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Posts posted by mrkstvns

  1. Our local council sent out an email that included info about an upcoming Powder Horn event. As I read the announcement, it became clear to me that their Powder Horn event is destined to frustrate more scouts than it will excite.

    The reason can be summed up in 2 words:  BO RING!!!

    Here's what they're telling folks about their event....
    Would you like to expose your troop, crew or ship to rock climbing, Dutch oven cooking, geocaching, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, paddle boarding, firefighting, search and rescue, trekking in a different countries, mountain biking, fly fishing, canoeing, wilderness first aid, astronomy, shooting sport (e.g., rifle, shotgun, handgun, archery), equestrian, wilderness survival, NYLT, Sea Scouts, the Kodiak Challenge, the Hornaday award, Messenger of Peace, living history, Leave No Trace, vendors, Jamboree, event planning, tying flies, scuba diving, and more?

    Maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree, but I don't think those folks quite "get it".  A successful Powder Horn fuels the imagination for older scouts and scouters. It's is about ADVENTURE. It's 100% hands-on. It avoids classes, lectures, boring chit-chat, and topics that used to be interesting at 10 years old, but that are "been there, done that" for a 16-year old. 

    ADVENTURE.  THAT is the crux of a GOOD Powder Horn event...

    Yet, I read SOME of these topics and groan out loud:

    • "event planning"?  OMG!  Can there be a MORE boring topic in the entire universe? I'd rather discuss differential equations.
    • "Dutch oven cooking"???!!! You call THAT Adventure???  Aye-caray!
    • "Messenger of Peace"?  Yeahhh....like that's really going to fire up a thirst for adventures....
    • "First Aid"?  Well, that's always a useful skill, but it's hardly earth shattering to ANY scout, let alone one who is old enough to do Powder Horn...
    • "vendors"???!!!!  Yeah. I really want to pay $275 so that businesses can sell me junk I really don't need, or even want...
    • "tying flies"??  That was kind of interesting when I did the Flying Fishing merit badge at age 12, but it's not exactly something that gets the adrenaline pumping....

    See my point?

    The council tells people that Powder Horn is about adding ADVENTURE to the program, but then they go and fill the program with utter BORINGNESS.   

    How about replacing the inevitable boredom with some genuine Adventure topics?

    For example, don't just cover "kayaking" because most scouts have done that at summer camps. Instead, show how to do a specific advanced skill (like an eskimo roll). Give an intro lesson and let folks try it. 

    Don't just do "canoeing", because everybody's done that too. Instead, delve deeper and make it about multi-day river treks through Class II rivers. Or reading a river....or river rescue techniques...

    There's lots of stuff that's challenging or untried by most troops that COULD interest an older youth and help keep him in scouting....but yet another boring, dull Dutch oven class and First Aid workshop with a session on event planning or "scouting heritage" is going to do nothing but convince him that he's totally outgrown scouting. And if boredom is, in fact, what his troop and council think scouting should be, then he'd be right. In my very humble opinion, a dull, watered down Powder Horn hurts more than it helps.

    Anybody have thoughts about the good and bad of a Powder Horn program?

    • Upvote 1

  2. Elvis is not dead, he's just left the building.

    Pity the poor youth of today, never having the opportunity to rock out with the KING of rock n roll...

    Wellllll, evidently they still CAN.

    I've recently learned that Elvis Presley's Graceland estate hosts an annual event where they welcome scouts and scouters to visit Graceland and earn some advancement while they do it.  Details are here:  https://www.graceland.com/scouts-rock-at-graceland 


    • Upvote 1

  3. 14 minutes ago, Hawkwin said:

    If you want to argue the validity of their rule, that is fine, you are welcome to take it up with them. That doesn't keep them from having the rule despite what your opposing opinion.

    You asked what they should sign up for at camp. I replied that some STATES (as in state law) councils and camps restricted shooting based on age at their facilities so for first year scouts, there might be better alternatives.

    Not really arguing....just discussing.

    Of course there are camps that have restrictions on certain merit badges for varying reasons. Thankfully, these are generally the exception, not the rule.

    Just as there might be "better alternatives" for certain scouts and certain merit badges, so too there are often better alternatives than camps that put up too many obstacles for too many scouts (REGARDLESS of the reason/excuse).  

    I'm really looking for general advice that holds true for most scouts/troops/camps --- not hiccups due to exceptions. 

  4. In keeping with the Outdoor Code, "...be conservation minded."

    Many of the eco-systems in the Keys and nearby Caribbean islands are very fragile. Particularly coral reefs. One thing we do as scouters is tell kids to use plenty of sunblock when they're out on the water. Yet most of the sunscreen brands we buy at Wal-Mart contain coral-killing chemicals that aren't appropriate for places like Sea Base (or Hawaii, or Cozumel, or the Virgin Islands, or etc. etc.)

