M416 Trailer Build- The Beginning [TBP]

I am well overdue for writing up my trailer build, so here it goes!
After trading in my Dodge Dakota pickup for a Jeep at the end of 2013, it quickly became obvious that I needed to figure out a way to haul stuff for family and scout camping trips. Just a wee bit of research online led to the M416 trailer as an ideal option to pull behind the Jeep.
On Valentine’s Day in 2014 I found this on Craigslist:

I felt very fortunate to find one with a tub that was in pretty good shape, the main damage was a dent where it had been jack-knifed at some point and the rear of the tub that had rusted and broken through where a spare tire had been mounted. Other than that, it was in really great shape!

The earlier research that led to the selection of the M416 also provided many examples of what a fully converted trailer could look like. Grand plans of a roof top tent, lid with gas springs, and electrical system were all swimming around my head.

Since the tub was rusted through on the back wall of the tub, the first modification was to install a tailgate.

The original M416 is a sealed tub with two closeable drains in the bottom. This keeps the tub sealed during water crossings, allowing the trailer to float. So the debate was to either put in the tailgate or repair the tub to return it to watertight status. Three things led to the tailgate option:
1. Tailgates are useful. Great table space and a way into the trailer without lifting the lid (once the lid is added).
2. Everything should be in it’s own water and dust proof storage box
3. I really don’t want the trailer to start floating on a water crossing, I have visions of working my way across a river and having the trailer decide to self-jackknife in the middle when it starts to float. No thanks.

When I found a Tailgate Opening Surround for a CJ 5 to go with the reproduction tailgate, I knew it would make the process easy. With the help of a welder friend, he made quick work of the install.

Add in a tarp and I used it like this for quite a while…

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White Rim Trail, March 2016

After spending the winter months getting the trailer ready for camping duty, we were itching to get out and put it through it’s paces. What better place to do that than the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park?

Day 0

We left Denver after work on Friday, with a slight delay as we waited for our on-the-road dinner to be delivered by the pizza company.
How hard is it to deliver here, the city and county building? Just put “Denver, CO” into Google Maps and it will take you here. No address needed! Anyway, we were soon off to the night’s destination at Glenwood Springs. After a bit of white-knuckle driving over Vail Pass and 10 miles of black ice beyond it, we stopped for the night and took some time to soak away the travel stress in the hot springs at Iron Mountain.

Day 1

In the morning we took off for Moab, wanting to take a loop through town to check out the tail end of the Easter Jeep Safari and get gas before we head to the park. As busy as Moab was with Jeeps of all shapes and sizes, I imagine it was even busier the weekend prior when the festivities began. Maybe we’ll come out for that experience some other time, but this trip was still calling us out to the trail!

After a stop at the Visitor’s Center to check in with the backcountry ranger, we got our permit and vehicle tag and headed for the trailhead.
We stopped here for the requisite “before” picture, when everything was still clean and mostly dust-free.

We started off down the Shafer Switchbacks, a well-maintained dirt road that winds it’s way down from the Island in the Sky to the White Rim. Every turn was an amazing view and we often stopped to capture a few pictures. By this point it was afternoon, so we passed a number of groups that were working their way up to at the end of a single day loop through the trail.

At the bottom of the switchbacks, we quickly made our way to Gooseneck Overlook, where we spent some time hanging out and taking pictures and eating a late lunch. Its a short walk from the parking at the trail, about a quarter mile.




After Gooseneck, we stopped at Colorado River Overlook, where you can drive right up to the cliff edge. Even with a spotter on the ground, there was no way I was going to get any closer than this, it is very disconcerting to pull forward when all you see off the hood is sky!


The last stop before camp was Musselman Arch, a fun site where you approach on the arch level instead of below. The ranger had mentioned they recently implemented a ban on walking on the arch and there were signs at the parking area to that affect, but it is easy to end up on part of it when walking around (as you can see in the pictures).





After the arch we made it to our camp for the night, campsite #1- Airport D. We set up camp, had a dinner of chili dogs and tatertots (comfort food?) and settled into watching the stars for a bit before bed.


Day 2

After the first ever overnight in the Tepui tent, we were up to make a breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast, and other breakfasty stuff then celebrate Easter! We had baskets for the kids and our very own Easter Egg hunt in the desert!



After letting the kids wander in the desert for a bit and then double and triple checking that we got all the eggs we departed for our longest day of driving on the trail. Due to where we could get campsite reservations, we were moving camp from Airport all the way around to Potato Bottom in one day. A bit more driving that we would have liked, but it freed up a day on the west side to hang out and do some hiking. So we set out on our 47 miles that day.

About 10 miles into the day I had to put the Jeep in 4wd for the first time, up until this point we were cruising around in 2wd. We didn’t make the side trip down any of the canyons and skipped White Crack, but had plenty to check out along the way.


