Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scouting and Geocaching

I was once in the Boy Scouts.  We were Troop 7 affiliated with my local parish church in Santa Ana, CA.  I joined the Panther patrol, which evolved into the Hawk patrol the following year.  For awhile, we had a very active troop, mostly due to the active participation of several parents, including my dad, who eventually became assistant troopmaster.  The boys in the troop had a good time learning outdoor activities, and everything else that was part of scouting.

Our troop had a tradition of camping out at least once a month, rain or shine.  Traditionally, we'd camp out near the beach in San Clemente in June.  I can remember one year, President Nixon (yeah, I know that dates me) was going to be down at "La Casa Pacifica," the Western White House, the same weekend our troop was going to be camping at San Clemente State Beach.  I wrote to the White House and invited him to a cookout with our troop.  I got a nice response back from Hugh Sloan, one of his assistants.  In essence, it said Thanks, but the President would be too busy to attend.  I figured it would end like that and wasn't bothered by it in the least.  If I hadn't sent an invitation, it definitely would have been a no.

While in the Boy Scouts, I rose to the rank of 1st Class.  I enjoyed the camping, the regular scouting meetings every Tuesday night.  But, for whatever reason, I had no motivation or desire to attempt to move on to the ranks of Star, Life or Eagle.  The process of doing the requirements of the various merit badges held no interest for me.  I haven no idea why, because I've looked at my old Scouting book and have wondered why I didn't attempt some of the different badges.  Many looked interesting and fun to do.  Perhaps I was overwhelmed by the requirements and the number of badges needed for each rank.  Perhaps this is probably why only 2% of all scouts ever attain the rank of Eagle.

I bring this up mainly because the Boy Scouts have recently released the requirements for a Geocaching Merit Badge, which is pictured here.  Some of the highlights for the merit badge, as noted in their official blog are listed here and include:

Precautions necessary to have a safe time while searching for geocaches
Geocaching etiquette and how the principles of Leave No Trace apply
Geocaching terms
How GPS Technology works
Steps for finding and logging a cache
How to use geocaching.com, the official online home of geocaching
I must say, that it looks like it would be a fun merit badge to attempt.

I like the fact that Scouting has stayed true to its roots regarding most of their merit badges and that they still emphasize a well rounded young man.  21 merit badges are required to attain the rank of Eagle Scout and of these, there are 12 required badges.

Cycling or Hiking or Swimming
Citizenship in the Community
Citizenship in the Nation
Citizenship in the World
Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving
Environmental Science
Family Life
First Aid
Personal Fitness
Personal Management

When I first looked over the list, I was surprised to not see some kind of required orienteering badge.  I can remember being able to use a compass as one of the skills we learned early in our scouting career.  Perhaps it's my faulty mind, or the changing of the times.  With GPS technology, the need to use a compass might not seem like a necessary skill that it once was and so the requirements have changed.  Either way, it is definitely still a challenge to become an Eagle Scout.

Picture of the merit badge comes from the Cracker Barrel, the Official Blog of Scouting magazine.

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