Trip Report: Taconic State Park

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMGP7176My sons and I visited Taconic State Park in New York on Friday, September 12th thru Saturday, September 13th.  This campground had been recommended to us by a friend and we had never been to this part of New York State.  Taconic State Park…”is located along 16 miles of the Taconic Mountain Range, sharing a border with Massachusetts and Connecticut.” (  This “tri-state” area is home to ridges and farm-land valleys with forested streams, waterfalls and lots of friendly folks.

The park is divided into two distinctive areas:  Copake Falls Area (to the North) and Rudd Pond Area (to the South).  We camped at the Copake Falls Area (roughly a two hour drive from Bergen County, NJ)

This park area offers 45 tent sites, 25 tent platforms, 36 trailer sites and three cabin areas for a total of 106 campsites and 18 cabins.  The cabins…

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Letter to Yourself

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMG_20140726_124121465Trailmen, I read a blog post today that was very interesting and might prove to be a good personal growth exercise.

The original blog post is titled “A letter to my 22 year old self” and can be viewed at this link:

In this posting, the author pens a letter to describe to his younger self where he’ll end up in a matter of years, and to provide advice and guidance on navigating the trail ahead with hope and stronger preparation.

His advice starts simply enough – “I want you to do four things:Serve. Learn. Read. Grow.”  Next he elaborates on each point with specifics.  It’s an interesting article and you may want to read it through for yourself.

I’d like to encourage readers to:

  1. consider a time in their life’s past when they were confronted by a monster decision, a scary situation, the…

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What’s Your Vision?

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

Robert Lewis, author of “Quest for Authentic Manhood” and “Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood” has been quoted as saying:

Freedom Award logo“What hurts men the most is when they don’t have a vision that calls them forth.”

What does he mean and what are the implications of that statement?

  • “Vision” = “the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be”
  • “Call Forth” = “tosummonintoaction;bringintoexistence”

In very general terms, a man can be full of action and engagement, or passive and idle.  Of course, we’re most beneficial to everyone around us when we’re committed and productive.

From the beginnings of recorded history, we take note of accomplishments of mankind — what was done, built, named, invented, realized or even conquered.  Civilizations have risen and fallen, we’ve orbited the Earth, stepped foot on the Moon…

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Transitioning from Boyhood to Manhood

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

rockwell careful-aimRecently a post on facebook asked “When (how) does a boy become a man?”  Additionally, the poster asked men to contribute their recollections of their transition — key moments when they “put away childhood” and stepped up as a man.

The poster from “Stepping Up” (a men’s ministry) also referenced a blog article which reminded us of 1 Cor 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  Interestingly, this verse follows the “love is” text of 1 Cor 13:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices…

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First Class in First Year?

IMGP6820Recently, a boy scout forum participant asked the following question; “Where do you stand on “first class first year”?”

Over the years that my boys were involved in scouting (2008-2013), I’ve been told that First Class First Year (FCFY) came about because a greater number of boys renewed membership when they attained First Class in their first year than boys who did not.

An assumption was formed that if more boys complete First Class in their first year, then more will renew and stick with the program (which MAY be true, but to what degree we may not be sure).  In my mind, that’s a classic case of “correlation does not imply causation”.

IMGP6796You see, it may be an entirely baseless assumption that “getting” to a certain rank causes boys to renew their annual membership.  Perhaps it was really the other way around — those boys who were really excited to be involved in the program got through their various requirement “sign offs” within the first year and were interested in renewing whether they attained FC or not.

Admittedly, FCFY is about “providing opportunities” to enable FCFY to happen IF the youth chooses to partake in all of those opportunities (the program is not holding them back from having the opportunity to attain FCFY).  Unfortunately, the FCFY mandate is often mistakenly interpreted and presented as the notion that boys “ought to” attain FCFY or else the troop is “doing it wrong“.

Isaac and Jacob POAObviously, boys who have a strong teaching program (troop guides, troop instructors, new scout patrols, etc.) will be highly engaged in learning about knives, axes, fires, cooking, orienteering, first aid, nature and swimming, etc. are more likely to want to stay engaged since they have a highly motivated team of mentors, a strong program, lots of outings and events (to fulfill various T-2-1 requirements), etc.

This ought to be the case without the need for FCFY promotion/discussion.

FCFY “implies” (perhaps mistakenly) that there’s a sense of urgency to getting through T-2-1 within 365 days, and my fear is that boys will contextualize that “urgency” or “pace” in first-class-badgetheir ongoing scouting commitment and feel the need to push through X number of MBs and ranks each year to “get” Eagle by a certain age (well short of their 18th birthday).

During my own tenure as youth and during my own son’s tenure in the program, I never felt pushed and I never pushed them or their peers to advance following any artificial schedule or timeline. When they mastered the requirement, they got signed off — a simple enough process for 103+ years of BSA advancement.

The folks who developed FCFY meant well.  I just think they tried to fix something that wasn’t broken, and for the wrong goal/reason (retention of youth).  Maybe the time and energy spent on FCFY could be funneled into better round table & PLC meetings on applying ALL scouting methods at the Patrol Level so that the needed (and appropriate) opportunities exist for advancement all year, every year.

