Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Time for a final father son adventure

In less than a week, we will be on our way to Atikokan for our Troop Northern Tier Adventure.  My son is going to be a Sr next year and I know this is going to be our last Scout High Adventure together. Certainly it is closing chapter on an amazing Scouting career together.

Basically we have done it all with summer camps, Sea Base, Jamboree, Philmont and now this. The time and expense commitment has been tremendous but I know the experience and memory investment return will bring great dividends in the years to come. I also am very thankful to be married to a terrific person that has with a smile dealt with her stinky post camp out men and days alone while we were off on some adventure.  

As much as the time with Conner, I have been blessed on these many adventures to have great moments with many Scouts as they have grown up a bit right in front me. Really there are few greater moments than being with a kid the first time he ever is away from home for multiple days, rides a horse, catches a fish, climbs a mountain, leads a team, figures out how to get “unlost” in the backcountry and more.  

These years active in Scouting with my son and our Troop have without a doubt molded both us in positive ways I do not think I yet fully comprehend. I do know that I would not trade back a single moment of it. 

Now it time for a final Troop adventure. I know it is going to be amazing. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Norther Tier Practice Campout

This weekend was our first Northern Tier Crew outing as we work to prepare for our Trip that is coming the last weekend June this year. The Troop has two groups going each consisting of 6 Scouts and 2 adults. Originally both crews were going on the same date but the other crew had to change due to some scheduling conflicts.

Up to this point we have had several crew meetings and some crew training during our March campout. This was the first time and perhaps the only time are camping just crew only. It was also the first time were able to test out our skills on the water and together
Northern Tier is my fourth high adventure in a row with Sea Base, Philmont, and Jamboree in the previous years. Each experience has been very different and for sure I have learned a lot along the way. We are very fortunate to have and adult on the second crew that has been to Northern Tier previously and most of the Scouts on our crew have previously participated in high adventure.

Nonetheless, I know from experience that it is important to not take anything for granted. Discovering and working out group dynamic frustrations and skill identifiers prior to being off on the adventure are very important. Even though these Scouts have been together for many years the function of a small group in a wilderness situation is far different from a small group as part of a larger Troop.

Our weekend went pretty well with the Scouts and the Adults learning some lessons to take and soak on before we train again. As expected, there were Scouts short on gear, Scouts that wanted to take short cuts on learning and Scouts that were just plain excited all the time. All of course is part of the process of team building and learning. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Hello 2014

Well it looks like 2014 is here and in full swing. Last year was pretty amazing for us as a Scouting family and especially for my son.

He started the year with his second spring term as the Troop SPL, helped is buddies complete several Eagle Projects, completed his own project which benefited our Charter Org, became an Eagle Scout, was SPL for one of the Council Jamboree Troops, and earned a bronze palm. Whew! Oh and he also turned 16 and got his first car.
Having a blast as Jambo ASM
It was one of those years that I do not think he will truly appreciate until he is much older.

Of course through all of these adventures I was there as well. I saw that he was far more effective during his second round as SPL since he was able to apply many of the lessons he had learned through trial and error the first time. I also so much of this experience go into action as Jamboree SPL which in his own words was the most difficult thing he had ever done. This was mostly due to the Troop dynamics of a Jamboree Troop not allowing a lot of Patrol level segmentation. This basically left him running everything which was difficult but a great learning experience.

His Eagle Project was great with him able to use his leadership skills and many of the skills he has been learning in school through his engineering academy. His Scoutmaster really challenged him to pull off a first class project.
Conner's Project: Donation boxes
Honestly, in my mind I thought he would be done with Scouting after Jamboree and Eagle. I am very thankful that instead he seems still very excited to be part of the Troop and to enjoy time as a leader and with his friends. I can certainly say that thanks to the great Scouts and adults in our Troop I am still as enthused as ever.

Upon reflection, it is just amazing to think of how much Scouting over the years has become part of who he is and who we are together as father and son. I know that many years from now we will look back and tell stories galore about these times. The years have shaped both of us into better people.

What does the future hold?  I am continuing as a Troop ASM and we both have one more adventure ahead with Northern Tier in June. Life is good indeed.

Stay tuned to the blog as I do plan to write from time to time about our Northern Tier planning and experience.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Northern Tier Gear List

I worked up a gear list for our crews that are going to Northern Tier in 2014.  We will test the list as we do our training outings to see what can be cut or added.  Taking as little as possible is a goal given the limited amount of space that will be available.  Give the list a look over and leave your comments with feedback. Most of the items are directly from the official NT participant manual. 

