Saturday, August 18, 2012

Philmont Memories 1: The Coming American

The ranger with us the first two days at Philmont was Gordon Broadbent, a cadet from the U.S Air Force Academy.  "Captain America" was a pretty amazing guy.  The second night, Gordon shared with us a poem from the Academy.  "Bring Me Men", the first part of the first line, used to hang in two foot tall letters over a ramp that first year cadets walked over.

The poem is "The Coming American", by Sam Walter Cross, and the whole thing is pretty appropriate for Boy Scouts too:

Bring me men to match my mountains;
Bring me men to match my plains, –
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains.

Bring me men to match my prairies,
Men to match my inland seas,
Men whose thought shall pave a highway
Up to ampler destinies;
Pioneers to clear Thought’s marshlands,
And to cleanse old Error’s fen;
Bring me men to match my mountains –
Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my forests,
Strong to fight the storm and blast,
Branching toward the skyey future,
Rooted in the fertile past.

Bring me men to match my valleys,
Tolerant of sun and snow,
Men within whose fruitful purpose
Time’s consummate blooms shall grow.
Men to tame the tigerish instincts
Of the lair and cave and den,
Cleans the dragon slime of Nature –
Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my rivers,
Continent cleavers, flowing free,
Drawn by the eternal madness
To be mingled with the sea;
Men of oceanic impulse,
Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide-enfolding ocean
Of an undiscovered deep;
Men who feel the strong pulsation
Of the Central Sea, and then
Time their currents to its earth throb –
Bring me men!

Later that second Philmont night in Old Camp, Gordon filled out the crew's journal for the day.  His first line called us a "Troop of Men".  Quite a compliment and a good goal for our Ventures to aspire to.

In 2004 the "Core Values Wall" replaced the "Bring Me Men" Ramp at the Academy.  The USAFA core values are "Integrity First.  Service Before Self.  Excellence in All We Do."  Not too different from the Boy Scout goals of building Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Little Adventures

I was plodding along in the George Washington National Forest this afternoon when I thought of this blog.  Then I thought of a little something to say and took a few pictures.
-Ben Bailey former Troop 76 Scout 

For most people, big adventures are few and far between .  Sadly, many of come come of age ready to set out for bigger and better things and quickly find ourselves bogged down and bound-up by the obligations of adulthood.  After completing most of an undergraduate degree, I reflect back and notice that a majority of my big adventures took place while I was in high school.  Studies, friends, and work leave little time for wilderness or adventure.  Weeks can be chock-full and leave you exhausted by the time the weekend rolls around.  I think its fair to say that the struggle to maintain a presence in the outdoors is a reality for most Troop 76 alumni.

I have found a few remedies, which help maintain at least a minimal degree of adventure in my life.  First, I bought a mountain bike.  This isn't necessary, of course, but it allows me to get far back into the wilderness in a short period of time.  I can feel well off the grid in about an hour of riding.  Also, the thought of flowy downhills get me out the door when I'm feeling a little hesitant.  I should add that, depending on where you live, a kayak can do the trick too.  Second, I made adventuresome friends and mentors.  It saves time when you can hang out with your friends and be outdoors at the same time.  Additionally, on those days you really don't feel like committing to the fatigue of adventuring, you feel compelled to go because you know that you'll be in good company.  Just like life, when the going gets tough, there's nothing like having a good friend by your side and nothing makes a long climb go by faster than good conversation.  Finally, I suggest "little adventures".  Block out a whole day.  Work your meals into it.  Use an good breakfast at your favorite eatery to get you out of bed.  Round-up as many friends as you can.  Be ambitious, but not too ambitious.  You want to feel like you accomplished something, but not feel so uncomfortable that you regret your decision to choose being outdoors over homework.  Be flexible.  Work-in obstacles.  Bring plenty of clothes and lots of food.  Be home in time for dinner.  Relax.  Little adventures will restore that spunk in your step.  They'll be the highlight of your week.  They'll provide cool pictures and lasting memories.  They form strong friendships.  And they might just whet your appetite for another big adventure.

Here is some inspiration from my latest Saturday adventure:

I woke up around 9 and made my favorite homemade oatmeal and deliberately packed my bag.  I had prepared my bike the night before.  I met my friend and co-worker Jacob, and we stopped by Mr. J's bagels.  We picked-up a few sandwiches for the trail.  We then drove about half-an-hour to the trail head in the George Washington National Forest. 