Monument Basin was a great stop, with plenty of fun to be had on the overlook.







We soon came to what most guides and trip reports called the most difficult part of the White Rim Trail, the Murphy Hogback climb. True to form it was a bit steep with the need to sort of pick a line up the hill due to some rocks, but nothing too bad unless you get spooked by the exposure on the driver’s side. Truth be told, I was too focused on getting the Jeep and trailer up the hill to really look at how close we were to the edge, but if the exclamations from the rear passenger was any indication then we were rather close to the edge. About 2/3rds of the way up the hill we had to stop to allow a young mountain biker finish his ascent before we finished the climb. The Jeep and trailer did great, with no issues getting up the hill. This climb was the first indication that a high-clearance vehicle was actually needed, before that point I was really wondering if that was an over-stated requirement.

At the top of the hogback we met up with a park ranger who was checking permits and vehicle tags, and she provided us with some information on travel times to Potato Bottom Campground. After giving us a heads up about a disabled FJ blocking the trail between Candlestick and Potato Bottom (easy to get around), we were on our way. We stopped to check out the view from the Murphy campsite.



The back side of Murphy Hogback leads down a steep decent that also requires a bit of attention and patience. After that it was a wandering trail that would loop around various canyons and past campgrounds as we marveled at the vistas all around.





We came across the disabled FJ at dusk, the couple had lost a front wheel somehow (didn’t ask details) and were forced to make camp next to the road where the Toyota was stopped. They were in good spirits and had everything they needed, and were just waiting for the tow truck to arrive the next morning. A little after dark we made it to our camp for the next two nights, campsite #2- Potato Bottom B. After setting up, we had a lovely dinner of dutch oven lasagna before retiring to bed.

Day 3

In the morning, while we were making breakfast, the long awaited tow truck went flying by camp on their way to the stranded FJ. About an hour and a half later the tow truck returned, heading back out. I was a bit confused as there was no Toyota in tow, but very soon the FJ and it’s occupants were motoring by under their own power with all four wheels attached.

Since we had the same campsite for two nights, we decided to leave the trailer in camp and head down the road a bit to the Fort Bottom Trail hike. It was a great trail that runs along a ridge and then down to the banks of the Green River with plenty of interesting things to see along the way. The Outlaw Cabin is near the water, and there is plenty of clay mud and sand to keep everyone busy for quite a while. A side hike that could be completed in a couple of hours, but we stretched it out into an all-afternoon affair.










We returned to the same campsite for the final night, had a dinner of dutch oven pizza, and then called it a night. By this point in the trip the kids were getting exhausted and headed off to bed early. As the sun set, the weather started moving in from the west, and I started to suspect that the rain that had been forecast for the day after we left had actually arrived early.

Later that night the wind picked up and the rain fell for a bit while we were snug in our tents. Everyone was warm and dry, but I kept thinking about the descriptions of the final switchbacks on Mineral Bottom Road. You know, the part that says “easy and wide switchbacks that shouldn’t be a problem unless wet, when they are impassable”

Day 4

The next morning we had banana pancakes for breakfast while packing up for the trip home. It was wet but no longer raining, so we were holding out hope that the switchbacks would be dry by the time we got there. As we departed things were looking good and we headed up Hardscrabble Hill and put the trailer through it’s paces again.








The area from Labyrinth to the park boundary was interesting and had the opportunity to drive a bit more sand that the rest of the trail had offered.


The weather moved in and out, with some rain and some snow as we worked our way out. When we got to the bottom of the Mineral Bottom Road switchbacks we decided it looked dry enough to attempt, so we slowly worked our way up the hill. As we went up the road became wetter, and the mud was making it a bit slippery. We geared down and took it slow and just kept up the forward progress. About 3/4ths of the way up we came across a Ford F-350 that had lost traction in a sections that was still shaded and had slid the rear of the truck into the wall-side ditch. He was blocking the road with no way around, and another pickup was stopped on the grade behind him. The back of the truck was wedged against the rock preventing us from pulling him backwards in any way, and they had sent some people up the remainder of the hill to get help from another vehicle in their party that was at the top. Two more Jeeps met up with us from below, and soon it was quite the party half way up the switchbacks.

Luckily the weather was clearing, and as the sun dried the road they were able to get the truck back up out of the ditch, and from there it was a slow climb to the top of the mesa. We stopped at the top for a moment to capture the moment…


After another 13 miles along the dirt of Mineral Bottom Road we were able to stop back at visitor’s center to get rid of the trash, and the “after” photo for the record, about 1/4 mile from where we took the “before”


Finally it was a drive through Arches National Park before going back to Moab for dinner and then heading home. Again there was exciting winter driving over Vail Pass and then home!

