Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Troop continues annual service partnerships

A pair of community service projects in February and March allowed Scouts, leaders and families of to continue the troop’s ongoing partnerships with the Food Bank of East Alabama and the Auburn Rotary Club.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the troop again provided onsite support at the Food Bank as part of Saugahatchee District’s annual Scouting for Food drive. This year's drive represents the fifth year that the troop has provided logistics support for the district-wide food drive. Troop 50 staffed the Food Bank by receiving, unloading, weighing and sorting the 5,400-plus pounds of food delivered by Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops that went door to door throughout the county collecting food left on doorsteps and by mailboxes.

On Saturday, Mar. 31, Troop 50 partnered with its charter organization, the Auburn Rotary Club, as part of the club’s annual workday at the city’s Hickory Dickory Park. Scouts and leaders joined Rotarians and their family members to help remulch the park’s play areas.

These efforts are just two of the many year-round, troop-wide projects and individually led Eagle Scout leadership service projects through which Troop 50 Scouts fulfill its mission of going into the community in service and fellowship. In 2017, service as part of these efforts accounted for more than 1,345 collective hours of community service provided by Scouts and leaders.

Visit the troop’s online photo album for additional photos from our service efforts at the Food Bank of East Alabama and Hickory DickoryPark.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Greasemonkeys and handymen

Meetings in February, March and April gave Troop 50 Scouts the opportunity to learn some practical skills to use around the house, as well as to make progress toward earning two merit badges — Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge and Home Repairs Merit Badge. Both merit badges demonstrated to Scouts that they could help save their families money by performing home and auto tasks themselves instead of paying someone else to do them, or repairing items that might otherwise be thrown away.

Assistant Scoutmaster Jason Smith gives Scouts an overview of automotive maintenance.

Over two meetings on Feb. 26 and Mar. 5, Scouts looked under the hood at the requirements for Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge. With the help of Assistant Scoutmasters Jason Smith and J.P. Pendleton, Scouts learned their way around the parts of the engine, as well as ways to ensure their safety — and that of their cars’ — while maintaining them. They learned about the importance of following the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule; an automobile’s various systems; and how to check fluid levels and the wear and tear of vital engine components.

Assistant Scoutmaster Wes Williams explains to Nicky the basics of a gravity toilet.

Lead Troop Guide Jacob supervises Boone's use of a soldering iron.
On Apr. 9, Scouts again rolled up their sleeves to learn how to tackle common household repairs through an introduction to Home Repairs Merit Badge. Scouts visited stations where they learned how to repair household items like lamps, extension cords, toilets, garden hoses and towel rods, as well as use a soldering iron and caulking gun.

Scouts interested in pursuing these merit badges were encouraged to speak with a leader or work with their parents independently. Both merit badges also demonstrate how parents with varying skill levels ranging from that of a professional to a simple hobbyist can be part of the troop’s advancement efforts by helping to teach a merit badge.

The troop’s online photo album contains more photos from both our Automotive Maintenance Merit Badge and Home Repairs Merit Badge meetings.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Hard Day's Night

     The scouts of Troop 50 sank to new depths this past weekend as we entered the underground domain of Cumberland Caverns outside McMinnville, Tennessee. This trip marks the third time that our scouts have turned into spelunkers and troglodytes as we walked, crawled, climbed, and slithered through the cave before stretching out across the hard, rocky floor for a well deserved sleep. The group was split almost evenly between veterans who had made the trip in prior years and newbies who were experiencing caving for the first time. Regardless of their status, all of the scouts seemed to relish their time in the underworld.

The troop pauses among the cave formations for a group photo.
     With everyone packed aboard the church bus, we departed Auburn about 9:30 on Saturday morning for the long trip to Tennessee. After an unusual lunch stop and a longer than anticipated search for a working gas station, we arrived at the cave around 3:30 PM. Everyone changed out of their scout uniform into clothing more suitable for the dirt/mud and the 56 degree temperature of the cave. Scouts passed the time before dinner by crawling through a wooden maze, an activity that quickly degenerated into attempts to snatch each other's shoes as they squeezed through the small spaces.

