University of Scouting

Nothing literary today. I’ve been an adult volunteer with scouting for a long time (started as a Tiger den leader and I’m now an assistant scoutmaster – not to mention being involved with training.)

The Atlanta Area Council held its University of Scouting. I helped the new Dean of Boy Scouts, but returned from the dark side of academia to the blessed ranks of instructors.

The featured image shows the Iron Chef class – how to use a Dutch oven to cook. I’ve posted the occasional dutch oven recipe on this site as well.

I taught plant identification. You can get a decent guide to native trees of Georgia from the forestry commission. The highlight was an immature red-tailed hawk that watched us from a tree.


After filling in as a substitute for a dear friend on teaching about scoutmaster’s conferences and boards of review, I helped with the advanced pioneering.

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Raising a tower may replace the venerable golden ax as a camporee game. Because of leave-no-trace we don’t emphasize ax use any longer. Lashing can be done in a manner fully consistent with LNT.

Dutch Oven Pot Roast. #recipe #goodfood

This is a very simple way to make a traditional dinner. Although I did it at home, it’s fully suitable for camping and within the skill levels of young scouts.

Pot roast is a gristly, fatty, and usually inexpensive cut of meat. It needs to be slow cooked to become tender. Then it’s excellent. The grease at the bottom of the oven in the featured image has almost all cooked off the meat. The meat has lost about 1/2 its volume and is extremely tender.

Cut up and saute two large onions.

It is important to at least sweat the onions to remove some of the more volatile compounds. I used a small amount of olive oil, but anything will do. Were I camping, I’d do this in the bottom of the dutch oven itself and remove once done.  (It will sit nicely on a butane/propane camp stove.)

Add about 1 cup beef stock/bullion. I used a teaspoon of condensed stock and added a cup of water. Reduce the volume by about 1/2.

While the volume is being reduced do two things.

  1. start the coals
  2. wash and cut in half or quarter 1-2 pounds of potatoes.

Put a nice (about 1mm thick) layer of oil on the bottom of the dutch oven. Then place the potatoes in it. Put the meat on top of the potatoes. This will raise it out of the drippings and help it to cook cleanly. Place the cooked onions and remaining broth on top of the meat. Add one cup of water to the oven, cover and place on the coals. A dutch oven used over charcoal tends to dry the contents so it is important to start with extra water inside.

1 and 1/2 to 2 hours later, the meal should be done. I rotated the oven and counter-rotated the lid once or twice during this time.

Time for a new pack #MondayBlogs

After nearly six years of hard use my trusty REI flash 50 pack has finally broken. It split a seam just before a fun backpacking trip at Pine Mountain State park on Saturday. I must say it held up fine, but it’s time for a new one. Since this is largely a photo blog, I’ll commemorate it with a few photos of its journeys. Nearly every back-country journey I’ve made since then has used it (Philmont excepted). The others used a Mariposa Plus which is also seeing its age. It also was an excellent carry on bag – I could fly for a two-week trip to England with it as carry on. Still met the size requirements unlike those massive rollerbags. Then it served as a daypack, lugging water and cameras up mountains from Wales to Devon and parts in between.

The featured image is from it’s inaugural voyage, a 24 mile weekend at Henry Coe state park. Only a few miles from San Jose, this state park is steep, stark and relatively unused. I was the backpacker one weekend in December.

Other gear, like this Sylon tarp haven’t fared so well. (It leaks in a hard rain).

Misty fog filled the valley’s that night

Supporting coastal range newts – these are not lizards, but actual amphibians, living in a surprisingly dry environment.

It’s also a place of great beauty.

I used this pack with the scouts in order to demonstrate that light-weight backpacking did not require expensive equipment. These photos are from another trip to Pine Mountain and show my trailstar (Mountain Laurel designs which is worth its weight in gold.)


As a Day pack it’s been to the top of Mount Snowdon
This is the “devil’s kitchen” We parked by that lake. The one in the distance.

The Peak district near Hayfield and Kinder Scout.


That is the trail.





Standing Indian (on the AT in North Carolina)



And many others. It will be missed. Bushwhacking like this was never an issue.


Lizette Woodworth Reese

The east is yellow as a daffodil.
Three steeples—three stark swarthy arms—are thrust
Up from the town. The gnarlèd poplars thrill
Down the long street in some keen salty gust—
Straight from the sea and all the sailing ships—
Turn white, black, white again, with noises sweet
And swift. Back to the night the last star slips.
High up the air is motionless, a sheet
Of light. The east grows yellower apace,
And trembles: then, once more, and suddenly,
The salt wind blows, and in that moment’s space
Flame roofs, and poplar-tops, and steeples three;
From out the mist that wraps the river-ways,
The little boats, like torches, start ablaze.

The sunrise from the tooth of time
(c) 2008 Robert W Harrison

A Fun Thing to do with Young Children

This is a trick we used to do in Cub Scouts:

Baking in a box. Take moderate-sized box, we usually used one the size used to deliver copier paper came in (24cm x 24cm x 48cm or so). Line the inside of the box and the lid with aluminium foil  (staples are a good way to attach it to the lid.) Put some stones or a tile on the bottom, both to hold down the box and to protect it from the coals. Run a few coat-hanger wires through about 2/3 of the way up to form a rack.

Light charcoal (this needs adult help or supervision), putting about 10 briquettes in an pan. The pan goes in the bottom of the box. When the lid is on the box, the air inside it will get to about 300-350 F (150-200C) which is well below the ignition temperature of paper, but more than hot enough to bake with.  A small tray with cookies or biscuits can go on the rack and after a few minutes will be baked. Since the temperature depends on how well the lid seals (there has to be some leakage to keep the coals burning, but this isn’t usually a problem), the exact baking time and temperature will vary.

Still it’s good fun, requires little advance preparation, and can be put together by 8-11 year old children without much assistance from mom or dad. Beats an “easy-bake” any  day.

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