Posts Tagged ‘Oak Mountain State Park’

Outdoor Merit Badge Day

Scouts Being Garbage Can Knights - Click pic for more pics

Outdoor Merit Badge Day was a fun Boy Scout event out at Oak Mountain State Park.  The Shelby District has always put on a yearly Merit Badge day that consisted of Merit Badge work that could be completed inside a building.  This year was their first year to hold an outdoor merit badge day where all the work was done outside.   I assisted with the Hiking Merit Badge so that is where most of the pictures are from.  However there were about 12 other Merit Badges offered at this event.  There were Scouts all over the woods doing fun stuff.

We started out by going over the basics of the Hiking Merit Badge at a picnic table out in the edge of the woods.  It was a very nice setting and we were able to go over the necessary stuff before hitting the trail for a 10 mile hike.  We tried to keep it real and lively and keep them moving around and helping out.  They seemed to enjoy what they were learning and were involved in the discussions.  They seemed to be having some problems with the maps because they couldn’t find any buttons on them like they have on all their video games.

We completed up all of the necessary paper work before lunch.  At lunch there was a truck load of pizzas brought in.  Unfortunately I still don’t think that was enough.  The Scouts pretty soon scarfed all of that down and was looking around for desert.  It is amazing how much food active boys can put down.  We took our crew after lunch and headed off into the deeper recesses of the park to attempt to complete a 10 mile hike before their parents came to pick them up that evening.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time.

The Scouts decided they wanted to hike up the mountain and down to Peavine Falls.  That sounded like a fine idea.  However once we got there they were exhausted from the hike up the side of the mountain and then all they wanted to do was play in the water at the falls.  The fact that there was a whole slew of teenage girls there didn’t help matters any.  We finally got them started back on the hike again but we quickly saw that we were going to run out of time and distance before the parents got back.  Sure enough two of the Scouts said they have to leave on time and couldn’t stay to finish up the 10 miles so we headed back to the parking lot.  We had covered 8 and a 1/2 miles by the time we got back to the parking lot about 15 minutes late.

Three of the boys jumped in their parents cars and left.  The rest though stayed behind to knock out the remaining mile and a half so the hike wouldn’t be a total bust.  We chose to stay on flat level ground this time and went around the family bike trail a couple of times to knock out the last mileage.  I was wore out after that.  I can see why the merit badge book recommends a training regime to get in shape before attempting your first 10 mile hike.  I guess the BSA really knows what it is talking about, huh?

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Chillin' at Camp Tranquility

Chillin' at Camp Tranquility - Click pic for more pics

The plan was to go to Lake Guntersville State Park and watch the eagles and grab some caches.  Mother Nature changed our plans.

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Directing Trailer Packing

Directing Trailer Packing - Click pic for more pics

Cold December nights like this make me really scared
Scoutmaster’s not really there
And my plate is really bare
Another lonely night
My bag, my tent underneath a tree
Can this really be
I’m singing Boy Scout songs
And there’s no marshmallows for me

As you can see from the picture above the adults had more fun at this camp out than the Scouts did.  Of course we staged this to have a little fun.  It was a cold and rainy weekend.  I discovered that the boys can handle a lot of adversity but the cold really puts the pressure on them.

We had a good setup Friday night and the boys got in bed early because they were cold and it was raining and what else was there to do.  They had the tents covered with tarps and all the food and cooking stuff under cover.  They were prepared.

The next morning it wasn’t raining and they were able to uncover everything and knock out some breakfast.  That provided an opportunity for learning once they had dirtied up all their dishes just for one meal.  Once they got that cleaned up though it was time for a nice little Geocaching hike up through Camp Tranquility and back down around by the BMX track.  I had to cut and run for a couple of hours but I heard that the boys had a good time on the hike.  The problem was that when they got back the wind had blown the tarp off one patrol’s tents and it had rained.  Now some of their stuff was wet and it was cloudy and about to rain again.  However they were able to adapt and overcome and found a dry spot to sleep with what dry equipment they had.

The adults whipped up some really awesome deer stew in a Dutch oven and feasted that night.  The boys did alright with a meal plan that they had.  It was a warm meal on a cold night and I think they all enjoyed it.  It was time for a nice fire and some skits at that point.  Of course we had the fire going since coming back from the hike so when it started sprinkling that night we just kept heaping the wood on and it kept burning.  We had two pop-up canopies pulled together so everyone was able to get under there and put on their skits.  After that it was getting late and only colder so all the boys headed off to bed.  A couple of the adults stayed up to clean up the Dutch oven and enjoy the fire for a little longer.  With the rain it was rather easy to put out the fire.

