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Posts posted by mrkstvns

  1. Have you ever looked at the differences between the Scouts program that serves youth in the UK?  There's quite a few similarities, but there's also some differences.  The Brits don't call them "merit badges" for starters, they're "activity badges", and there aren't quite as many of them as there are in BSA.

    Nonetheless, the Brits have some badges that are really cool and that, I think, are more adventurous than what the too-timid BSA allows.  For example:

    • Caver
    • Dragon Boating
    • Martial Arts
    • Parascending (I think we would call this "parasailing")


  2. 30 minutes ago, Jackdaws said:

    I think the difficulty for some badges is based on where you live.   For us, the Snow Sports badge it would be rather hard to achieve here in Florida so a pretty good trip is in order to complete it.  Also finding a counselor is hard here for it.

    You would hope that would be the case.

    Some camps that are inhospitable to an activity go ahead and find workarounds. I classify these as "El Lame-O" merit badge programs...

    For example, Camp Hale in Oklahoma lets kids earn a "Winter Sports" merit badge during summer camp.  Never mind that Oklahoma isn't exactly ski country even in the midst of the coldest winter....

    How do they do it?  Well, they put plastic sheets on a hill and pretend its snow.  Here's a photo:


  3. 3 hours ago, DuctTape said:

    my first thought from your title was "bugling". For a trumpet (or any brass instrument) player it might not be challenging. But for someone who play no instrument or a string instrument it can be very challenging.

    My son played trumpet, but he still never earned Bugling MB. After all, how many people have ever heard a bugler call "Swimming" ?   The number, worldwide, is probably not too terribly much higher than 0...

    The only 2 calls I've every heard a Boy Scout sound on a bugle are "Taps" and "Reveille".  

    Of course, your mileage may vary...

  4. Are any merit badges really hard?  Flipping through my handy dandy "Requirements 2019" book, it sure doesn't appear that way to me, but scouts tell me otherwise.

    I asked my son if any of them were hard, and he told me no, but some took a long time because they required logs to be kept over time.  He also told me that a couple of them were challenging just because he couldn't find a local counselor to help him.

    There've been a couple of articles about this subject in "Scouting" magazine. An interview with two scouts who'd earned every merit badge had some agreements and some disparities over which were really the 10 "hardest" merit badges. One scout said his hardest was "Scuba", the other picked "Radio".

    I can kind of see "Scuba" being a hard merit badge because a scout needs to complete an open water certification. 

    I'm surprised that neither scout picked "Bugling", which is perennially at the bottom of lists of most-earned merit badges.  It's kind of hard because it requires learning quite a few esoteric bugling calls that few scouts have ever heard before. 

    So what do y'all think?  

    Which merit badges are the hardest to earn?  Are there really any requirements that are tough for a scout to master?

    Related Link:

  5. The Sam Houston Area Council used to run an annual "Ten Commandments Hike" that would visit various houses of worship along the route.  Sadly, the last "good" hike was done around 2015 and it's since been discontinued...I wonder if this is yet another case of 1 or 2 enthusiastic volunteers making past events a success, but when a motivated successor can't be found, the event dies.  Stepping up matters....and it's often just 1 person who makes the difference.

  6. On 10/23/2019 at 3:21 PM, qwazse said:

    If a clique is robbing liquor stores to buy drugs, it's bad.

    I think I'd call that a "gang".

    Unless the gang was shunning the new kid because his had a pink ski mask....then the gang could be a "clique" because some people just do NOT belong!

    While the word "gang" has negative connotations today, it has historically been used by Baden Powell and Green Bar Bill as a term to describe the patrol method.  For example, Green Bar Bill was once quoted as saying, "Patrols are gangs of boys led by boys." 

    I guess it really pays not to get too hung up on language, especially language used in earlier, perhaps gentler, times.


    • Upvote 2
  7. 15 minutes ago, Thunderbird said:

    For a 10 mile hike, I might be inclined to pack more food than just trail snacks.  Lunch, perhaps, given your estimated finish time of around noon.  Or cash, if you might decide to stop for lunch somewhere after the hike.  Certainly, cash would weigh less.

    Consider using some kind of backup communication device (other than cell phones) in case you all get lost or someone gets injured.