    Sea Base staff know this and can advise you on acceptable (or unacceptable) brands, or you can find them online. 




  5. Just because you're not lucky enough to live in the Lone Star State doesn't mean you can't cook and eat like a Texan.

    In this age of Internet of Everything, you can buy quality spices online even if your local stores don't stock anything spicier than granulated sugar.

    A couple good sources of different chili powders and blends:

    * Mild Bill's:  https://www.mildbillsspices.com/

    * Penzeys:  https://www.penzeys.com/

    A lot of chili contest winners swear by Mild Bill.  My mom was a great cook and always swore by Penzeys. Even though Penzeys is based in Wisconsin, they manage to surreptitiously smuggle good flavor in and out of state. I like Penzey's Chili 9000 blend and have also had good luck spicing things up with their ground Chipotle and ground Ancho chilis. 

    Dig in!

  6. 16 hours ago, HashTagScouts said:

    Biggest advice I throw out to all leaders out there: make sure you are clear and firm to parents that a week of camp DOES NOT guarantee that /Johnny or Susie are coming home with 4 MBs. It is not the point of a week of camp with their troop.  


    Parents (and scouts) often assume that just because they take a class, they will earn a badge. (This is also true of scouts attending Merit Badge Universities, Midways, Camps, etc.)

    In an ideal world, parents (and scouts) would read the requirements of a badge and see what can and can not be reasonably done in a camp (or class) setting. Most of the Eagle-required badges, in particular, have requirements for keeping logs or records over a period of weeks or months. Badges like Citizenship in the Community and Communication have requirements to attend public meetings (City Council, School Board, etc.) How can any parent be surprised when a scout comes home with a partial in those subjects. It's inevitable (unless the counselor is unethical and simply rubber-stamps the blue cards).  This is why I don't recommend that first-year scouts take Eagle-required badges other than Swimming.

  7. 56 minutes ago, Hawkwin said:

    Note that some states, councils and specific summer camps restrict shooting activities by age. Rifle and other shooting sports might be better suited as a recommendation for second or third year scouts.

    I disagree.

    I've seen camps that restrict shooting activities, but when I've asked about the reasoning behind it, it's usually that the class is too popular and they don't have the resources to accommodate every kid who wants to do it. So an age restriction might be effective. 

    There's certainly no valid excuse otherwise for restricting Rifle Shooting. Also, the general rule of thumb in BSA is that any registered scout is eligible to earn any merit badge.  Rifle Shooting is not something that requires exceptional strength, agility or skills beyond what an 11-year old typically has. A .22 caliber rifle has virtually no kick and is easily handled by even the smallest Tenderfoot. On the other hand, a 20-gauge shotgun does have some kick, so a conservative instructor might want kids to put off doing Shotgun Shooting for a year or two. 

  8. Every year, parents of first year scouts ask, "What merit badges should my son sign up for at summer camp?"
    Every year, I hear different responses from the SM and from the different ASMs. Some of the responses make sense. Some don't. 

    What I usually recommend is a 3-point approach:

    1.  Swimming merit badge
    2.  Pick fun, outdoor-oriented merit badges that aren't easy to do back home using local troop merit badge counselors or local merit badge workshops.  Good choices include:
      - Archery
      - Canoeing (or another boating activity)
      - Rifle Shooting
      - Horsemanship
      - Wood Carving, Basketry, or Leatherwork (or another craft)
    3. Avoid classroom-oriented merit badges and most Eagle-required badges. (Only Swimming and First Aid are really good fits for first-year scouts, and we do First Aid as a troop in-house workshop.)

    I'd like to hear what kind of advice other scouters give to first-year scout parents.  


    • Like 1

  9. I'm getting a little tired of breakfast burritos on each and every campout. There are a lot of other good breakfast options, some of which are faster and require less cleanup. Here's one that can be ready in a flash, can be cooked on either a stove or a campfire, and that requires no pots or pans.

    Ham and Swiss Breakfast Croissant

    • large fresh croissants (at least 1 per person)
    • thick sliced ham or Canadian bacon
    • swiss cheese

    Slice croissants lengthwise. Put one or 2 slices of ham in each croissant. Put a slice of cheese in each.  Wrap in aluminum foil. Heat no more than 5 minutes over low to medium flame (just enough to get it hot and melt the cheese). 

    • Thanks 1

  10. 17 hours ago, Proudeagle said:

    There are trade-offs and exceptions to everything.  In the end common sense should prevail, but does not always!

