Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Scout is helpful

On Saturday, Feb. 25, Troop 50 Scouts, leaders and parents joined with others throughout the Saugahatchee District to participate in the annual Scouting for Food drive benefiting the Food Bank of East Alabama. This year's drive represents the fourth year that the troop has provided the Food Bank with on-site support during the Scouting for Food effort.

(Left to right) Joe, Trey, Michael and Boone help repackage
bulk food donations into smaller boxes for distribution to Food Bank
member agencies that in turn redistribute food to the less fortunate.
While Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops went door to door throughout the county collecting food left on doorsteps and by mailboxes, Troop 50 staffed the Food Bank and readied to receive, unload and sort the thousands of pounds of food expected Saturday morning. As Scouts waited for those deliveries, they assisted Food Bank staff with repackaging the bulk food shipments it received into smaller boxes that would be picked up by the organizations that distribute food on behalf of the Food Bank to the less fortunate.

The Food Bank is a centralized warehouse that stores and distributes donated and purchased perishable and nonperishable food items. It distributes food to low-income people through member agencies, such as food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other programs that serve the ill, needy and infants.The Food Bank works to reduce food waste, feed hungry people and raise public awareness of issues related to food and hunger.

Jacob helps receive and sort some of the donations
collected and delivered by the district's other packs and troops
As packs and troops began arriving with the food donations they collected, Troop 50 mobilized teams to unload the donated food, weigh it as part of the Food Bank's receiving process, then sort it into various categories that make storage and distribution by Food Bank volunteers and staff easier. By the conclusion of the Scouting for Food drive, the Food Bank had received 5,045 pounds of donated food.

For more photos from the troop's time at the Food Bank, visit our online photo gallery.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lions and tigers and bears...oh my!

Troop 50's February campout the weekend of Feb. 17-19 centered around a trip up I-85 to tour the Montgomery Zoo and to camp at Fort Toulouse in Wetumpka.

Mr. Darby compares the size of the barn owl's skull to the overall size of the bird's head.

The troop woke to a damp morning after an evening filled with intermittent rain showers. After a quick breakfast Saturday morning, the troop headed to the Montgomery Zoo, where it was treated to an owl presentation arranged by Troop 50 parent Randi Cottier. During this time, zoo docent Brooks Darby discussed the distinguishing features and lifestyle of the barn owl. Mr. Darby explained characteristics of the owl that make it a remarkable hunter, as well as how the zoo cares for these and other birds that comprise its collection of animals. Following the presentation, Scouts gathered in small groups on their own self-guided tour of the zoo until lunchtime.

Boone (left) and Beck (right) are photo-bombed while exploring the tiger
enclosure as part of the troop's behind-the-scenes zoo tour.

Any time a behind-the-scenes tour begins with a locked gate,
you know you're in for a treat!
Luke holds just one typical-sized elephant tooth.
Following a lunch on the zoo grounds, Scouts and leaders experienced a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. The zoo's educational staff walked the troop through the zoo's facilities where staff feed and care for the animals, as well as the places the animals spend the night during evenings when cold temperatures or inclement weather threaten their safety. These spaces included those for the hoofed animals, tigers, elephants, and rhinos. Scouts
learned about the elaborate systems of gates, chutes, and other passageways that guide these animals to indoor areas for feeding, veterinary care, sleeping, and when necessary, quarantine for medical purposes. They were even able to sample some of the animals' food, and of course, where quite vocal about the variety of smells in these buildings. (Interesting they are sensitive to these smells but not their own when returning from a particularly warm campout!)

The troop returned to Fort Toulouse in time to witness a portion of the camp's monthly living history events. Scouts were able to experience elements of life in the earliest days of the United States, including attire, weaponry, and cooking. The troop even received several loaves of homemade, colonial-era bread to enjoy during dinner.

The Armored Armadillos feast on their hamburgers with all the fixings!
Scout and leaders pulled out all of their culinary stops in preparing Saturday evening's dinner. The Armored Armadillos prepared a dinner of hamburgers, with some Scouts opting to use their loaf of colonial bread as hamburger buns. The Patriots prepared hobo meals, a classic campout delicacy relying on foil pouches filled with meal and vegetables of one's choice and placed on a bed of coals to cook. The Leadership Corps enjoyed a camping version of chicken cordon bleu, which featured grilled chicken topped with ham and cheese.