Nothing exciting happened for the first 45 minutes of our ride.  We rolled on fire roads toward the trail head.  There was nothing worth photographing, but we had plenty of time to catch-up after a week of work and school.
 Then we found ourselves faced with a snow-melt inflated stream, which we needed to cross to get to the trail-head.  Jacob forged across using his bike for balance.

 After much scouting, there was no way around it.  Off came the shoes and socks.

 That chain-lube I put on my bike last night has all washed off.  That's one wet bicycle.

 Maybe a bridge would be helpful?  Wouldn't be as fun, though.

 We spent the the next hour-and-a-half hiking our bikes up the trail.  Much of this would have been rideable if it wasn't so hard to get traction and our shoes and pedals weren't caked in ice.

 I was pretty pooped by the time we reached the summit of Little Bald Knob.

 It's snowing and gusting, but photos can't capture such weather.

...and I'm all suited up for the cold descent.
 Oops, I broke a spoke.

 Fortunately, the sun came back out as we descended Chestnut Ridge.

 Jacob's hands got pretty cold.  Thankfully, we had a pair of bar mits.  They're nice and toasty.

 The last part of the ride was on the road.

At this point, my cable froze and locked me into my largest gear.  Fortunately, we didn't have too much further to go.

We made it back to the car with just enough fun for one day.

I'm gonna have to have to do some repairs before our next ride.

Obstacles like cold, hunger, steep hills, stream crossings, and mechanical malfunctions all serve to make an afternoon in the woods feel like a few days or more.  In the summer, these things can be less of a problem, so be a little more ambitious.  Try a large distance goal or choose an interesting destination.  Enjoy your ability to go on long trips, while you have it.  But remember, there are ways to work adventure into your increasingly busy life.  Nothing helps you reflect on what is important in your life like spending time in the wilderness.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stewart Edward White on Leadership

"To be friendly, to retain respect, to praise, to preserve authority, to direct and yet to leave detail, to exact what is due, and yet to deserve it--these be the qualities of a leader, and cannot be taught."

From The Forest, by Stewart Edward White in 1903.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In the Forest

There's an excellent book called "The Forest". Stewart Edward White, an honorary Boy Scout, wrote it in 1903. It's worth the free download.

Watching our scouts and adults build great campfires at White Memorial last weekend and on the AT in November reminded me of White's advice on how to build a fire, and the lessons earned from making a great camp. This is long. If you want, skip ahead to the last paragraph. At least read that; it's worth it. He writes:

"A roll of birch bark first. Then some of the small, dry, resinous branches that stick out from the trunks of medium-sized pines, living or dead. Finally, the wood itself. Pile your fuel--a complete supply, all you are going to need--by the side of yoru already improvised fireplace. But, as you value your peace of mind, do not fool with matches.

"The civilized method is to build a fire and then to touch a match to the completed structure. the only sure way is as follows: Hold a piece of birch bark in your hand. Shelter your match all you know how. When the bark has caught, lay it in your fireplace, assist it with more bark, and gradually build up, twig by twig, stick by stick, from the first pin-point of flame, all the fire you are going to need. it will not be much. The little hot blaze rising between the parallel logs directly against the aluminum of your utensils will do the business in very short order. In fifteen minutes at most your meal is ready. And you have been able to attain hot food quickly because you were prepared.

"In the woods, as nowhere else, you will earn your leisure only by forethought. Make no move until you know it follows the line of greatest economy. To putter is to wallow in endless desolation. If you cannot move directly and swiftly and certainly along the line of least resistance in everything you do, take a guide with you; you are not of the woods people. You will never enjoy doing this for yourself, for your days will be crammed with unending labour."

Let's be people of the woods. Not too many things better than earning our leisure.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Epic Canoe Traverse for the Ventures

Congratulations to Troop 76 Ventures for stringing together two epic canoe "traverses" through the most remote parts of New York's Adirondack Park.  The scouts planned the trip, including meals, gear, float plan, and emergency contacts, for 6 nights and 7 days.  Our excellent outfitter, St. Regis Canoe Outfitters, runs 10-12 scout trips a year, and confessed they hadn't seen one as ambitious and well-planned as ours.