    That is really the crux of embracing LNT.  (Along with TMSM's comment that "All scouting is local...")

    LNT has some basic guidelines that we try to teach younger scouts.  But that isn't the whole story. It's just the prologue...

    LNT is really about building a deep understanding of the interconnected natural world and building respect for the natural world so there can be a natural world for tomorrow's boys. 

    The article you pointed to had some good points. There certainly ARE situations when building a traditional fire might create a lesser impact on the planet than using a propane stove. There are similar situations where deviating from any of the other guidelines might yield better results. However, MOST people don't make those tradeoffs very well. Hence, we need BSA's Outdoor Ethics program more than ever and we need leaders and scouts to better understand how to make better decisions in the outdoors. 

  11. Winter campouts call for food that warms the mouth, the stomach, and the heart. I can't think of any more warming and satisfying winter meal than a big steaming bowl of genuine Texas chili!  It's easy to make on campouts too!

    Texas Two-Step Chili

    Ingredients for the pot:
    2 pounds ground chuck (or finely cut chunks of steak or roast)
    8-ounce can tomato sauce
    16-ounce can beef broth 
    16-ounce can chicken broth

    Ingredients of spice bag 1:
    4 Tablespoons dark or hot chili powder blend (include 2-3 chili powders, such as Mexene or Mild Bill's Dixon Med Hot, avoid brands that contain salt)
    1 Tablespoon dry minced onion flakes
    1 Tablespoon dry minced garlic (not garlic salt)
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon paprika

    Ingredients of spice bag 2:
    4 Tablespoons of a lighter chili powder (such as Mild Bill's San Antonio Red, include 1 Tablespoon of Mexene, avoid brands that contain salt)
    1 teaspoon cumin
    1 Tablespoon dry parsley

    Night before the campout:
    1. Chop beef, if using steak or roast.
    2. Mix together Spice Bag 1 in a Ziploc bag.
    3. Mix together Spice Bag 2 in another Ziploc bag.
    4. Make sure you have a can opener in the patrol box.

    Cooking Directions:
    Brown the meat in a large pot.  Drain off excess fat.  Add tomato sauce, beef broth, chicken broth, and Spice Bag #1.  Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer one hour. Add Spice Bag #2. Simmer another 30 30 minutes. Watch consistency --- if chili becomes too thick, add more beef broth (bullion and hot water can be used as well). Taste and add salt, chili powder, and Louisiana Hot Sauce (or Tabasco, as you prefer).  

    Avoid asking advice from anyone from Cincinnati --- or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter. Those folks don't know beans about chili because they think there's beans in chili. Worse yet, the Cincinnati crowd tries to throw in cinnamon, chocolate, dirty underwear, and other such flavorings, then they serve it on top of spaghetti and pile on mountains of cheese so orange it must be radioactive. 

    It's enough to make a Texan cry!  So we won't ruin our perfectly good chili that way....stick to the recipe and you'll have genuinely tasty Texas chili.

    • Haha 1
    • Upvote 1

  12. One of my favorite campouts as a kid was to Camp Rock Enon in Gore, Virginia. What I liked best about that trip was that we didn't sleep in tents --- they had these log-cabin lean-to shelters called Adirondacks and a whole patrol could sleep together in one.  Wonder if they still have those Adirondacks....

    • Like 1

  13. 17 minutes ago, shortridge said:

    Shirts don’t typically come with the crest sewn on. 

    In our local council's scout shop they do. They also always have an American flag on the sleeve. (You can also get them with or without the council patch already sewn on...)

  14. 9 minutes ago, Proudeagle said:

    Again, the Scouts need training and if they are not getting it then the adult leaders are not doing their job.  You are lumping everyone into the "bad boy" category.

    As far as wood, it is ok to use downed, dead wood.  I was talking about cooking fires, which those that have them know they should not be raging bonfires!

    I agree that scouts (and especially scouters) need training, but most troops don't have any leaders or adult scouters who really understand LNT in the first place. Although "Outdoor Ethics Guide" (formerly known as "Leave No Trace Trainer") is a troop position of responsibility, very few troops actually have such a position.  I'd bet that fewer than 5% of troops in the U.S. have an adult scouter who has taken the LNT Trainer course. In our troop, we have a vocal and gung-ho ASM who has zero clue about LNT telling the boys that LNT means we police the grounds to pick up our trash.  Uhhhh, not exactly....

    LNT is really a mindset and a skill set that can take years of discipline to develop. It comes from having a deep-seated love of the outdoors. It's no one thing...