The sleeping was good with the rain beating on the tent during the night.  Well, at least it was for me and the other adults.  This time the second patrol had their tarp over their tents fly off during the night and they got wet.  I think both patrols learned to check their stakes and make sure they are solid before leaving or going to bed.  Also before skit time a couple of boys had decided that momma was close enough to come get them.  So they took their stuff out of their tent and left.  This left an empty tent that they had neglected to stake down.  During the night, once the tarp over it was gone, it went blowing through the trees.  Fortunately it didn’t make it very far before hanging up.  Another lesson learned the hard way.

In the morning the sun was out and it was warming up.  Always the case with camping out.  It seems the day you leave is the best day for camping while the others were horrible.  But it made it nice for having breakfast and packing up the trailer – twice.  Once to see that everything doesn’t fit when you just throw it in.  The second time to see that everything will fit when there is order to the chaos.  Another lesson learned the hard way.  Have I mentioned this was a very educational trip?  🙂

There were some fun times to be remembered, Scouts completed advancements without knowing it, the trip home was nice and the Scouts learned a lot about camping in cold, wet weather.  All in all I would have to say it was a successful campout.

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Dutch Oven Cooking - Click picture for more pics

Dutch Oven Cooking - Click picture for more pics

This was a really great training course that I would recommend for every Boy Scout leader.  It’s not just an opportunity to sit and listen to someone teach but an opportunity for sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences.  It was truly a dynamic learning experience for all involved whether teacher or pupil.

We began by setting up flapping tents in a windy sprinkle on a dark and dreary Friday evening at Camp Tranquility in Oak Mountain State Park.  Then the real fun began.  We sat in on a great Leave No Trace (LNT) presentation by three of the best LNT instructors in the Shelby District.  Okay, I could be just a bit biased.  🙂  We were then instructed by the Master Chef himself on the proper way to use one hand to break and egg into a ziploc bag.  A very nice recipe for eggs-in-a-bag was then presented.  Then since our appetites had been whetted it was on to a cracker barrel of Oreos and cheese popcorn.  At least those were my choices.  There were plenty of others.

We roused our achy bodies from a snuggle warm sleeping bag  to an overcast morning with a hint of anticipation in the nippy air.  I could hear the soft whisper of aromatic coffee and delectable eggs-in-a-bag coming from the kitchen area as they called me from my slumber.  Then the real fun began.  We cranked up the flames for boiling water.  One for the coffee and one for the eggs.  What a breakfast we had.  Then it was on to the classes.

We learned all about the flag and what to do and not to do with the flag.  We learned about tracking animals and identifying trees and plants.  We learned about sharpening, handling and carrying for axes and knifes.  We learned about lashing, whipping, fusing and knot tying.  We then learned about cooking with a trash can, a Coleman oven, and a Dutch oven.  We then partook in a most excellent feast of garbage can turkey, vegetables and Dutch oven biscuits.  It was awesome.

Afterwards we learned about how to build different types of fires, safety involved in properly putting out a fire, tinder, kindling, flaming balls of death and the fabulously flaming Fritos.  We then learned about maps and compasses and how to orient them with ourselves and where we were.  We then got to do a small orienteering course.

It was then free time to come up with and practice skits for the evening fire.  We also began the process of preparing for dinner.  We had planned on Hobo dinners so we need to utilize our newly learned fire making skills and come up with a roaring fire to make some hot coals.   Our skills were up to the task and we soon had a bonfire going.  I thought we were going to have to practice our skills on how to put out a forest fire.  Our Hobo dinners turned out great though.

The fire and skits were a lot of fun.  The instructors laughed a lot at our ridiculous skits and we all had a fun time doing them.  We then sat around the fire and watched it mirror the night sky.  We then doused the final sparkles and drifted back to our tents and another blissful night under the stars.

The next morning we chased down some more eggs-in-a-bag with some coffee and began the task of breaking camp.  Halfway through it was time to go learn about a Scout’s own service.  We walked down to a very nice location overlooking Lake Tranquility.  It was a little on the cool side sitting in our chairs but made for a comfortable walk down and back.  Since we were all of the same faith it was a little different to have some of the other faiths as part of the service.

After our walk back we finalized the camp breakdown, said our goodbyes and thank yous and headed back to our homes and a shower.  It was truly a very good experience.

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Scouts Filtering Water From a Stream

Scouts Filtering Water From a Stream - Click picture for more pics

Troop 220 had a lot of fun on this campout.  We were getting prepped for a backpacking trip so everyone packed up their backpacks for this car camping trip.  To simulate a backpacking trip and to let some of the first timers feel a backpack on a hike, Friday evening we parked at the North Trailhead in Oak Mountain State Park and hiked over the hill into the campground.  Even with such a short hike we were able to tweak some backpacks to get them to ride more comfortably.  We signed in, got a camp site and pitched our tents.  We also only brought food that could be packed in a backpack.  I had my backpacking tent so some of us had a hot, rehydrated meal while others chose to eat a cold meal.  We knew tomorrow was going to be a long day so we all hit the sack early.