Categories: Family, Jeep, Overland, Trailer, Travel, Trip Report | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on White Rim Trail, March 2016

Looking around, making a plan, and dusting off the ol’ domain


A lot of life has happened in the last couple years, and this domain has suffered because of it. Well, now I’m about back to a point I can spend some time on it! Changes are coming to the layout, design, and content so stay tuned!


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The difference between success and achievement

A few months ago I was invited to be the guest speaker at the Academic Awards Banquet for my hometown’s school district. I had twenty minutes to talk to the top 10% of the graduating seniors for all four of the district’s high schools. So what do you say to a group of students about to head off to college? Something they might not hear elsewhere? Sage advice from some old guy they’ve never met before? After bouncing a few ideas around, this is what I ended up with.

Achievement and Success
NCSD Academic Awards Banquet
April 27, 2014

Good Evening, and thank you for the opportunity to join you tonight in celebration of your academic achievements. When I was asked to speak to you tonight I immediately agreed, and it wasn’t until later that I started to give thought to what we might talk about. I could tell you about Mr. MacGuire’s 9th Grade math class, where we learned a mnemonic for the ratios in trig functions and how I still use it today. I could tell you about how Mr. Strube’s Sophomore biology class saved my bacon when I was first hired as an engineer for a medical device company. I could even tell you about how the conservation of energy concepts from Mrs. Livingston’s physics class were the basis of my PhD dissertation. But the reality is that not all of you are going to be going to be engineers, and not all of you are going to pursue graduate degrees. That message might not matter to you. So instead I want to talk to you about something that will matter to all of you and will impact your college life and well as your future careers and relationships.

So at the beginning of this talk I congratulated you on your achievement in being here, and it is well deserved. Being in the top 10% of your class is no small feat, and demonstrates your ability to perform at a high level for a wide range of topics across a number of years. But I want you to notice something. You are being congratulated on your achievement, not on your success. Is that important? Is there a difference? If you look up either of those two words in the thesaurus it will tell you they mean the same thing. If you look them up in Webster’s dictionary, you’ll find that they couldn’t define one without using the other. But there is a key difference. An achievement is a “thing”. It is something that you reach for and attain, like a goal. It is something tangible, something others can see, is clearly defined and something you can measure.

Tonight’s honors are an achievement. It can be measured, and in fact was, in order to figure out which students to invite to the banquet. An achievement can be pointed to and you can say “hey, look what I did”. In contrast there is success. Success is much mushier. It is a state of being or a feeling. We use words like “he is successful” or “she feels successful” do describe a state of being. The feeling of success is one of having done something worthwhile. That all the effort I put it was toward something meaningful. Success is messier, because while it is easy to make a plan to meet a measurable goal, it is much harder to plan for a feeling of success. It’s easy for me to congratulate all of you on your achievement, but it would be impossible for me to know if you all are successful. That requires something that I can’t see from the outside.

So what do we want, achievement or success? It isn’t a choice that has to be one or the other. The reality is we need both. They are distinct from one another; sometimes going together and sometimes not. More importantly however is that sometimes you can mistake what you achieve for the destination. This is why many never truly feel satisfied no matter how much they accomplish. The false assumption can be made that if they simply achieve more the feeling of success will follow. This very real difference between achievement and success can sometimes entangle people in misunderstanding for years; only to wake up one day and realize that the two are separate, and sometimes success has not truly been attained in spite of a very long list of impressive achievements.

One way this is described comes from the aptly named book “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. For us the achievement is the ‘what’ and the success is the ‘why’. When someone wants to achieve something, it’s always a what. I want to achieve a great job. I want to achieve an degree in a particular major. They are always very specific, as we said tangible, things – making the motivation behind them still very material. But when someone is in it to succeed, it isn’t a matter of what they want, rather why they want it.

All that sounds good, unless you don’t know your why. Why are you putting your time into these projects? Often this advice is phrased as “Finding your passion”, but this is the wrong way to approach it. It’s actually backwards.

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.” –Simon Sinek

What do you love? What gets you up in the morning? What motivates you to work late into the night? These are thing things that will lead to that hard work that is called passion. Sometimes is it quite literally what gets you up in the morning.

A few years ago our family took a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando. And we had a great time. But every morning, as we headed into the theme park of the day, I was always the last one through the gate. Before that I was the last one up in the morning and the last one to finish breakfast as we got ready for the day. It wasn’t that I was having a bad time, but there were definitely members of our family more excited to be in the land of the mouse. But Wednesday was different. I was the first up. The first to finish breakfast, and the first ready to head out the door. I was excitedly shepherding everyone to the rental car for the day’s activities. Why? We were going to Kennedy Space Center. I was going to get to see rockets and spacecraft, and all sorts of cool things. It wasn’t Disney, it was NASA. I was excited, and that is what got me up in the morning. Aerospace design is a passion of mine, and something I had always had an interest in. It got me up in the morning.