Joe (left) and Hunter (right) welcome everyone to Saturday evening's campfire program.

Beck (left), Jacob (right) and Michael (on shoulders) debuts an original
and educational skit.
Creighton (left), the troop's newest junior assistant scoutmaster,
attempts to express to Scoutmaster Baird
his appreciation for the promotion.
With full bellies, the troop gathered around the campfire, where Joe and Hunter offered a campfire program to complete a portion of the requirements to earn Communications Merit Badge. Scouts and leaders were regaled with a variety show of campout proportions that featured both tried-and-true and original skits, songs and stunts. At the conclusion of the campfire, Scoutmaster Andrew Baird prepared the troop's newest Eagle Scout, Creighton, who passed his Eagle Scout Board of Review in January, with a junior assistant scoutmaster patch denoting his new leadership position.

After the fog cleared Sunday morning, the troop followed breakfast with efforts to pack up gear and ready the troop for the return trip home. Before departing, however, Scout and leaders gathered for the troop's traditional "duty to God" devotional. With a trip to the zoo following the rains of Friday evening and Saturday morning, a devotional centered on the story of Noah and the ark seemed only fitting. Scripture references and discussion centered on not being distracted by others and remaining focused on what God expects of us, trusting God to guide us and to be our strength during tough or challenging times, and that, God's forgiveness and grace and waiting for us during times when we are weak and sin.

At Monday evening’s Patrol Leaders Council, the troop’s youth leaders were pleased with the troop’s ability to study owls and participate in the behind-the-scenes tour at the zoo. They also commended efficient set-up efforts on Friday and packing up on Sunday, overall meal-planning and cooking efforts, the creative and entertaining campfire, and the overall quality of the campsite. They also noted that the campout emphasized the need for selecting a troop quartermaster; addressing campsite noisiness and an occasional lack of cooperation with a each other and respect for youth leaders; reviewing campout dish-washing techniques; and avoiding damage to equipment after one tent was ripped during the campout.

For more photos from the camping trip, visit the troop's online photo album.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Scouting sleuths

On Monday, Jan. 30, Troop 50 parent and Auburn Police Officer Bill Schallock led a merit badge class on the Fingerprinting Merit Badge for Troop 50 Scouts. Scouts recognize Officer Schallock as a school resource officer assigned to Auburn High School, as well as a popular figure at the police department's annual D.A.R.E. summer camp.

Officer Schallock instructs Scouts on the proper techniques to lift fingerprints from the surface of a plastic cup.

Paul shows off his fingerprint card.
To earn the merit badge, Scouts discussed the history of fingerprinting, the differences between cataloged fingerprints and systems that use biometric fingerprints to gain entry (such as to buildings or secured areas), and the types of fingerprints and how to use them to identify individuals or suspects. Scouts also had the opportunity to lift fingerprints from surfaces through a process similar to what crime-scene technicians use, as well as to fingerprint themselves using a standard fingerprint card.

For more photos from the Fingerprinting Merit Badge class, visit the troop's online photo album.

Friday, January 20, 2017

In the Heat of the Ski Slopes

      Gatlinburg, Tennessee has been through some rough times recently. Wildfires that spread from the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in late November, destroyed over 1,600 structures and took the lives of fourteen people. However, the community is resilient and working towards recovery. As Troop 50 made our annual skiing trip to Gatlinburg last weekend, we reflected on what had happened there and knew that our presence was helping to sustain the area economy. While there were obviously fewer visitors in town over this holiday weekend, plenty of people were there to enjoy all that the town had to offer.

The troop poses for our annual photo op in front of the Ober Gatlinburg sign. 

       As we have in the past, the trip began with a Friday evening departure from Auburn and a stop at the Cartersville, Georgia Wendy's for dinner. The drive stretched into early Saturday morning as we arrived in Gatlinburg around 1:00 AM. Over the past few years, we have availed ourselves of the hospitality of the Days Inn. This year we decided to seek lodging in a more high-end establishment, so we upgraded to the Econo Lodge. This turned out to be a good decision overall. The hotel had everything ready for us and we quickly had the scouts headed to their rooms for a good rest.

