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Tale of Two Philmonts

Posted on 08 May 2012 by MikeD

The following is a Guest Article by Mike Dubrall. Mike “Dub Zero” Blogs and writes informative articles on backpacking and snow camping at 50Miler.com.

Philmont sits at the apex of the Scout backpacking experience. For skilled backpackers the Philmont routes are not difficult. However, most Scouts are not accomplished backpackers and the challenge of being on the trail for almost two weeks makes any trip to Philmont incredibly worthwhile. In addition, the fun activities and camaraderie with hikers from every state makes Philmont a kind of “Scouting Disneyland.”

Philmont is much more than backpacking. There are months of prep meetings, practice hikes, and shopping sprees. Commemorative shirts have to be designed and ordered and new equipment purchased. There is often an exciting cross county trip by train, plane, or automobile and groups stop at popular attractions along the way. Nearby cities like Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos are teeming eager Scouts (in uniform) during the summer months. Afterwards, reunion parties, slide shows, and campfire discussions keep the Philmont experience alive for a long time.

Philmont sits at the apex of Scout wilderness experiences

My first trip to Philmont was a disaster. We trained hard for a difficult backpacking trip and that is not what we got at all. A forest fire broke out before our arrival and a large part of the Ranch was closed to hikers. Everyone got crowded into the southern section of the Ranch, where campsites and trails were overflowing with Scouts. There were lines at every Red Roof Inn and our assigned Ranger was an idiot incompetent. Stringent rules put everyone on edge. Programs were impacted and long wait times or even oversubscribed activities were daily occurrences. A lingering drought meant no swimming or showers for the entire trek. (Ten days on the trail days without anyone bathing even once!)

Our difficult 80 mile planned backpacking trip turned into a 35 mile romp with nothing to do most afternoons. The Scouts got bored and turned on each other and then on the adults. Eventually the adults started taking out their frustrations on the Scouts. It was, by all measures, a miserable trip.

Almost a decade passed before my new Troop became serious about backpacking and started talking about Philmont. It was with mixed feelings that I was swept up in their collective enthusiasm and put my name on a list to go again. The goal was to make my second trip a different experience altogether.

This time we focused on the overall Philmont experience and not just the backpacking. Practice hikes were important of course, but the hikes were filled with stories about Philmont history, camps, activities, and potential service projects. Along the way everyone learned the Philmont Grace and Philmont Hymn, which we all sang with increasing fervor every day we were on the trail together. The song became a unifying force of surprising power. (Even now, one year later, they sing the Philmont Hymn at the drop of a hat!)

Philmont is more than a hike - it is a lifetime memory

Arriving at Philmont base camp in the middle of the night, we tried to slip quietly into our tents so as not to wake the backpackers in our assigned area. Morning soon arrived, with the staff welcome at breakfast, paperwork processing, review of the routes, and introduction to our Ranger, who would be with us for a couple of days. The boys swarmed into the Philmont Trading Post to stock up on candy, belts, hats, shirts, and assorted mementos, some of which might be valuable on the trail. We finished the pack check, stored our extra stuff in the lockers, attended an inspirational Scout’s Own, and were ready to leave the next morning.

The first morning on the trail, our Ranger woke us up before dawn, and in the dark, we scrambled to the top of a mountain to experience the sunrise. Sitting together in the gathering light, we watched the valley come into focus under an azure sky. When he had our attention, the Ranger said, “Before you is a unique opportunity to have an incredible experience at Philmont. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do things you don’t think are possible. Create memories for your lifetime. No one can do it but you.”

For the next ten days we had a glorious time together, punctuated by burrow racing, lumber jacking, black bears, beautiful sunrises & sunsets, cantinas, campfires, horseback riding, singing songs, petroglyphs, porch talks, rock climbing, shotgun shooting, card games, storytelling, challenge courses, and, of course, backpacking. Everyone had a fantastic time.

Some trips are good and some are not so good, but every visit to Philmont is transformative in its own way. Boys become men and men become better. For that reason, every serious Scout and Adult Leader should hike there at least once.

…………………….

Mike Dubrall writes about backpacking, snow camping, and other high adventure outings at 50Miler.com.. His email is miked@50miler.com or you can be connected through the “50miler.com Outing Resource Center” on Facebook.

 

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Buster

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Photo Friday: Aperture

Posted on 13 April 2012 by BrandonQ

Aperture

Overview:

Last time we talked about the shutter speed on your camera. I want to focus on aperture this week.

Aperture

Did you know that the human eye works like the aperture on a camera lens? If you were in a dark cave, your pupils would get bigger to try and let more light in. When you are outside on a sunny day, your pupils get smaller because of the amount of light coming in. Aperture is referred to the lens diaphragm opening inside a photographic lens. The size of the diaphragm opening in a camera lens REGULATES amount of light passes through onto the film inside the camera the moment when the shutter curtain in camera opens during an exposure process. The size of an aperture in a lens can either be a fixed or the most popular form in an adjustable type (like an SLR camera). Aperture size is usually calibrated in f-numbers or f-stops. i.e. those little numbers engraved on the lens barrel like f22 (f/22),f16 (f/16), f/11, f/8.0, f/5.6, f/4.0, f/2.8, f/2.0, f/1.8 etc.