But what if all you love is playing Call of Duty on the Xbox? Does that mean the only way to be a success is to become involved in the videogame industry? Not necessarily. It might be the online teamwork that is important to you. It might be the problem solving challenges as you advance through the levels. These things open a wider range of opportunities. Sometimes you have to dig beyond the surface to find what is the part that resonates with you.

So why is your ‘why’ important? Just to help you feel successful? It turns out there are other advantages to knowing your why. First, when things don’t go as planned and there’s always associated stress and disruption. If you can use your why as a touchstone to help you stay focused on the important bits. Your why keeps you connected to success, even when the achievements are arriving according to plan.

Secondly, when you have a clear ‘why’ you have a better chance of identifying new opportunities that come your way. When I was in college I had plans to go work in aerospace. I was going to design rockets, and robots, and all sorts of cool, challenging things that were going to change the world. But as I neared graduation, I wasn’t offered a job in aerospace. Instead I got a call from a medical device company. But that work was challenging too. I got to make a difference in the world there as well. I have enjoyed my years of working in medical devices knowing that these are things that matter to me as much or more than working my original plan.

A third impact comes when you are very clear in why you do the things you do- you will start attracting like minded people to help with your cause. When you know what your vision is for success and you can clearly communicate it, you end up with a powerful recruiting tool. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this, as he worked though the Civil Rights struggle. His ‘why’ was a world devoid of racism, when children played together? This was communicated masterfully through his “I have a dream speech” and helped millions to understand his why. Sinek asked how successful would Dr. King be if it had instead been an “I have a plan” speech?

As soon as you have others that are joining you in pursuit of the success, you start to realize something else that is important. Being a leader is not the same as being in charge. Leaders can come from anywhere in an organization, and often they are the ones that have the clearest ‘whys’.

It doesn’t matter what your job is. Take working in fast food at the counter. One person knows that their why is to positively impact the people they meet every day. The other is begrudgingly working for a paycheck. Which is going to excel in the job?

If you have a group of like-minded motivated peers and a clear sense of direction, next the investment of time and energy in the team brings out a spirit of generosity in your teammates. All aligned with a common understanding of success, the motivation added by a leader (regardless of their job title) just adds fuel to the process. Things take off from there, and it all starts with understanding success and achievement.

So you need both. As you accumulate achievements that feel empty and unfulfilling, it is time to reexamine your why. If you know your why, but there aren’t any achievements, it is time to evaluate your goals and plans. It is time for something tangible that reflects your drive. This cycle comes up throughout life, and being aware of the very distinct differences between achievements and success will equip you for setting your own course and keeping your journey on track. Congratulations again on your achievement. This honor is one to be proud of. But don’t lose sight of your why, and it will help with your future of success. And that is the best that any of us here could hope for you. Good luck in your future endeavors, and thank you for the opportunity to join you tonight.

Categories: Engineering, Leadership, School, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Starting a new troop: the delusional beginning

You may not know it yet but last Monday night was historic. In the community room of our local REI a group of interested Scouts, former-Scouts, never-been-Scouts, and their parents met up with some of the adults that decided to start a new troop in our area.

We talked for a little while about the vision for the troop, a little about the timeline of getting started, and then sent the the parents over to talk to the Committee Chair while I talked with the Scouts. We talked for a bit about their past experience in Scouting, and some of the fun things they had done in the past. Before long they were brainstorming ideas of things they would like to do. It turned in to quite a list, and I am proud to say everything on that list is something absolutely doable. Once the PLC is up and running I plan on bringing out the list and seeing how they want to fit it into the calender.


So why would you want to start a Troop instead of joining an existing one?
I don’t know. I can just tell you the route we took that ended up with a brand new charter. Starting a troop is a lot of work, and you can’t do it alone. We have a great group of adults that are committed to creating a boy-led adventure machine that empowers scouts to lead their own troop. Without the buy-in of these other people the idea of a new troop is DOA.

Troop Visits
We live in an area with a number of troops within a reasonable driving distance, and like most parents of Webelos, this whole process began with visits to the troops in our area. Some were visits to meetings, others were joining the troops on camping trips. We have some bigger troops in our area (50-100 scouts), and some that are smaller. We have some troops that do parts of the program really well, and some that are more of a power trip for the adults in charge. Side note: if you are in my district and are reading this, that last part was not about your troop. Seriously.

Starting a new troop isn’t necessarily an indictment of other troops in the area. Each one takes on a unique personality, and every scout has different interests. There are backpacking troops, trailer camping troops, troops focused on advancement, troops focused on service. For the same reason that you should visit multiple troops when the scouts are Webelos, you should seek out other options when it becomes evident that the current troop isn’t a good fit for a Scout.