    And downed, dead wood isn't really "ok" to use for building fires. While it might seem okay, it actually contributes to species reduction in an area because that downed wood can be a food source for some insects, who in turn are food sources for birds and small animals, who in turn are food sources for carnivores, etc., etc. Downed wood (even little twigs) are also used by lots of species to build dens, nests or other habitat. So when you have an over-used outdoor area (like most state parks), you quickly find that campers use all the downed wood and there's not much left for fire building, let alone for the forest critters who might have been able to survive there if only campers would have used stoves instead of wasting resources on cooking fires...

    On the other hand, if it is truly necessary to build a fire, then yes, a small fire built of downed dead wood is preferable to chopping down trees or other practices that were once pretty common, but that are completely unsustainable in today's world.


  15. Yeah, those are some of the ways we start easing into Leave No Trace....but John-in-KC is right. As you delve in deeper, you start exploring more ways to further reduce your impact on the land, and the things he mentioned are definitely issues that an LNT practitioner worries about.  If you're interested in doing a deep dive into LNT, a good way to understand the mindset is to take the LNT Trainer course (16 hours) or the LNT Master Educator course (50 hours). BSA usually offers the LNT Master Educator course at Philmont and Northern Tier...

    There's also some good books about LNT that gets well beyond the basic guidelines that you find in the Scout Handbook.  The BSA Field Book has a better intro to LNT, and you'll find some independently authored books here: https://lnt.org/shop/catalog/books 

    • Upvote 1

  16. That's a brilliant idea!  Kudos to the police sergeant who came up with that idea....service plus a fundraiser....total win-win situation!

    It occurs to me that troops in states that have a container deposit law could also make money by cleaning up a local stream, or beach, or roadside. Save all those plastic bottles, aluminum cans, etc. and trade 'em in for the deposit.  

    Wouldn't be much of a money maker here...our state doesn't have a deposit law, but we could still turn in some materials to recycling companies for a small amount of cash. 

  17. 13 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:

    Looks like in addition to new fit... covered buttons, smaller front pockets and BSA vs Boy Scouts of America.  Any other changes?   Glad they didn’t go with some of the more drastic changes, but this is definitely more than just size.


    Wellllll,  I don't see the World Scout crest on this....

  18. On 1/16/2019 at 11:10 AM, DuctTape said:

    I believe Wiscinsin has some national forest land. Regs vary (slightly) between areas, but most have free dispersed camping opportunities. Of course this requires backpacking (or paddling) in to make camp and group size regulations  (like a patrol size... which is perfect!)

    Good point.  National Forests are a GREAT place to camp, hike and paddle. They're generally rustic, so you don't get crowds of people "camping" in their mobile tin cans and killing the ambience of nature with their racket of generators and A/C compressors.

    By the way, the US Forest Service does generally require campers to practice Leave No Trace principles...

    If you don't have a National Forest near you, you might still be able to find good, large parcels of open land:

    • In western states, the Bureau of Land Management has public lands that are open to free, dispersed camping.   (See https://www.blm.gov/)
    • In many states, so does the US Army Corps of Engineers. Here in Texas, the Corps of Engineers have several camping areas near reservoirs, which might also offer opportunities for canoeing, fishing, etc. (See https://www.usace.army.mil/Locations/)

    Now might not be the best time to go to public lands though...  Due to President Trump's government shutdown, permits and services might be unavailable,  roads might be closed, etc. Check before you go...

  19. The ever-shrinking open spaces means that what forests we have left simply can't sustain groups foraging for firewood and cooking over a fire. As John-in-KC mentioned, practices like fire rings and clearing earth leave permanent scars in a camp area. I've been to scout reservations where some sites would have more than 10 obviously visible fire scars, despite the presence of an iron fire ring or even a stone fire pit in the site. These were made by scouts who were never properly trained in Leave No Trace (or who never really internalized the wisdom).

    Today, it's becoming environmentally insensitive to even build campfires using wood that you brought with you. Invasive species is the big problem with doing that. When you bring the wood, you bring bugs (or eggs) with it.  More info about that issue is at www.dontmovefirewood.org

  20. I wonder if some units might be worried about how much of the scout ranch was damaged by the Ute fire last summer. I'd heard that 26,000 acres of Philmont burned in the fire, but with 140,000 acres there, it seems like they should still be able to find lots of open space for treks to explore. Anybody heard whether the fires caused any lasting impacts to the areas used for their program ??

  21. My son was planning to go on a 12-day Philmont trek  this past summer. But then came the wildfires. Philmont cancelled his trek (and lots of other troops too).  They guaranteed the troop a slot for 2020...but that seems so far off.  

    For 2019, the troop has 2 crews to Seabase plus 1 crew to the Summit.