Will manages to escape the maze with someone's shoe. 

Trey attempts (unsuccessfully) to hold onto his shoes. 

     We soon fired up the charcoal chimneys and mixed up a dinner of baked beans, ground beef, and biscuits in our dutch ovens. This fairly simple cooking method allowed everyone to have a hot meal before beginning our overnight adventure. Soon after, we met our cave guide, gathered our gear and began the trek into the depths.

Entering the door to the underworld. 
     Cumberland Caverns is one of many caves that abound in this region of Tennessee and Kentucky. The cave was ostensibly discovered in 1810 by surveyor Aaron Higgenbotham who explored the cave by torchlight before losing the torch and spending three days trapped in complete darkness before he was rescued. It is said that his hair turned completely white during those three days in the cave (something we hoped to avoid). The current cave configuration was originally believed to be two separate caves, which were named Henshaw and Higgenbotham caves. A connection between the caves was discovered in 1953 and it was renamed Cumberland Caverns when it opened to public tours in 1955. Today, over 32 miles of the cave are part of various tours and adventure programs. These activities include daily walking tours for the general public, overnight stays in the cave, spelunking trips through unimproved sections, and music festivals such as their popular Bluegrass Underground venue. They even hold weddings in there. 

     After we dropped off our gear in the 10-acre room where we would spend the night, it was off on the daily walking tour. We visited a moonshine still and a saltpeter mining operation in the original Henshaw part of the cave, passed through the Volcano Room with its crystal chandelier (rescued from a NYC opera house), had our photo taken in the Boneyard, and climbed the 354 stairs across the Hall of the Mountain King. The last stop on the tour was the light show that highlights Aaron Higgenbotham's discovery of the cave and his three days of seclusion.

Checking out the water feature in front of a formation known
as Moby Dick (due to its resemblance to a whale, or so they say).
     Once we were finished with the walking tour it was time for the crawling tour. We geared up with helmets (aka brain buckets) and headlamps before making a test crawl through a 19x33 inch box. This insured that each of us would be able to fit through the tightest portions of the route without getting stuck. It was a tight fit for some but all managed to qualify.

Camp, Rusty, Jacob, and Miles model the latest in protective headwear and illumination.

Boone and Miles calculate their chances of making it through the box. 

Connor negotiates a ladder at the start of the tour. 
     After a short walk to the end of the 10-acre room, we found ourselves beyond the protective glow of electric lighting. From that point forward we were dependent on the narrow beams of light from our helmet mounted flashlights. With a quick warning to avoid getting kicked in the face by the person preceding you, we were off on a two hour slither through the un-improved section of the cave. Some of the route involved climbing ladders while other points found us flat on our bellies squeezing through the afore-referenced 19x33 inch spaces. Some points widened enough for us to stand or to gather as a group. Our guide took these opportunities to tell us about previous explorers who had met with misfortune in the cave. The further we got along the way, the wetter and muddier it became, and the wetter and muddier we became. While dirt and mud has rarely impeded our scout's ability to have fun, they were glad when the tour ended at a set of sinks where they could wash up.   

Jacob follows Rusty through a tight spot
while trying to avoid getting kicked. 
Boone seems happy to take a rest stop in the mud.  
Michael, Joe, and Samuel revel in the chance to wash the mud from their hands. 

     The exertions of the evening had differing effects on the scouts. Some headed to the cave's snack bar to renew their energy with a good dose of nachos while others wanted little more than to crawl deep into their sleeping bags for the chance to dream about the comforts of home. However, by midnight, all were safely ensconced in the realm of Morpheus (that is, they were asleep).