The more troops we visited the more often we talked about starting one. The main reason was to offer an option to scouts that didn’t find a good fit in the existing troops. This new troop wasn’t to replace the others in our area, just to offer another option before they started dropping scouting entirely.


Shared Vision
I really wasn’t that keen on starting a troop in the beginning discussions. Why in the world would I want to build something from scratch? That sounds like a lot of work. I asked a lot of questions. I read a lot of stuff. I even went on Clarke’s podcast to discuss it with his Scoutmaster panel on episode 145. The more we talked the less ridiculous it looked. One thing really stuck with me from the podcast: “Starting new units is how Scouting grows.” If this is a program we believe in, growing it should be something we are all working on at some level.

As we moved closer to starting the troop I bought a few more copies of the book “Working the Patrol Method” and gave them out to the people that had expressed an interest helping out. Starting out on the same page, understanding the role of adults in a scout-led troop, and understanding the bigger picture gives us the foundation against which we can measure future structure and activities.

Working the patrol method

Location, Location, Location
Once we began to discuss the idea of starting a troop, we needed to find a meeting location. Our Charter Org doesn’t have meeting facilities, so we were looking for a good meeting place in our community. The great thing was that we were able to locate it in an area further north and to the west, in an area that BeAScout.org says is not currently served by a Boy Scout troop. There are a few nearby packs that we can help with activites, and a lot of newer subdivisions that have been built out over the last decade. Problem is our new meeting location isn’t completely built yet, so we had to find somewhere else to have the first meeting. Hence the opening reference to the community room at the local REI.

Changing Troop Culture vs. Setting Troop Culture
One thing that was difficult to get straight was the idea of starting from scratch. Even the most dysfunctional troops (again, not really talking about anybody specifically) have an existing structure and organization. That starting point is a big help when you look at all the pieces of a functioning troop. Starting from zero means that all these pieces have to be created for the first time. Talking with local Scoutmaster the other day he told me it took six years to change the troop culture from what he found when he started. Six years of incremental changes to get the unit functioning like the vision. There is always going to be some resistance from those that have already invested years of their time in a unit, and nobody is going to take kindly to the “new guy” coming in and making wholesale changes in the first month. It doesn’t matter how well-intentioned the “new guy” is.

"Here comes the new Scoutmaster!"

“Here comes the new Scoutmaster!”

Potential Scouts
The last thing that sealed the deal was the discussions with potential scouts. The first set was obviously the boys that are in the Webelos den together. We put it out there as an option along with the other choices with the other troops we visited. The answer has been an unequivocal “We want to stay together and we want to help start a new troop.” The next potential scouts we talked to were older boys that have left the scouting program in the last couple years. Talking to them one on one, we discussed what they liked about scouting, why it didn’t work out for them, and then what we had as a vision for this new unit. With enough interest to get started, we worked the paperwork side of things, set up the informational meeting, and invited other families in scouting to join us. The goal wasn’t to “steal” scouts away from existing units, just to let them know about what we were doing so they could join us if they wanted to. Many passed on the opportunity, as they were perfectly happy where they were at. Which is just fine, the goal is to offer scouting to as many boys in our area as possible, not some sort of score of us vs. them with the other troops.

Caveat Emptor
All of this is may sound idealistic and self-congratulatory, but the truth is that the jury is still out as to the success of this venture. We have no idea if this troop is going to end up like we had envisioned it, or if it will even still be around in five, ten, or twenty years. The whole thing is an experiment, and I am sure some of the things are not going to turn out even remotely as planned. But nothing is set in stone, and the best we can do is evaluate, change course, and drive on. Time will tell!

Categories: Scouts, Troop | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math… and Scouting?

Scouting is outdoor adventure like camping, backpacking, climbing and canoeing, right? Does that leave the technology-heavy learning to a realm outside of Scouting? Not exactly.

This video from code.org has been making the rounds of the internet, and it got me thinking about how we teach kids about programming. Take a look…

  • Teamwork is essential? Collaborating and building together?
  • Taking it upon yourself to learn a new skill?
  • Breaking down complex problems into a plan that can be executed in a series of steps?

A few Scouting-related themes seem to resonate throughout the video. These are the same underlying lessons that are taught in a Boy-Led Troop as they plan and execute the outdoor adventures. So does being a Boy Scout make you a better Computer Scientist?


The STEM encouragement permeate throughout Scouting. Outside of the rank advancement system, merit badges are a significant part of recognition for Scouts. In the Boy Scout program merit badges are designed to introduce Scouts to topics they may not see in other places, and allow them some freedom to pursue things that are interesting to them.


The Greater Saint Lewis Area Council has quite a page on the STEM programs within the BSA, and have the following list of merit badges that have significant STEM content.

