Tag Archives: Scouts

High ropes course

Walk the swinging plank

Walk the swinging plank

One of the best things about being a Scout leader is the opportunity to do some really cool activities that I otherwise wouldn’t get to do. Sure, it’s all about the youth members, but that doesn’t mean that we adults can’t have some fun while we’re at it.

Spider's web high in the sky

Spider’s web high in the sky

On Saturday morning, eight Scouts and two Leaders went to the Thunderbird Park high ropes course to challenge ourselves to some games high off the ground.

Two caribbeaners for safety

Two caribbeaners for safety

With just two caribeaners and a harness to prevent us from plummeting to our deaths, the experience seemed to be simultaneously fun and scary for many of the youth members. Sure, there were those who made it look easy. But there were others who overcame great fears being suspended up in the air completing the games.

Slat bridge

Slat bridge

It was a pleasure to see the unbridled joy on their faces after they conquered their fears. I even got a high five after one of the Scouts crossed a long and fast flying fox that had caused him to almost freeze up in fear.

Tight rope walker

Tight rope walker

As a novice leader, this was a wonderful learning experience. As an outdoor adventurer, it was a great chance to play amongst the trees.

Total: 4 hours of high ropes adventure

Scouts Australia’s 1st National Adventurous Activities School

I’ve decided to have a rest week to ensure I’m fresh for the 400km Audax road cycle that I’m attempting this weekend but I haven’t been slacking off on the adventure front. My mind’s been actively engaged in the outdoors all week and I’ve ended up nominating for Scouts Australia’s 1st National Adventurous Activities School.

The 12-day camp is being held near Sydney from 13 January 2014. It’s open to Venturers, Rovers and Leaders (that’s me).

The most challenging part of the nomination process was deciding which activities to select in each of the two adventure blocks.

In the first block, I could choose from:

  • 3 days hiking in the Budawangs
  • 3 days canoeing at Kangaroo Valley
  • 3 days abseiling and caving at Bungonia
  • 3 days Abseiling and canyoning at the Blue Mountains.

Then in the second block, I could choose from:

  • 4 days sailing on Sydney Harbour
  • 4 days hiking in the Snowy Mountains

OR any four days comprised of a selection of:

  • 2 days vertical rescue course
  • 2 days abseiling and canyoning at the Blue
  • 2 days abseiling and caving at Bungonia
  • 2 days multi-pitch abseiling.

I’ve applied to do the 3 days abseiling and caving followed by the vertical rescue and caving activities. I’ve done rock climbing before. I have also joined a university climbing club so will hopefully be able to go climbing again once a week from June so that I don’t go to the camp cold.

Hopefully my application is accepted and the options I have selected are available.

Total: 0km training but plenty of day dreaming


Logan Distrct Scout Camp

Logan Distrct Scout Camp Souvenir Mug by Andrew Gills

I wasn’t sure what to expect at the Logan District Scout Camp. It’s yet another step in my introduction to the Unique, Special and Peculiar of Scouting. I was only able to go to the camp for the Friday night and Saturday during the day because I had an adventure race on Sunday. All I can say is that I had a lot of fun.

I rode my mountain bike the 9km to the camp with all my camping and racing gear on my back. It was a challenging ride with more uphills than down. When I arrived, I realised that I had left my dilli bag (bag containing my personal crockery and cutlery) at home. Fortunately, one of the other Leaders in my Scout group is a practical man so he made me a ‘mug’ out of an empty juice container. It turned out that he’d forgotten his dilli bag too, so he also made himself a similar mug. In solidarity, the third leader from our Group decided to also make himself a juice container mug. It was a good source of laughter during the camp.

One of the checkpoints I hung

One of the checkpoints I hung

Our Scout Troop was organising the camp this year. We have four leaders and two of them did a magnificent job setting everything up. As part of my leadership training, I was asked to set up an orienteering base activity and wide game. The base activity was a 90 minute orienteering refresher session. The wide game (game that takes place over a wide area) was an orienteering game. I hung coloured paddle pop sticks in trees with words relating to the ocean (the camp theme) written on them. We don’t have a topographic map of the camp area so in this activity the Scouts had to take bearings and walk a certain distance to the next checkpoint. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be at the camp on Saturday night to see how the game unfolded.

Dawn on Saturday

Dawn on Saturday

The Scout camp we frequent, which is quite close to my home, is beautiful. And the sunrise on Saturday morning was no exception.