Aperture affects the image in two ways. The first is the relationship to shutter speed. The smaller the aperture (large number), the longer the shutter speed needs to be. This can create blur in a photo. The best use of this is when trying to make a stream look like lace (small aperture, long shutter speed). If you would like to stop motion then use a large aperture (small number) and a faster shutter speed.

The second way aperture affects the photo is the depth of field – the area of a photo which appears in focus. A small aperture (like f/16) has a very large depth of field. The foreground and background will appear in focus. This is helpful for landscape photographs. A large aperture (like f/2.8) will have a shallow depth of field. This allows the subject to be separated visually from the out of focus background or foreground.

The images below shows how a small aperture works, (what is in focus?):

If you look at what is in focus on this photo, you see that the leaves and the dew drops are in focus when the background in not in focus.

Taking a look at Buster, his head is in focus when the rest of his body is not.

What is Aperture?

Lets put this as  simple as possible– Aperture is ‘the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken, this helps regulate the amount of light let onto the sensor.

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Spring Backpacking Season – Get Ready

Posted on 03 April 2012 by MikeD

The following is a Guest Article by Mike Dubrall. Mike “Uncle Dub Zero” Blogs and writes informative articles on backpacking and snow camping at 50Miler.com. 

Its Spring – a time when every good Scout starts thinking about his backpack. Across the country, people are pulling their packs out of the closet, cleaning out the leftover food from last year, and getting ready for the practice hikes ahead. Many with the goal of completing a 50 mile backpacking trip before the end of the summer.

Everyone agrees that wilderness backpacking embodies all of the core Scouting values. Accordingly Scout leaders often ask, “How do we start a backpacking program in our Troop or Crew?” It’s not really complex, but here is a straight-forward plan for getting your guys onto the trail. The steps are not necessarily in chronological order but ,the last step loops back to the first step every year.

50miler group shot

Promote the backpacking program with pictures and exciting stories.

1. Promote backpacking in your Troop: Younger Scouts and many adults will not associate the idea of idea of carry heavy packs over long distances with fun – so they have to be convinced. Start slowly, schedule a few short trips and propagate stories about success and overcoming adversity. Then get everyone to agree on a goal of completing a 50miler or going to Philmont in the near future. Remember, it’s not just the older Scouts and Scouters that have to be won over – parents also have to understand the benefits of a backpacking program.

2. Pick Dates for the adventure: With everyone’s busy schedules, spontaneity is not possible. Select a week for the big trip about six months in advance and let everyone know so they can arrange their calendars accordingly. (If you want to have your hike in August, then select the dates in February.) Most of the details, including where you are going, can be worked out later. (Philmont participants usually have to commit to their dates 18 months in advance!)

Schedule a 50 miler six months ahead of time.

3. Have a planning meeting: Schedule a gathering of potential hikers and then advertise it in ways that attract most of the target audience. This planning meeting is about building enthusiasm for the backpacking program, scheduling practice hikes, assigning responsibilities, discussing dietary restrictions or physical challenges, and electing leaders. It is also a great opportunity to talk about the dates of the 50 miler and potential locations.

4. Publish a Pack List: Successful youth backpacking trips require good pack lists and the leadership to enforce their use. However, developing a pack list is a philosophical exercise with many possible and contradictory outcomes. Every unit has their own list, based upon location, leadership philosophy, anticipated routes, and even hiking history. (leaders can be very passionate about their own lists!) Publishing the pack list (months or years) ahead of time allows parents to buy what they need without pressure. Set a deadline about a month before the 50 miler for acquiring all the gear and conduct a rigorous pack check about a week before you leave.

5. Conduct Practice Hikes: Arm the group with a practice hike schedule that includes dates, times, required pack weights, locations, responsibilities, and discussion topics. Each hike, in addition to the conditioning aspect, is an opportunity to increase the group’s knowledge about topics like wilderness first aid, maps and compass, bear bagging, water purification, hygiene, trail safety, and cooking. In addition to the regular outing schedule, our Troop schedules ten Venture practice hikes including three overnighters every Spring. The minimum requirement in order to go on the 50 miler that summer is four hikes with appropriate weights, including one overnighter.

50miler practice hikes

Practice hikes are an important part of the 50 miler experience.

6. Complete the 50 miler: Armed with a map, permits, medical forms, emergency plan, food, and all the equipment on the pack list the group is transported to the trailhead for their big adventure. Remember to take lots of pictures for the Court of Honor. It’s also nice to have parents waiting at the end with fruit, root beer floats, and pizza to welcome home their young warriors and listen to them talk about their misfortunes and exploits.

Unfortunately, many potential hikers ( and parents) balk at wilderness backpacking because of the perceived risks and potential hardships – or because they fear the unknown. Other families are hesitant because they panic at the thought of investing in equipment before they even know if their son or daughter is going to enjoy the experience. This irrational fear, panic, and paranoia keeps too many Scouts and Scouters at home.

However, it is not uncommon for Scouts to stand up at their Eagle Courts of Honor and talk enthusiastically about how backpacking experiences changed their lives or inspired them to new achievements. One said, “I don’t remember many days of my life, but I do remember vividly every day of every 50 miler I have ever been on.” With this kind of testimonial, adult leaders should do everything in their power to provide opportunities for Scouts to experience wilderness backpacking as often as possible.

…………………….

Mike Dubrall writes about backpacking, snow camping, and other high adventure outings at 50Miler.com.. His email is miked@50miler.com or you can be connected through the 50miler.com Outing Resource Center on Facebook.

 

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