STEM-Related Merit Badges
The National BSA office has deemed the following as STEM related merit badges: Animal Science, Astronomy, Bird Study, Chemistry, Computers, Drafting, Electricity, Electronics, Energy, Engineering, Environmental Science, Forestry, Geology, Insect Study, Inventing, Mammal Study, Medicine, Model design and Building, Nature, Nuclear Science, Oceanography, Personal Management, Photography, Plant Science, Reptile and Amphibian Study, Robotics, Soil and Water Conservation, Space Exploration, Surveying, Veterinary Medicine, and Weather. There are 21 other badges that have fewer STEM-related requirements involved.

There are even more coming. The Game Design merit badge was just launched, and in the next few years there will be Programming, Digital Technology, Animation, Multimedia, Computer-Aided Design, and Advanced Computing. How is that for choices? Even the most tech-savvy Scout can find a challenge in there.


Well, there’s more. Last year the BSA launched the Nova program for all levels of Scouting, Cub Scouts through Venturing. Activities that can be built into Pack Meetings, Troop campouts, or pursued individually. There are levels of achievement and recognition in a tiered system that encourages Scouts to dig deeper if they are interested. Back in January when Clarke Green and I kicked off ScoutCircle.org we started with a presentation on the BSA’s STEM/Nova program. Take a look at the recording for more information from Lisa Balbes and Matt Myers on how Scouting is incorporating more STEM-related topics into the Scouting program through the Nova and Supernova program.

Scouting is much more than camping, knots and outdoor adventure (though that is a big part). Today’s Scouts also have the opportunity to learn programming, robotics, nuclear science, inventing, and a whole host of other topics.

Categories: Engineering, Leadership, Pack, School, Science!, Scouts, Troop, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sailing, Swimming, and Challenges

My son wants to go to sailing camp this summer with his cousins in California, and approached my wife and I about it around Christmas time. When we talked about it we made a deal: I would sign him up for the camp when he passed the BSA swim test.

For the last couple months he has been spending quite a bit of time in the pool, even swimming laps on his own when we would head to the pool for the open swim time. Watching him I didn’t think he would have a problem, but in his mind he obviously wasn’t so sure. He worked really, really hard, staying focused over the span of weeks and months. One might even say he has been “Minecraft focused”.

Earlier Aquanaut work at Resident Camp

Earlier Aquanaut work at Resident Camp

Last weekend his Webelos den met at the pool to cover the Aquanaut Activity Badge. When they finished, the Den Leaders offered the chance for any interested Scout to take the full swim test. I could tell he was nervous before his turn, but other than some words of encouragement I left him to sort it out inside his head.

He cranked right through it without a problem. When we congratulated him at the end, he was over the moon with excitement. I think he has been on cloud nine ever since.

Scouting has a range of challenges, and the reward to the individual Scout for meeting that challenge is immeasurable. Scouting has tiered some of the challenging activities into age appropriate categories, but we should remember that what is challenging varies from Scout to Scout. Sometimes the things that look challenging from an adult perspective are breezed through while some we don’t even register as a problem are the Scout’s biggest fear.

Challenges are a part of the adventure we promise the Scouts.

Challenges are a part of the adventure we promise the Scouts.

We shouldn’t shield them from the challenges, just be mindful of the struggle for each Scout. If we removed the challenge, we would rob those Scouts of the experience of overcoming it. Without the challenge, adventure would disappear and they would become tourists in an outdoor club.

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Where did Scouting get the Neckerchief?

If Sir Robert Baden-Powell was a British war hero, how did Scouting end up with the campaign hat and neckerchief as symbols, two items very much from the American West?

Good question, I say.

Actually, it is a question that never crossed my mind until the beginning of a presentation at our council’s Wood Badge Breakfast last weekend.


Turns out, BP met this guy named Frederick Russell Burnham during the wars in Africa. Burnham was an American that spent many years as a scout for the U.S. Army in the west, serving during campaigns against the Apache and Cheyenne. When he figured the west was getting too tame, he took off for Africa where he volunteered to help the British Army. While there he taught Baden Powell about scouting (the military kind) and woodcraft. This later became BP’s basis for Scouting for Boys and ‘scoutcraft’ (along with the work of Seton and the Woodcraft Indians)

A sketch of Burnham by Baden Powell

A sketch of Burnham by Baden Powell

During the time Burnham and BP rode together in the Second Matabele War, he taught Baden Powell quite a bit about (military) scouting, tracking, fieldcraft, and self-reliance. Due to his contributions, Frederick Russel Burnham is often referred to as the “Father of Scouting”. This was also the time when Baden Powell started wearing his signature campaign hat and neckerchief.

After he returned to the United States Burnham involved with the (Boy) Scouting movement. The BSA made him an Honorary Scout in 1927, and awarded him the Silver Buffalo in 1936 for his service to the Scouting movement. He remained active in Scouting and continued his friendship with Baden Powell for the rest of his life.