    Yep.  A lunch would be better than packing only trail snacks. Maybe lunch and a smaller amount of trails snacks is the smarter way to go....

    I'm not sure what kind of "communication device" other than a cell phone would be practical and useful. As an adult leader, I'd have my cell phone with me, but certainly every scout doesn't need the tempting distraction of having one so they can play Fortnight as they march down the trail. Hence, it has no place on the packing list. 

    For emergency purposes, I think one or two cell phones (held by adults) is good. It gives you some measure of communication if service exists, otherwise, the tried and true method of sending a buddy pair to call for help works just fine.

  8. 24 minutes ago, Navybone said:

    Seems that if you are going to deliberately decide the BSA's ten essentials are not right or required since it is a short (10 miles) hike, then be confident in your assessment.  If you are including a knife, filter, and matches to ensure that you are prepared in the event something goes wrong (why is a flashlight an overabundance of caution and not a knife, filter, or matches), then the logic for not including the flashlight is questionable. 

    I do not think the 10 essentials are "canonical" in an effort just to be directive in nature, but based on lessons learned the hard way over time and written in blood.  

    The BSA lists are "starting points". They're exhaustive and cover a lot of situations that may be irrelevant to your activity. For example, I'm in Texas and most of my hikes take place in warm weather....why on EARTH would I waste space and weight on things like hand warmers or insulated jackets? Things like that may be great for hikes in northern climates, but they're as useful to me as carrying a load of bricks.

    Your point about the flashlight is well taken.  Small maglights and LED headlamps weigh so little that they deserve a place on the list along with the other "just in case" items.



  9. I had a lot of fun doing a short urban hike a few weeks ago, and now we're planning our next great hike. This one will be a little longer (a bit over 10 miles) and will be in a forest (Davy Crockett National Forest). Step one in planning is to have an idea what we're doing, where, when, and what kind of conditions we expect. Davy Crockett National Forest is in East Texas and it's typical of low-land southeastern forests (i.e., fairly flat with only moderate elevation changes, lots of pine trees with a smattering of sweetgum, white oak, and a few other hardwoods, unimproved dirt trails that are not particularly rocky.)

    I'm continuing to stress that we plan for OUR activity, not somebody else's, so we take canonical packing lists with a grain of salt. We look at the items on the list and we THINK about them. Does the weight of each and every item justify carrying them?  

    A forest hike has more variables than an urban hike, so my "essential" list is expanded to 15 items instead of 10.

    What do you guys think?  


    1. Very small, light, comfortable day pack
    2. Map
    3. Compass
    4. Light first aid kit (be prepared for blisters, cuts, scrapes and possible twisted ankles / fall injuries)
    5. 2 Liters of water (assuming no potable sources en route)
    6. Lifestraw or other compact filter (backup use only...could be a "Leave at Home" item...)
    7. 12 ounces of trail mix or other snacks
    8. Poncho (bring a good one if over 30% chance of rain, else the el cheap-o emergency poncho is okay)
    9. Knife (not the jumbo multi-tool)
    10. Lighter and/or matches
    11. Wad of toilet paper (not a whole roll...when ya gotta go, ya gotta go!)
    12. Small lightweight trowel (for cat holes, cuz when ya gotta go, ya gotta go)
    13. Walking stick (unimproved woodland trails have rocks, tree roots, gullies, be prepared!)
    14. Tick remover (we're in the woods, ticks abound)
    15. Spare clothing if weather/season justify it

    Leave at Home:

    • Sunblock (we're in the woods, it's shady)
    • Sunglasses (we're in the woods, it's shady)
    • Cash (we're in the woods, deer don't run 7-11s)
    • Flashlight (10 miles should take us 4 hours, we're starting at 8am, it's unlikely we'll be out in the dark, but if you have an overabundance of caution, pack the lightest light you own)

    Bottom Line...
    Be realistic. Consider your location, the weather conditions, etc. Pack for your hike, not somebody else's.

  10. 1 minute ago, MattR said:

    I think powderhorn is mostly high adventure skills. Climbing, backpacking, cycling, canoeing. So maybe there's no point on how to organize a high adventure trip in what I wanted. But the rest of it would be useful.


