfill their requirements without being tempted to circumvent the correct BSA process. By following the process and doing what is required, you are modeling Trustworthy, Helpful, and Obedient.Scout On!
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The BSA ScoutStrong program is a healthy living initiative, promoting an active lifestyle for youth and their adult guides. So, it makes sense that celebrating Olympic Day fits into the ScoutStrong initiative and is yet another opportunity for you to get your gang out and active.
Olympic Day is officially June 23, but events are being held throughout the month of June. Olympic Day can be used as a theme for your June weekend campout, week at summer camp, picnic, or special community event such as a 5K run/walk or your own mini-olympics. Working on 'active' merit badges or Cub Scout adventures can be part of your event - such as hiking, cycling, or athletics.
It's completely free to register and host an event - and it doesn't need to be a huge extravaganza. By hosting an Olympic Day event, your unit gets the following benefits:
- AN OLYMPIC FLAG - receive an Olympic Day 2015 flag and Team USA stickers when you register.
- OLYMPIC DAY TOOLKIT - tons and tons of event ideas, press release tips, printable certificates, and more.
- HOSTING AN OLYMPIAN - opportunity to host an Olympian or Paralympian, who will be prepared to speak on one of the following topics: fair play, respect, perseverance, and/or sportsmanship.
Visit the official Olympic Day page to register and learn lots more.
So, what will YOUR unit do to celebrate Olympic Day 2015?
The long-awaited Walking merit badge requirements have been released today. Though not an Eagle-required badge, I expect this one will be one of the most popular badges to collect in 2015.
Requirements for the Walking merit badge:
- Do the following:
- Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while walking, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, and respond to these hazards.
- Show that you know first aid for injuries or illnesses that could occur while walking, including hypothermia, heatstroke, heat exhaustion, frostbite, dehydration, sunburn, sprained ankle, insect stings, tick bites, snakebite, blisters, hyperventilation, altitude sickness, sudden cardiac arrest, malaria, typhoid, chicken pox, hangnail, ambulophobia, and spontaneous combustion.
- Explain and, where possible, show the points of good walking practices including putting one foot in front of the other, staying upright, courtesy to others, choice of footwear, and proper care of feet and footwear.
- Write a 300-word report about how walking was invented. Share this report with your counselor.
- Make a written plan for a 6-mile walk. Include a map route, equipment list, list of emergency phone numbers, list of food stops along the route, list of homes with dogs or large cats along the route, and list of bus, train, or taxi stops along the route.
- Do FIVE of the following accompanied by a parent, or designated adult:
- Walk and chew gum for at least five minutes without choking.
- Walk on your hands for at least two minutes without falling.
- Walk backwards for at least five minutes without running into any person, animal, or inanimate object.
- Read "A Walk in the Woods" or watch the movie. Report to your counselor about how the book or movie presents the mindset of people that walk. As an alternate, you may watch and report on at least three full seasons of "Walking Dead".
- Memorize, and present at a campfire, at least three "Walks Into a Bar..." jokes. Poll your fellow scouts to find which one was the most popular and report back to your counselor.
- Have a talk with your father or grandfather about how he walked to school. If possible, walk from his childhood home to his old schoolhouse and determine if it actually is uphill both ways or not. Report your findings to your counselor.
- Take a virtual walk on Google Earth or gmap-pedometer.com - the walk must be of at least 100 miles. The walk must start at your home and include at least two state or national parks or monuments, state capitols, national historic locations, or homes of famous people. Save the map of your walk and show it to your counselor.
- On a campout, cook dinner in a wok for your patrol. (This meal may NOT be used for the Cooking merit badge)
- Find out about three career opportunities in walking. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.
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Jennifer asked: "Do the 6 merit badges for star rank have to be earned while a 1st class scout, or could they have been earned while a tenderfoot or 2nd class scout?"
All requirements to earn Star rank need to be started and completed after First Class has been earned EXCEPT for the merit badges. Boy Scouts can begin work on any merit badge at any time, once they are registered with a troop. There are no age restrictions on any merit badges, and badges earned before attaining First Class rank DO count towards Star requirements.
The same is true for Life and Eagle ranks - all Life requirements are started and completed after attaining Star rank, and all Eagle requirements are started and completed after attaining Life rank, EXCEPT for the merit badges.