Dry Clothes (Camp)
         Lightweight camp shoes, close toed
         Synthetic long sleeve shirt
         Synthetic T-Shirt (provided)
         Synthetic Pants; zip off
         2 pairs of socks; wool or synthetic
         Lightweight fleece jacket or pullover
         Stocking cap
         Synthetic long underwear
         Sleepwear: t-shirt & shorts/lightweight

Wet Clothes (Canoeing)
         Boots: Jungle style with full ankle coverage and instep drainage
         Synthetic long sleeve shirt
         Synthetic T-shirt (provided)
         Wool or synthetic socks (2 pairs)
         Polypro sock liner (1 pair)
         Synthetic underwear (1 pair)
         Synthetic pants; zip off
         Broad brimmed hat
         Lightweight breathable rain jacket
         Lightweight breathable rain pants
         Optional; paddling gloves

Personal Gear
         Lightweight sleeping bag (rated 20-35) 
         6 foot Z-rest foam pad or ultra-light Therm-a-rest
         Backpackers pillow (pillow case)
         Dry bag for sleeping clothes
         Bandanna or buff
         Backpacker’s towel
         Small Toothpaste
         Meal kit including bowl, spoon and cup
         Nalgeene Water bottle (Provided)
         Lip balm w/sunscreen
         Small pocket knife
         Personal Meds (2 complete supplies)
         Headlamp with extra batteries
         Sunglasses and/or eye glasses with keeper strap
         1 Compass per canoe (small, liquid-filled, flat base)
         Small personal first aid kit
         Waterproof matches or lighter in container
         Watch with alarm
         Small pump-squirt bottle of 30-100% DEET
         Small sunblock
         Two one gallon zip lock bags
         Two or three carabineers for attaching items to canoe
          2 diaper pins

         Water proof camera with extra batteries
         Journal with pen/pencil
         Fishing gear: To be decided by crew
         PFD: These are provided by NT Scouts can bring own if preferred

Saturday, November 30, 2013

A new adventure awaits

Deep down in many ways I thought attending the 2013 National Scout Jamboree would end up being my last big Scouting adventure with the son and with our Troop. After all, in the last several years I have been blessed to be able to attend Sea Base and Philmont in addition to going to Jamboree as an ASM.

I also figured it was time to move on and certainly time to stop the monthly payments with college looming. The final thing for me is that my work seems to cycle through layoffs every two years which would place 2014 as another on of those "risk" years take always drive me crazy.

As a result of all these factors, when the sign up for Northern Tier came around I did not raise my hand to be an adult volunteer. Well, it turns out they did end up needing an additional adult and with some very light arm twisting I am now poised and pumped again for adventure. We are taking two crews to Antikokan and I am very excited about the six Scouts that will be joining the other leader and I on this adventure.

My plan is to blog along the way here and share our experience including planning, training, gear and our time on the water. I know it is going to be amazing!

Thanks for following along.

Sea Base 2011

Philmont 2012
Jamboree 2013

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Some tips for staying warm during winter camping

NOTE: This list below is not for cold weather backpacking but instead for car camping type outings where weight and space for gear is not a strong concern. The content was originally created as a handout for our Scouts and Adults.

The winter months are a great time for camping. There is nothing better than sitting around a warm campfire with your friends on a cold and clear star filled night. The lower temperatures also bring new challenges that Scouts should be ready to face.  Need some tips?  We got you covered.
All Scouts should be responsible for packing their own gear on every campout and it is good idea for parents of younger Scouts to double check just to ensure he is properly prepared.

·         It will always feel colder than you will expect

·         It will always rain/sleet/snow when you do not expect it

·         Layers are your friend

·         Cotton is bad—wool and synthetic are good

Thermal Underwear:  Something synthetic and never cotton. Academy Sports Polar Edge is a great product at a very reasonable price. Scouts should have two full sets with one to wear during the day and the second to change into right before bed. Everyone sweats and changing right before sleep is essential to a warm night’s rest

Socks:  Absolutely no cotton socks. Heavy wool socks as an outer layer and a pair of synthetic sock liners for an inner layer will keep feet dry and warm. Scouts should have two full sets with one to wear during the day and a second to change into right before bed. A third set is good if you may have extra sweaty feet as moisture is the primary enemy of warmth. Change socks out midday for comfort.

Gloves: Bring gloves that are heavy enough for the worst temperature expected. A synthetic liner glove will help add a layer and come in handy when the temperature is warmer.

Hat: A fleece or wool camp is essential since we lose most of our body heat through our heads. A standard style is good for daywear and a balaclava style is great at night since it covers the neck as well. Again it is good to have one each with the second hat reserved for sleeping.

Neck Gaiter: A good alternative to the balaclava as it will cover the neck.

Long Sleeve Shirt: Wool, fleece, flannel, or synthetic. Cotton is best avoided

Mid-Layer: A fleece jacket, wool sweater, heavy sweatshirt (the troop shirt is great) or fleece vest will add to core body warmth.

Jacket: Should be waterproof and heavy enough for the worst temperatures together. If not waterproof be sure and check to see of the Scout raingear will fit over this jacket. Staying dry is very important.

Pants: Heavyweight jeans or insulated pants. Bring a backup pair.

Boots: Most everyday shoes worn by youth provide no protection from cold and very little protection from twisted ankles or water. Look for waterproof boots and always bring and extra pair of shoes as a backup. The backup can be anything reasonable.

Sleeping Bag: Most of the time, a good 20 degree mummy bag is adequate. Remember that for most bags the temperature rating is for survival and not for comfort meaning a 20 degree rating most likely means 30 degrees actual is about right. You can economically increase comfort by adding a fleece liner, fleece blanket, or try a “bag in a bag”. Use a rectangle bag as an outer layer with the mummy bag as the inner layer. 