    IOLS is oriented toward basic outdoor skills. Basically, everything a scout is asked to do as they progress from Scout to Tenderfoot to Second Class to First Class. It includes First Aid, Knots, Map & Compass, Cooking along with values like Citizenship, Outdoor Ethics etc.

  11. 2 hours ago, Jameson76 said:

    ...  Typically set up between trees, but the Scouts like to use poles.  We looked at actual expandable tarp poles ($15 to $20 each) and bought a bunch of 2" x 2" x 8' lumber (also from Home Depot) for about $2 each.  Put a nail in the end and we had tarp poles.

    Love this idea!  Sure does beat the cost of an EZ-Up (and it's really not that hard to add a couple guy lines with some taut line hitches and have the dining fly up quick as a lick!

    (Love the re-created Rockwell moment!  Awesome!!)

    • Upvote 1
  12. Fall is in the air, and nothing says "Fall" to me quite like fresh apples.  My grandma made tray after tray of apple bars for us to snack on, and my brothers and I would argue endlessley over whether apple pies should have a top crust on them, or should have cinnamon-laced crumbles on top of them.

    Fortunately, one of the tastiest fall apple treats is also very easy to make in a Dutch oven: Brown Betty.


    • 6 cups of cored and peeled, tart apple slices
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup rolled oats
    • 3/4 cup flour
    • 1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)
    • 1 cup chopped pecans
    • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon nutmeg


    1. Heat charcoal.
    2. Core, peel and slice apples. Put apple slices in dutch oven and sprinkle with sugar
    3. In a bowl or pot, mix together brown sugar, oats, flour, butter, pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg. Top the apples with this mix.
    4. Bake about 25-30 minutes  in Dutch oven (place 8 briquets under the dutch oven and 14 briquets on top). 
    • Upvote 1
  13. Clicking around on different websites, I see lots of troops doing this. Wonder why I don't hear about it being done by packs or troops around here though (or even hearing buzz about it on this forum).

    I found a haunted barnyard, and even a haunted greenhouse being put together by scouts in Superior Wisconsin.

    There's a 14-year old article in Scouting magazine about some of this stuff, along with some good tips if your unit decides to do it....like plan FAR in advance (they say that some units are doing their brainstorming a year before their Halloween event).  Here;s the article:

  14. I think I'd prefer the tick key.  It's small, lightweight, and effective. When I'm on a hike, I carry a *SMALL* first aid kit, there is no room for bottles of dishwashing liquid or even fingernail polish, etc.  

    The best approach to ticks, IMHO, is to...

    1) stay on the trail as much as possible,

    2) keep those pant legs tucked inside socks,

    3) use insect repellant, and

    4) have a tick key in the event that prevention alone doesn't do the trick.

  15. Halloween is a great holiday for troops to leverage in their fundraising efforts.

    Why not create a Haunted House, Spooky Cemetery, or even Ghosts and Goblins in the Churchyard?

    Scouts love exercising their creative talents and the chance to put on some costumes and entertain friends and neighbors just shouldn't be missed!

    Here's an example of 2 troops in Los Angeles teaming up to scare some funds into their troops' coffins...errr...coffers!


  16. Doing the JOTA could be a great opportunity to also work on Radio merit badge.

    Sounds like that was what was going on last weekend in northeastern Ohio where 3 local radio clubs helped scouts earn their merit badge.  The story doesn't specifically mention JOTA, but it does say the boys communicated with scouts in other states who were "attending a jamboree".  

    Sounds like quite the event!


    • Upvote 1
  17. Scouters have all heard the oft-repeated quote that in scouting, "the patrol method isn't a method, it's THE method".

    Okay.  So what is a "patrol"?  Well, it's a group of scouts. Ideally, a group that can learn to work together and to develop and follow it's own leaders.

    So, if a group is "good" for helping youth develop their own leadership dynamics via "the patrol method", why are groups of friends viewed as a "bad thing" in other contexts?

    There was a story today on NPR about a school that is battling "cliques".  That made me wonder how those "groups of friends" differed from the "groups of friends" we promote in scouting...

    Any thoughts?


    Story:  https://www.npr.org/2019/10/23/772560418/wisconsin-school-breaks-up-lunchtime-cliques-with-assigned-seating 

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