Between all your meetings, exercising to stay in shape, starting on taxes, deleting spam emails, checking out youtube videos, and the millions of other things that take up your time today - don't forget.
Even if you hate chocolate - don't forget.
Even if you feel it's just a Hallmark Holiday - don't forget.
Even if you think killing flowers goes against Leave No Trace ethics - don't forget.
One step closer to being ready for the Arizona Trail. I received a brand-new map set on CD of the entire 800+ miles of trail on Friday. The maps are 1:28,000 scale and each image prints on an 8.5x11 sheet.
These maps are very detailed and should be perfect for navigating. The AZT Association at aztrail.org has overview maps which are great for getting familiar with the trail, but not detailed enough for navigating. Now that I have these maps and my compass, my navigation needs are met.
I spent yesterday printing and refilling my ink cartridge :-) Printing front and back gives me 65 sheets to carry - that's almost a pound of paper! I plan to carry about a week's worth of maps at a time and ship the rest ahead in a bounce box. Every day, I hope to cover 3 pages of maps which is around 20 miles. I'll mark spots where I take pictures or other interesting bits and then dump the used pages back in the bouncebox at the next resupply point.
These maps were created by, and being sold by ($25), Brett Tucker at simblissity.net but the profits go right to the AZ Trail Assocation for sustaining the trail. Brett has done an excellent job on an extremely useful project to benefit the hiking community.
Shared some cooking secrets with another local troop last night. They've developed a bad habit of not cooking and the scoutmaster asked for some help. After talking with them and finding out their best, worst, and usual camping meals, it sure looked like they were just not motivated to try anything interesting. I shared that there are some very easy, healthy, tasty, not messy recipes they could try if they want to expand their skills. A few thought some open fire cooking would be fun, especially Egg in an Orange and Pig on a Stick. Their SPL is considering some cooking competition on their next campout so I hope they go ahead with that and push themselves.
Tonight, I got to spend some quality time with a Webelos den working on their Readyman activity badge. I took my manikins, fake wounds, and first aid supplies and we all had a great time bandaging. These guys are excited to move on to Boy Scouts in a couple weeks. Next week, they get to carry the flags in at the City Council meeting and then they're crossing over.
It's refreshing to visit with Cub Scouts occasionally. The energy, silliness, and social pressures are so much different than Boy Scouts.
Yet Another Wilderness and Remote First Aid Week End I spent the weekend with a dozen Scouting folks covering the first aid training required for all the BSA High Adventure bases now. We had everything from lightning deaths to mosquito bites so the 16+ hours went fairly quickly.
I've got a few more sessions scheduled around my long hikes, but they're full so I have to find room to add some more in May and June. I don't mind because I think it really is fun to facilitate and it's always a good refresher for me - especially since I'll be out alone for so many weeks this summer.
If you are looking for a new way to support Scouting, check with your local Red Cross chapter about becoming an instructor. They're often in need of more people and you get to meet a lot of great folks.
Do you know what this is? It's plastic, less than an inch across, and weighs hardly nothing. But, without it, I'm unable to complete my current sewing project. It's a top vertical gear from my sewing machine. Actually, it's a replacement that's on its way. Mine currently has a crack in it. The gear still works, but that small crack makes the gear a bit wider which causes the needle and bobbin to get out of sync. The sewing system is broken until a new gear shows up.
Every system is made up of individual parts. Without just one of those parts, sometimes ones we don't appreciate or even consider, the whole system collapses. We pay attention to the obvious parts - the needle, presser foot, bobbin, spool in a sewing machine; the key, gas pedal, turn signal, speedometer in a car; the SPL, ASPL, and Scoutmaster in a troop. It's all those other parts that really need some attention occasionally.
A good system can last decades if it is maintained. My 1989 Mazda 323 refuses to die. I've cared for it for over 20 years by changing oil, checking fluids, and keeping the unseen pieces in good shape. My sewing machine is also over 20 years old. Once I replace this broken gear, I'll lubricate it and expect it to work another decade.