Nicky makes his final shot while
the gallery looks less than impressed.
      The next morning we were up and out on the town before 9:00 AM. We wandered the streets, browsing in the occasional store (including a knife and sword shop) before settling in for a round of miniature golf at the Treasure Quest course. Although the boys tend towards competitiveness, I didn't hear much boasting about how far under par they were. The next stop was in an arcade, where they played among the seizure inducing lights until lunch.

Hunter's Pac Man gobbles away as Boone and Beck observe. 

      Followed the complete consumption of several extra-large pizzas, it was off to the aerial  tramway for the ride up to Ober Gatlinburg. Despite temperatures in the high 60s, there was snow on the ground - although all of it was of the manmade variety. It was warm enough that a couple of skiers were spotted on the slopes without shirts. Fortunately for us, the warm weather did not diminish the snow tubing and the scouts made numerous rounds up the magic carpet lift and down the slopes in their inner tubes.

Zach and Everett move off the course at the conclusion of a successful run. 

Service with a smile
at Johnny Rockets. 
      By Saturday evening, everyone was ready for a good dinner and a full night's rest. Our regular dinner stop in the past has been Blaine's but this year they refused to offer us any accommodation as a large group. Due to the NFL playoff games, the restaurant claimed that diners were not vacating their tables very quickly. As a result, we passed them by and found the staff of Johnny Rockets more than willing to provide a table for twenty-two. Our servers were very attentive with numerous refills of drinks and their unlimited french fries. At the conclusion of our meal, the servers thanked us for making the trip to Gatlinburg and supporting their economy. We ended the day with a stop at another arcade for the chance for visual stimulation and the intake of sugar by several scouts. Fortunately, this did not spark the bout of hyperactivity that we initially feared and the boys settled in for the night without much issue.

Beck does his level best in ski school.
      Sunday dawned with a hint of rain and a continuation of the warm weather. We didn't let that dim our enthusiasm for the ski slopes and quickly headed upward aboard the tram. Due to the diminished crowds, our check-in at Ober Gatlinburg went as smoothly as it could for an organization that seems determined to avoid the advent of computer systems. The majority of the scouts had skied in the past and they quickly moved out onto the slopes. The scoutmaster oversaw the two scouts who attended ski school along with one of the young assistant scoutmasters who oversaw the young woman who accompanied him. The day was spent happily rotating up the chair lifts and down the slopes. Scouts also took time to go ice skating, visit the wildlife exhibit, ride the scenic chair lift, or hang out in the shops and arcade of Ober. Mr. Dagg continued his work with several scouts who were working on the Snow Sports merit badge. Most of them were able to accomplish the various skills they needed to demonstrate to meet the requirements. Assistant Scoutmaster Baird (the younger) utilized his GoPro to capture video of several scouts on the slopes. The video is available on our YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGT_s_6kwyQ. Watch carefully for the scout who flies by at top speed!

Liam, Everett, and Michael enjoy the wildlife exhibit during a break from skiing. 
      After a full day of skiing, we gathered for the buffet at the Seasons of Ober restaurant. Although a few scouts chose to end their day at that point and return to the motel, the majority returned to the slopes and stayed until they shut down at 10:00 PM.

Josh, Hunter, and Davis ready to ski beneath the stars. 

      The next morning we made our annual pilgrimage to the Flapjack Pancake Cabin for a hearty breakfast. After filling up on pancakes we made our way out of town and began the long trip home. Plans were made to stop at a trampoline park in Chattanooga but when we arrived, the combination of a crowded facility and a rather strict waiver policy kept us from fulfilling a desire to bounce up and down. Even finding a place to eat lunch proved to be challenging and we had to trek into Georgia in order to find sustenance at a CiCi's Pizza. After braving the traffic around Atlanta, everyone was back in Auburn before 5:00 PM.

      Although fire damage was evident in the hills around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the town and it's residents were just as inviting as always. We are glad that the community and the ski resort have survived intact. We mourn the lives that were lost in this rather senseless tragedy and our prayers are with the families and friends that remain. However, we know that a new day has dawned and that all are on the way to recovery. We look forward to visiting this wonderful place for many years to come.

      More photos are found in the online photo gallery.