The next morning breakfast went rather quickly as we didn’t drag out the frying pans and Coleman stoves and such.  For one thing we didn’t have those and for another there isn’t much work involved with opening a wrapper on  a breakfast bar.  Now I of course had to have a bowl of hot oatmeal to keep me going for the day.  We were up and hiking by the time we are just starting to eat on a regular campout.

We grabbed our daypacks, instead of our backpacks, and headed back over the hill to the North Trailhead to start up the big hills of the Blue Trail.  It didn’t take long to find out who was outta shape and who wasn’t.  It also didn’t take long to be thankful we had left the backpacks behind.  Our route was varied somewhat as we took the occasional detour to find a Geocache.  There were some new ones that I hadn’t found and most of the boys had not found the old ones.  They got to see some parts of the park they wouldn’t normally see on a regular hike.

We got to the top and headed out to King’s Chair for our lunch.  The Scouts really enjoyed it there.  The view was awesome and some wanted to try to climb down the cliff.  We promised them that would come later as we got more people trained on rappelling and acquired some rappelling gear.  We already have one experienced BSA trained rappelling leader in the Troop so we don’t have far to go.

After lunch we headed on down the Blue Trail to get some more caches and see more of the park.  Well about there we found out that some Scouts had chosen to listen to their parents instead of their Scout leaders.  Instead of bringing their hydration bladder with lots of water they had chosen to just bring their Nalgene bottle.  Well they were out of water and now borrowing from the other Scouts who had brought plenty of water.  That is until someone else started drinking it.  It was a good lesson for those who didn’t bring enough water.

So we took the next cut through trail down to the CCC road and a water supply.  Well if you call a stream a water supply.  We did because one of the Scouts had a new super duper Katadyn water filter.  They had a blast filtering the cool stream water and sucking it down as soon as their water bottles were full.  The rest of us topped off our water supplies also since we all wanted to taste the cool, clean water.  It was good.  Then another Scout troop came along and their leader mentioned something about the dead deer he had seen above us in the stream.  He had the boys worried for a little while until they realized he was just pulling their legs.

So since the Scouts were all getting wore out we headed on back to the camp for an evening of swimming down at the camp ground beach area.  They had a blast swimming.  I wondered where all that energy came from since they had been so tired on the trail.  🙂   We then hiked back to camp and drip dried in the process.  It was time for dinner and some more rehydrated food or unwrapping of the bars.  To meet some Backpacking Merit Badge requirements a lot of the Scouts got to light my stove and boil some water on it.  Most of their boiled water went to making hot chocolate though instead of food.  🙂

After dinner we worked on advancements for the Tenderfoot Scouts so they can make it on to Second Class.  They really enjoyed that as it required building a fire.  Who doesn’t like that?  Soon it was time to hit the sacks again.  Tonight there wasn’t any problem getting the Scouts in their tents.  They were all tired from a long, fun day.

The next morning we were once again up and quickly done with breakfast and packing up.  We had them backpack one more time back over the hill to the North Trailhead to get that final feeling of hiking out that last morning with a backpack that wasn’t quite as full as when they came in.   They all had a great time and are looking forward to the next full blown backpacking trip.

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Patrol Leader Finding A Geocache

Patrol Leader Finding A Geocache

The Troop decided to get some hiking in for a little exercise and just to get outside.  They thought why not go ahead and knock out some Geocaches while they were at it.  So Oak Mountain State Park seemed the proper place to go.  To get the heart going they started out by going up the yellow-white connector.  I personally believe that is the hardest, steepest hill in the park.  Once they survived that they swept on over to the Blue Trail and started knocking out Geocaches.  The Scouts found several Geocaches during the hike and covered just a smidgen over 5 miles while they were at it. They all seemed to enjoy the accomplishment of finding the caches and covering 5 miles.

We only had one exciting tumble that I got to see the end of.  I heard a crack and a yell behind me and whirled around in time to see a Scout going feet over head.  As his shoulders hit the ground and his feet came over his shoulders, one of his shoes came off and went flying through the air.  He rolled a couple of more times, as we were on an incline, before he came to a stop.  Once he proclaimed that he was okay I couldn’t help but laugh at the image of that shoe flying through the air.  After I told him what I saw he was kinda proud of the fact that his tumble was hard enough to send his shoes flying.  He had tangled with a dead tree and the tree won.

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