It's important to pay attention to all the parts that keep a system running. If a minor piece stops working, the system may struggle along for some time until you fix it. Or, worse even, you may just get used to that squeek, rattle, or misfire and do nothing about it until it all falls apart. In most mechanical systems, you monitor, lubricate, and replace parts to keep the system running.
A scout unit is a system, too, isn't it? By paying attention to all the pieces the risk of catastrophic failure is minimized. So, how can we keep all the pieces working well? Here's a few ideas, I expect you have more:
Monitor Regularly ask for feedback. Find out from each person, individually, what's going well and not so well. Use the BSA monitoring tools, such as Journey to Excellence, to track performance.
Lubricate Regularly thank every person for their contributions. In a large group, a list of names with date and reason you recognized them helps ensure no one is missed. It doesn't need to be a big deal; just a "Hey, Bob, thanks for that great flag raising" counts. An occasion celebration of the group's accomplishments also helps the whole group stay satisfied.
Replace Regularly switch people in roles. Having different scouts, and adults, take on roles reduces wear and tear on individuals, gives more people experience, and gets new ideas into the unit.
Similar to a machine, monitoring, lubricating, and replacing can help keep a scout unit in top performance for decades. If you have the same people in the same roles year after year after year, something's bound to break.
Heavy zippers, squished insulation, no wriggle room - who needs it? I've finished my sleeping quilt for my first long hike. Even my wife was impressed at how nicely it turned out! From my point of view, it was very easy - so easy I'm making another one.
Sleeping quilts are making steady headway against sleeping bags, especially for long treks where light loads are desired. Actually, a lighter load is always a benefit no matter how long your trek is, but carrying a 4 pound bag for two days doesn't wear you down as badly as lugging it around for two weeks.
A quilt works by laying over the top of the backpacker and being tucked in on the sides as desired. Laying on a pad gives underneath insulation, just like when using a sleeping bag. There is a foot box area which keeps the quilt on and tucked in below.
So, why the quilt? When you think about it, there are many benefits:
More Efficient - the insulation you lay on gets squished and loses its loft. That means it doesn't insulate. It's really just extra weight and expense.
Lighter - no zipper, no insulation underneath, lighter fabric
Flexible - the quilt can be wrapped around snugly or loosened up. It can be completely thrown off or lain on during warm nights. I can move my legs and body around without feeling quite so like a caterpiller.
Customized - any MYOG (make your own gear) item can be made specifically to your size or needs. I made this quilt longer than normal and left off a part I didn't want.
I learned a lot from making this quilt. I made it wider than I really need which means about 7 square feet of unnecessary fabric and insulation, which equals extra weight. My next one will be slimmed down. It has about 2 inches of loft on top - that's a lot, just measure your own sleeping bag's thickness. My next one will have just about 1 inch for my summer trips with warmer nights. It's very easy to make a quilt, and it doesn't need to be perfect. As long as you make sure the stitches are hitting all the layers of fabric, it turns out just fine.
I'll easily stay warm below freezing with this quilt. I'll try it on my back porch if we ever get some more cold weather, but I'd bet it will do just fine down to around 20 degrees and then I'd need to put on extra clothes. It weighs 2.5 pounds which I feel is fine for the range of temps I can use it in. The fabric is 1.1oz silnylon and the insulation is continuous filament polyester - goose down would be lighter, but messy working, more expensive, and susceptible to moisture.
I expect my second quilt to be good to around 40 degrees and weigh closer to 1 pound - but we'll see.
You may never hope or dream to hike the Continental Divide Trail, but this tidbit should be of interest to anyone that ventures into the wild places.
On the home page of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, they've posted notice that the non-profit organization is ceasing operations and closing down over the next few weeks.
They mention the lack of financial support as being one key reason. It's no surprise that funding for wilderness recreation opportunities goes away as a non-essential expense. The CDT, as well as many other maintained trails, are used by a small portion of the population and are seen by many as unneeded. But, as the money wells dry up and individuals have fewer monetary resources, I expect we'll see additional wilderness and conservation organizations being forced to make similar decisions.
Please evaluate your personal contributions to groups that do good things. If you've got extra money, time, or resources that can be used to support a cause with which you agree, please don't put off getting involved until another day. That group may not be around another day.
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