Walk Worthy & Do A Good Turn Daily


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Eagle Scout Heritage Celebration

the four percent coverMichael S. Malone, author of “Four Percent: The Story of Uncommon Youth in a Century of American Life” recently spoke at the National Scout Museum during Eagle Scout Heritage Week.  His presentation was captured in a video available at the following site –

Some of his comments about eagle scouts were really amazing, and I’ve done my best to capture them accurately from the video:

I’ve been an Eagle Scout now for nearly fifty years and in that half century,  I’ve learned far more about what it means to be an Eagle than I ever knew on that day as a thirteen year old when my mother pinned the medal on my uniform pocket.  I don’t have to tell any of you here that earning your Eagle is merely a prelude to learning what it means to BE an Eagle, and that is an education that continues to this day [and will] no doubt continue for the rest of my life.

DSCF1305I’ve only got 35 years tenure as an Eagle, but I can certainly identify with his initial remarks. Being recognized as an Eagle is so much more than merely completing a checklist or getting through a series of merit badges.  It is a personal transformation – one that continues as we live life: gaining experience, making mistakes, learning and growing, meeting new people and accepting new challenges.

Mr. Malone continued by talking about the history of the award, the surprise of the BSA organization when the first Eagle candidate showed up asking for a Board of Review and struggling to finalize the requirements. Even the choice to create such an award was interesting:

Simply put the award was originally planned as the capstone rank of American Scouting – the symbol of the “Super Scout” who went well beyond the rank of First Class.  In particular, it was designed to sit at the confluence of two developmental traits:  one leading to the Star Rank which dealt with the scouting skills like camping and cooking; the other focusing on the duties of a citizen led to the Life Rank.  Those two paths were distinct and both awards were considered co-equal and the culmination of their respective approaches to scouting.  

SO, why even create a top award?  Ready for the hike bsa 1911 handbook

Well the obvious reason is that BSA’s National Scout Commissioner, Daniel Carter Beard, wanted to “Americanize” the British Scouting program and needed to find a counterpart to the King, now Queen, scout award.

The second reason was that it neatly integrated those two sides of scouting thus recognizing that some scouts might want to pursue both.  

But I think the most compelling reason was that it is a very american trait to compete to win.  Even today, when competition has become almost taboo in public schools, boy still compete for nearly everything they’re allowed to from video games to teams sports (and a lot of things they aren’t)

Mr. Malone characterized the drive of the young men as almost boundless — leading some to pursue sailing to the poles of the planet in wooden ships and others to fly to the moon. Was there anything a determined Eagle scout could not accomplish if he were to really put his mind to the task?  Unfortunately, our culture started to view scouting in two different lights, in part, because of the consistent achievement of Eagles.

It was at this point in history when the image of scouting began to bifurcate.  It is a schism that endures to this day.  

On the one hand, there is this stereotypical scout found in everything from comic books of the 1930’s to movies like “UP!” today…Young, ardent, intent on doing good deeds and often a little silly.  

On the other hand, the Eagle scout — older, confident, infinitely competent and the very embodiment of youthful achievement.  

Boy scouts were the kids helping the old lady across the street and scaring each other around the campfire.  Eagle scouts were the heroes of adventure books and movies…the young man who shows up to save the day.  Even today, to call someone a “boy scout” still carries with it the connotation of the do-gooder.  By comparison, calling someone an Eagle scouts remains tightly bound to the image of a man who accomplished an extraordinary feat while still a boy and who is destined to achieve great things as an adults.  That’s why it remains the only achievement of childhood that will still be found in the obituary of a ninety year old man.

In understanding how this came about, Mr. Malone discussed the influence of the Eagle Service Project (introduced in the 1960’s) on the young men who had a new requirement to complete before becoming recognized as Eagles.

eagle scout cstariAfter all, what is an Eagle project but basic training in entrepreneurship, and not for MBAs or veteran managers but for teenage boys still in high school!  I’ve mentored nearly fifty Eagles and with each one my admiration for this requirement grows.  I’ve been part of a number of successful entrepreneurial teams including e-bank and I have to say that nothing in this world is a more perfect preparation for staring a new company than being a sixteen year old Life Scout developing an idea for a service project; testing the response of the targeted customers; developing a strategic plan and calendar; assembling a team and executing that plan; managing subordinates and finally measuring the results.  

Thus hidden behind the uniforms, the merit badge sashes, the campfire and the 50-mile hikes, scouting has quietly been training millions of entrepreneurs that will be needed to lead this country in the world through the next century.

Trailblazing ScoutsI applaud Mr. Malone for conveying the wisdom generated by his many years of experience.  There are many parents of young boys who are eager for their sons to earn a “star” on their resume without fully soaking up the experience of transformation that must occur for one to really become an Eagle.  We understand that it’s not about the checklist, and it’s not about the number of badges earned, but the drive from within to excel and the passion to commit to do hard things cheerfully that ignites the life-long drive to live “set-apart”.  Eagle isn’t a title to be “grabbed” off a shelf, but a choice to serve others while embodying Scout Ideals (Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan)

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Trip Report: Pocomoke River State Park

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMG_20140726_124121465Our family visited the Pocomoke River State Park in Maryland, Saturday, July 26th.  We were visiting the Eastern Shore of Maryland for a family wedding, and wanted to explore the local environment.  Since we’ve previously been to chincoteague island (also in the immediate area of Pocomoke, MD) we went inland.

The park is located within the 15,000 acres of the Pocomoke State Forest which contains two distinct environments — a stand of loblolly pine and cypress swamp.  It is this border between upland forest and swamp that encourages a great range of plant and animal life in a small area.  The river itself boasts over fifty species of fish.

Amenities at the park include:  campsites, boat launch, boat rentals, outdoor swimming pool, trading post, snack bar and nature center.

IMG_20140726_121757155We started our trip by visiting the nature center and talking with the local scientist about things to see and do within the…

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