So there you go. Frederick Russel Burnham, the “Father of Scouting”

Too bad the mustache didn't catch on as well.

Too bad the mustache didn’t catch on as well.

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Philmont Leadership Challenge

“Why are you here and what do you expect to get out of this course?”

That’s a pretty different way to kick off a BSA training course. Truth is, I signed up for the Philmont Leadership Challenge after learning these five things:

  1. It was at Philmont
  2. It builds upon the training you receive during Wood Badge
  3. It was at Philmont in the fall
  4. It was entirely outdoors with no classroom work
  5. It was in the Philmont backcountry in the fall

sunrise on the tooth

Actually, I had not really thought much beyond the desire to spend a week in the Philmont backcountry working on outdoor skills. Who really needs more of a reason than that? But I should have known that something called a “Leadership Challenge” would have much more in store for me. When asked the question at the beginning of the course, and after listening to some of my crewmates’ responses, I told Sue (one of our Crew Guides):

“Well, one of the criticisms of Wood Badge for the 21st Century is the lack of training in outdoor skills for Scout Leaders. When I heard this course would be entirely outside I thought I would try it and see if this course fills that gap.”

Little did I know that answer would come back to haunt me over the next week. Hanging bear bags, cooking dinner in the rain, working a map and compass, finding a stump to sit on and write in my journal, walking back from the showers early in the morning, or watching the early morning sun’s rays hitting the Tooth of Time. Sue was there, smile on her face, asking me if it was “outdoors enough” for me.

IMG_4354-001 (1)

The Philmont Leadership Challenge (PLC) parallels the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) much in the same way Wood Badge parallels National Youth Leader Training (NYLT), providing a common framework for leadership between Scouting’s youth leaders and the adult mentors.

Much like Wood Badge is organized into patrols with Troop Guides assigned to provide guidance, PLC is organized into crews with two Crew Guides to help participants through the week. Crews are named for the different camps (and the history around Philmont) and I way honored to be a part of the Rayado Crew, grouped with six of the finest Scouters I have ever met (waves to Bill, Dan, Jane, Chris, Dave, and Susan). Our Crew Guides were Sue and Robert, we couldn’t have hoped for better mentors.


The course was held at Rocky Mountain Scout Camp, near the Stockade and the base of the Tooth of Time. RMSC is also where they host NAYLE, though it sounds like our course was the last one at that site, with future PLC and NAYLE camps at a new site they are building near Rayado.

Outdoor Skills
As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that drew me to the course it that it is outdoors for the whole week. As a crew we camped together, cooked together, learned together and served together. Much like patrols of scouts we grew as a team together. We cooked our meals on MSR stoves, met with our Crew Guides around the picnic table, and gathered with the rest of the course for all sorts of activities. The last part of the week included a short backpack trip to Lover’s Leap Meadow camp at 7,280 feet, with the requisite packing, tent and fly set up, and all of that.


Beyond Wood Badge
One unexpected thing about PLC was the common experience from our past. Wood Badge isn’t just a prerequisite for the course, it provides a common framework we were able to use while discussing experiences and challenges throughout the week. Sometimes they were deliberate, guided reflections with our Crew Guides, other times I noticed Wood Badge terms being used in one-on-one conversations with other participants. We actually had a crew gathering in the evening called “Beyond Wood Badge” where we talked about the practical application of the principles, and discussed scenarios where they applied.

  • Stages of Team Development
  • Ethical Decision Making
  • The value of feedback

The week was far from just a series of group meetings and discussions around the picnic table. When you gather a group of Scouters from around the country that are willing to travel all the way to Philmont, have already participated in many of the training course the BSA offers, and have taken on leadership roles in everything from local units up to the Area and Regional structures, practical exercises become the norm instead of static lectures. Throughout the week we worked together as Crews or larger groups as we learned new skills. Each time as we faced a new challenge we dealt with differing levels of experience, different comfort levels, and a common goal as a group. Hmmm. That sort of sounds like what a patrol experiences, who would have thought?

IMG_4540-001 (1)

Some were overt teamwork exercises like the Challenge Course at Philmont’s COPE course. Others were teaching and/or learning new skills like Wilderness First Aid, Geocaching, Maps and UTM Coordinates, or radio use and protocol. The skills modules culminated at the end of the week with a Search and Rescue exercise coordinated between all the Crews on the course.

Servant Leadership
Though the week had a lot of work on team development and Wood Badge topics, there was the underlying theme of servant leadership throughout the course. There is no better place to understand the power of servant leadership than in the middle of the gift that Waite and Genevieve Phillips provided to the BSA and has subsequently touched the lives of a million Scouts and thousands of Scouters. Participants end the week with a commitment to the things learned during the course, not unlike working a ticket. However, this commitment is personal and the only one to hold you accountable is yourself.