The troop's designated camping area among the rocks. 
      Dawn (the lights being turned on) came at 7:00 AM and we were soon packed up and ready for breakfast in the Volcano Room. The menu consisted of two pancakes and two strips of bacon sliced so thin as to be almost translucent. However, any form of sustenance was welcome at that point. By 8:00 we were on our way into the sunshine of a beautiful Tennessee mountain morning and by 9:00 the cave was but a fast shrinking spot in the rearview mirror of the bus.

     Monday's PLC meeting gave the troop's youth leadership the chance to reflect upon the positives and negatives of the trip. All agreed that the chance to try something different from our regular campout venues was good. They also praised our cave guide and the adventure tour. The food got high marks, although it was generally agreed that more food at breakfast would have been better. While the trip was multifaceted, the scoutmaster's wife put the best description on it by saying, "You went to a hole in the ground and you had fun. What more can you say than that?"

     Be sure to check out the other photos in the online photo album.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Flying back in time

During the weekend of Feb. 16-18, Troop 50 Scouts and leaders took a step back in time with a visit to the Museum of Aviation, situated on 51 acres adjacent to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Prior to visiting the museum, the troop settled into its campsite at nearby Camp Benjamin Hawkins — a 500-acre camp maintained by the Central Georgia Council. Despite arriving at the campsite around 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time, everyone worked cooperatively and quickly to get dining flies and tents set up, and gear distributed in a reasonable time frame.

The troop woke Saturday morning, and after the patrols’ respective breakfast cooking, Scouts and leaders assembled for the quick bus ride to the Museum of Aviation. The museum opened to the public in November 1984 with 20 aircraft on display in an open field and another 20 in various stages of restoration. It now includes four large exhibit buildings that house some of the museum’s 85 historic U.S. Air Force aircraft, missiles, cockpits and award-winning exhibits. It is a place that honors our veterans and their families and reminds our airmen of their legendary Air Force heritage. Home to the Georgia Aviation Hall of Fame, the facility has grown to become the second-largest museum in the U.S. Air Force and the fourth most-visited museum in the Department of Defense.

Scoutmaster Baird provides a private tour
for some of the troop's other adult leaders.
Many Scouts opted for self-guided tours of the museum, while others tagged along with Scoutmaster Andrew Baird and Assistant Scoutmaster Davis Baird who served as the troop’s personal docents. Each Baird shared his knowledge of aviation history and aircraft with their tour groups. The troop paused its tour of the museum for a picnic lunch on the museum grounds, and then resumed their visit for another few hours after lunch.

The troop returned to Camp Benjamin Hawkins by late afternoon in time to begin preparing for dinner. In addition to their dinner preparations, patrols also prepared a variety of entertaining skits, songs and other attempts at entertainment for the campfire program later that evening. With the troop being the only ones in camp that evening, the general public was spared the calamity some Scouts called “singing” during the campfire.

Camp, Hunter, Boone and Luke lead the troop in a repeat-after-me song during Saturday's campfire program.

Following breakfast on Sunday, the troop gathered for its traditional devotional service before departing camp. Troop Chaplain Michael Tullier led a discussion of how we must keep our spiritual life on course in the same way we do when using a map and compass if we want to end up where we should. Scouts reflected on how family, friends, adults, religious leaders and the Bible all contribute to keeping us on course — or helping us correct our course when the troubles and temptations of life cause us to deviate from the right path.

At the Patrol Leaders Council meeting the Monday following the campout, youth leaders praised many of the elements of the campout. Top on their list were the campsite and museum themselves, as well as everyone’s efficiency setting up camp Friday and breaking down camp Sunday. Many credited new troop quartermaster Camp for his efforts to coordinate the distribution and storing of troop equipment. Everyone also added Saturday night’s campfire program to the weekend’s highlights. With the idea of more new Scouts joining the troop during the next several months, youth leaders noted the need for increased attentiveness to younger Scouts (especially to what — or rather, how much — they eat) on future campouts.

For more photos from the Museum of Aviation campout, visit the troop’s online photo album.