An industrious new scout could complete a couple dozen merit badges in his first few months as a scout and not need to do any others for rank advancement.
See all the merit badges.
Are folks in your community tired of wreaths, mulch, and bulbs? Your troop could be one of eight that receive a big fundraising starter kit from Country Meats via Scouting Magazine's sweepstakes through the end of April.
It's no secret that I love their snack sticks, and there's a good chance your troop could be the first in your town to offer them. A table outside your local Outdoor Sports store the day before Fishing Opener could be killer.
See Contest page to enter as often as you'd like.
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There's a scene in the old 1981 movie "Quest for Fire" where the lead character was shown how to make fire by another clan. Until that moment, fire could only be found in nature or stolen from others so it was fiercely guarded and nurtured. Being able to make fire was huge!
I've raved about the enjoyment I get from starting fire with just air - using a Wildersol fire piston. It's always good for impressing a few people on any campout. I love being able to make fire many different ways besides just flicking a Bic, and I think it's a great way to improve self sufficiency. A scout that can create fire realizes he can do much more.
There have been some new developments at Wildersol that might interest you. From the wooden fire piston kits that I've carved and given as Eagle gifts, the choices in piston design have exploded. You can now select from wood, composite, clear or colored plexiglass, or tooled aluminum. There are mini- or full-sized pistons, and even a TriLight model with 3 ways to start fire.
Jeff (@ Wildersol) has created a few videos showing how his firestarters work, as well as making fire from wild components. I like this one where he makes and uses a bowdrill from wild bits.
It looks like fun. I've gathered wild components on a couple weekend campouts and made my own bowdrill to see if I could actually make fire in the wild. It's hard! I've been successful, but I hope I'm never in a situation where I really need to do it. I'd rather have a small firestarter in my pocket.
Jeff also has some special pricing and products specifically for scouts on his site. If you'd like your troop to get better at fire starting, or have a competition, or just looking for gifts, check out his Scout Specials page - matchless fire combo has 4 ways to start fire (flint-n-steel, fire piston, magnifying glass, plus ferrocerium rod and striker), and there's a special group price for fire pistons.
Hey, you probably know BoyScoutTrail.com is giving away goodies every month. Check out my contest page and take a shot.
Here are a few more contests you might want to enter...
- Scouting magazine is giving away gift cards and knives. Visit their contest page to enter.
- Boys' Life has contests, too. You can see them all on their contest page - the worst you could do is get a patch.
- Did you make a Pinewood Derby car? Even if it didn't win, a picture of it can still win you $50 at this facebook contest.
Scout On and Good Luck
It's Klondike Derby time so a little reminder about frostbite danger to the scouts is in order.
It only took an hour of walking this morning to develop this cool frost layer. It was -5°F and about 5mph wind - and I was comfortable the entire hike.
At -10°F, it takes about 30 minutes to get frostbite on exposed skin, but less than 15 minutes at -20°F. Above about 15°F, there is much less concern about frostbite, but hypothermia remains something to watch for as people slowly lose their core body heat over hours, not minutes.
Keep these points in mind to prevent frostbite:
- Keep Moving - muscle activity keeps warm blood flowing to your extremities. Sitting, or even standing in one position, can reduce circulation which increases frostbite potential. Don't move so much that you sweat and get your clothes wet.
- Wear loose layers - this provides dead air space which means more insulation. A big fleece crushed under a tight-fitting windbreaker loses loft - wear an oversized outer layer.
- Cover up - Exposed skin freezes fast so cover everything but your eyes.
- Convection cools - a 0 degree windless day is less dangerous than a 15 degree day with 15mph wind. A windproof outer layer makes a big difference. Even a thin wind/rain jacket hood over your stocking hat helps a lot.
- Winter Gear - a scarf or balaclava protects the face; mittens instead of gloves keep fingers together and warmer; insulated boots, especially with thick soles, keep feet warmer than hiking boots. Chemical heat packs in boots and mittens can be a big help.
- Limit Exposure - if you expect frostbite temperatures for your outing, ensure there are places where participants can take time to warm up.
- Buddy System - someone else noticing signs of trouble is sometimes the first indication.
Take a couple minutes and review some more Winter Camping Tips.
Have a Great Klondike!
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