Almost every year we find Scouts with bags that are rated 40-50 degrees trying to make it in the cold. Not good!

A zero degree bag is great too if able to have the expense of multiple bags. Remember, it is critical to change into a fresh full set of clothing before tucking in for the night.

Also, it is not good to cover fully with the bag as breathing inside will add moisture. Mummy bags are designed to synch around the face area to allow some external exposure.

Sleeping Pad: A good idea year round for comfort and even better for insulating yourself from the cold ground.  Adults you will want to leave the air mattresses and cots at home and plan to sleep on the ground without a layer of freezing air under you.

Camp Mug:  Why essential? You do not want to be the person left out from a steamy cup of hot chocolate, cider or coffee do you?

Water Bottle: Winter is prime time for dehydration as Scouts forget to drink when they are not hot. Always arrive for departure to campout with at least one full Nalgene.

Warmers: A nice variety of hand warmers, body warmers and toe warmers can make a real difference. These can stay active for many hours and are inexpensive. It is a good idea to activate a couple of hand warmers right before bed to throw in your bag near your feet. These also come in handy to place in boots for a bit in the morning.

Expect to have a great cold weather camping experience if you follow these tips.

Do you have any additional tips? 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

My 2013 National Scout Jamboree Experience

The 2013 National Scout Jamboree was held this year for the very first time at the Bechtel Family Summit
and I had the great privilege to attend as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Last Frontier Council Troop C137. The event ended just a few weeks ago and I figure this is the best time to write a few of my thoughts now while it all fresh on my mind.

First the positives:

The Summit is amazing!

 I have followed the development of the Summit for several years now including reading articles, watching videos etc. Nothing however can match seeing the property in person and to be honest I do not think any other method would work to understand it.

One other visitor described it as “Disney World for Scouts”. This was a reference to not just the number of activities but just a equally a reference to the build quality of everything.

Every single facility at the Summit is above world class. I do not think that you would fine better climbing, zip lining, shooting, BMX, Skateboarding, pool scuba diving, canopy touring, archery or anything built for youth anywhere in the world yet alone all in one location.

Scouting dreamed big with the finest of everything including the world’s largest skate park and zip lines to blow the mind.

Technology is everywhere thanks to the generosity of AT&T with high speed WiFi located all over the property. Our campsite had a WiFi tower located just yards away and it seemed to be even in the remotest of locations. This allowed me to be connected to social media to share all the fun as things were in progress through Facebook, instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

No detail of the property has been ignored up to the architectural marvels of the sustainability tree house and Consul Energy Bridge down to the beautiful walkways, steps, native grass planting, grey water systems and even the wheat planted along the drives into camp adding visual effect.

The place is truly a marvel and should be considered the ultimate Scouting and youth organization playground. 

Now the deltas:

This place is freakin’ huge!  The camps were very spread out with every walk seemingly uphill all the time with rain and heat. I was feeling a little sorry for myself into a 45 minute hike to shooting sports one day until I met a Scout that had already been traveling for 90 minutes. We both still had at least another 20 minutes to go. I know I walked for at least 10 miles each day and ended the week with blisters on top of my blisters.

This would not have been so bad if it were not for the 90 degree temperatures and high humidity. Worst of all, all the trails were constructed with not so finely crushed rock that tended to bruise the bottom of your feet unless you were hiking with very stiff soled boots. Foot issues were a real problem for many people I met.  I know there were Scouts that did not venture out far beyond the visitor experience area due to the distance and physical requirements to travel. I personally experienced tremendous physical pain most of the time due to these conditions and I considered myself to be in pretty decent shape.

These travel issues were especially challenging for staff as they had to walk as well and then try to enthusiastically work for many hours. The Summit was pretty clear to communicate in advance the high adventure level requirements but most of the staff I chatted with said they came under prepared for the reality.

Speaking of staff.

A super shout out to everyone that served. Your sacrifice of time and rescources is to absolutely be commended.

Staffing levels were the number one Jamboree problem and should be the number one focus for correction before the next Jamboree in 2017. The Summit had capacity for every Scout to enjoy all activities with minimal wait. This did not happen however due to a severely low level of staff. In fact, we had a couple of Scouts that ended up only getting to do one or two activities during the entire Jamboree with the zip line as an example experiencing a six hour wait. Our Scouts that were able to do it got up at 430 one morning and still were not first in line to participate. This was totally unacceptable and unfair to the Scouts and the overworked volunteer staff. I felt really sorry for both.

Staffers have to pay to be there and many found it difficult to handle the long hikes and heat. Shuttles need to be provided for staffers as this would reduce the walking requirements and may allow for some that do not meet the current health requirements to help. I would also have more professional staff at the most popular activities with incentives for the volunteers in those areas including free attendance.

The Summit has a long list of positives that far outweigh these opportunities. The future is bright as it will continue growing even more as showcase for Scouting and a launching pad for a new future of excitement.

Personally I would not hesitate to go again and am already excited to return again in 2017 and hopefully 2019 to give back as staff. See you there!

Did you go to Jamboree?  What did you think?