“I do hereby promise on my honor as a Scout that I will be a servant leader, primus inter pares, first among equals, Helping individuals grow and succeed for the good of all. As the sundial measures the passage of time, so will my service be measured over time by my impact on others.” –Leader’s Oath

This year’s course is filling up, so register soon if you want to get in on the Fall 2013 course. But don’t just take my word for it, here is a quote from Paula Sind-Prunier on the 2012 Course’s Facebook Page:

“Luckily, my daughter (a Venturer) inspired me to take the Philmont Leadership Challenge… it’s what’s I call ‘what’s beyond Wood Badge.’ It’s the only advanced leadership training for adults that BSA offers for Wood Badge-trained adults. I encourage you to look into it. Bring your Wood Badge-trained friends. Like Lord Baden Powell emphasized–it’s ‘fun with a purpose.’ I had a great time at PLC– but just like Wood Badge… it strengthened my commitment to Scouting. Do it. The next generation of kids–who will become our leaders–depend on it.”

Categories: Leadership, Pack, Scouts, Training, Troop, Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

First aid for when help is going to take some time

Most first aid training is based on a “rapid response” assumption. That is to say that you are less than 30 minutes from an Emergency Medical Service response. Scouts are often doing things in areas where that response is much, much further away. So what to do? Take an EMS team with you? Charter an ambulance? Wrap everyone in bubble wrap? Stay home?

As Scout Leaders we are supposed to manage risk, not avoid it. One of the ways to manage it is make sure we and our Scouts have training in outdoor-oriented first aid. The Fieldbook discusses it as part of risk management:

Outdoor-Oriented First Aid

Take care of yourself, and you will be far less likely to have trouble on the trail. You also will be much better able to help others deal with difficult situations.

We often go to remote areas to get away from it all, but among the things we are getting away from is quick access to emergency support and care. If someone has an accident in an American city, dial 911 and an emergency team will probably be on the scene in minutes, ready to treat injuries and to provide transport to a medical center.

The farther that group members are from medical facilities, the more important is their ability to deal with emergencies on their own. Responding to incidents during trek adventures can involve not only immediate treatment, but also evacuating ill or injured persons to the frontcountry, or stabilizing them and maintaining their safety for hours or even days until medical assistance arrives.

Those who intend to travel in the backcountry should prepare themselves with first-aid training, ideally including training in caring for injured and ill persons in remote settings. Among the training courses available in various parts of the country are Red Cross Wilderness First Aid Basic, Wilderness First Responder, Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and Mountaineering Oriented First Aid.

My wife and I spent two days in a course in Advanced and Wilderness First Aid put on by Aurora Medical Team. AMT provides a lot of the medical support for scouting events like Camproees and the Scout Show, and I found out they are also Explorer Post 525.


It was a lot of information, always moving and with a good mix of lecture (with loads of gross YouTube videos of accidents), hands-on exercises, and guided discussion. Sometimes work was individual, sometimes in pairs, and a few times we broke up into larger groups. The class was mostly Scouters, with quite a few Boy Scouts and a company from the Young Marines program.

During one of the CPR sessions I was paired up with the Scouter who sat behind me and I found out that his was the second car on the scene of the accident that killed three Scouts and their Scoutmaster on the drive home from summer camp last year. They performed CPR for 30 minutes until EMS arrived on the scene of the accident, so remote protocols aren’t just for the backwoods trail, sometimes they are just on the side of the highway. You could see the pain and hurt in his eyes as we talked about it, I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.


Things we covered:

  • Basic life support for breathing and cardiac emergencies (CPR) with lots of information on airways, oxygen, bag-valve-mask, and advanced rhythms for different CPR situations
  • Controlling bleeding and managing shock
  • Safety and prevention issues
  • Bones and joint care, splinting and wrapping
  • Wound care and soft tissue injuries
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED)
  • Rescuing and moving victims
  • Cold and heat injuries
  • Poisoning and prevention
  • Primary and secondary victim assessment
  • Caring for special injuries and medical emergencies
  • Trauma management
  • Accident scene procedures and multiple victims
  • Special techniques for illness and injuries
  • Special situations, behavioral emergencies, pregnancy and childbirth
  • Advanced resuscitation techniques
  • Wilderness first aid and remote care protocols
  • First Aid Kits
  • Oxygen use and emergency airways

When it was all said and done we left with an admonition to make sure we practice these new found skills and certifications in CPR/AED (Healthcare Provider/Professional Rescuer) and Advanced/Wilderness First Aid. I thought it was a very worthwhile course and I learned a lot of things. While I hope I never have to use them, I feel well prepared for the sort of things I would be likely to see out with the Scouts. At $80 for the course, it wouldn’t break the bank to take it every few years, either.


If you have lots of time you can read through all our slides here. It’s 54 MB, so it might take a bit to download.

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