The Leaders' camp

The Leaders’ camp

One of the things I like about Scouts is that the youth members (10.5-14.5 years old) are allowed a lot of freedom and independence. For this camp, we had about 48 Scouts in attendance from five different Scout Troops (i.e. from Scout Troops based in five different suburbs in our District). The Scouts camped at the top of the hill while us Leaders camped down near the camp HQ; about 200m away from the Scouts. Each patrol of 5-7 Scouts had to set up their own campsites, including tents, kitchens, dining tents and ocean-themed decorations. They had prepared their own menus, bought their own food an had to cook their own meals. No one was walking around making sure they did anything; they were responsible for managing their own campsites. I think this is an important opportunity for personal growth for the youth members.

The camp itself was fantastic. There were bases set up that the Scouts rotated through. There was an obstacle course, my orienteering base, a photography base run by a professional photographer, a GPS base run by a person who works in national parks, a no-matches fire lighting base and a scuba diving (introduction to the equipment) base run by professional divers. There was a campfire, campfire skits and the night orienteering game.

Total: Cycle 9km with full pack to Scout camp

Gratitude for our freedom: ANZAC Day 2013

As I stand listening to the Last Post at this morning’s ANZAC Day parade, I feel grateful for the freedom we enjoy here in Australia. I’ve never attended an ANZAC Day parade or service before. But the Scouts traditionally march on ANZAC Day so, as a leader, I also attended this morning.

As I make final preparations for the Rogue 24 Hour Adventuregaine, the ANZAC Day commemorations reminded me that I and all my fellow adventure racers are fortunate because:

  • we have the personal freedom to choose to put ourselves through 24 hours of adventure, pain and fatigue
  • we have the financial freedom to choose to spend money on entry fees, equipment, food and travel expenses
  • we have the freedom to choose to spend time training and racing
  • we have physical health.

Today I will exercise that freedom by going to the shops to buy last minute supplies for the weekend’s race. It’s one of team Whoops Witch Way’s A-Races so I’ve been tapering this week, which is why my blog’s been quiet. I’ve done a 5km bushwalk one morning and am going for a 6-7km walk tomorrow. Other than that, I’ve been sleeping, eating, resting and generally taking it easy so that my body is ready to spring into action at midday Saturday when we start our 24 hour adventure.

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them

Invested as a Scout Leader

My new uniform

My new uniform

Last night was  a big night for me: I was invested as a leader in my local Scout Troop. This means that I can now officially wear the full Scout uniform, including scarf, woggle and badges.

I first enquired about becoming a Scout leader in late January and attended my first Troop meeting in mid-February, after the first school term started. So far, I’ve been to weekly Scout Troop meetings, Group Council meetings, Troop Council meetings, a camp and a Saturday water safety activity. In the coming 11-week term, there’ll be a few more camps and some other fun outdoor activities.

As a new leader, I’ll be leading my first weekly program next Friday night when I am setting up an orienteering activity for the Scouts. As a rogainer and adventure racer, navigation is something I am familiar with so it will be great to help the Scouts further develop their skills in this area.

So, after being led blindfolded by our Patrol Leaders to my investiture ceremony, I said the Scout promise, received my badges, was told the story of the Queensland scarf (unlike other Australian states where each Scout Group has its own scarf, here in Queensland, we all wear maroon scarves regardless of our troop) and was welcomed as a member of Scouting.

Scout camp

Scout camp by Andrew Gills
Scout camp, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

Canoes, kayaks, a pontoon and a large dam. What more could a Scout troop need on a warm autumn weekend.

After an hour setting camp, the seven Scouts and three Leaders who came on camp hit the water in canoes and kayaks. Within an hour everyone was in the water and the first canoe had been purposefully flipped for the day.

With all but one of our Scout troop being 11 years old, shennanigans like tipping people out of boats are still the order of the day. And we Leaders weren’t exempt from being sent swimming.

The pontoon was also popular for climbing on, rocking, jumping off and removing each other from it. Again, the Leaders were not exempt from being helped off the pontoon.

By the time we lit the campfire, most of us had been in the water for about six hours. After a meal of tacos and burritos, we enjoyed a few hours sitting around the campfire. It was an informal campfire, so mostly I just listened to the Scouts talking and scaring each other with stories.

It was a day of laughter, swimming and fun. Just what I needed.

I had to leave at the end of the day because Whoops Witch Way have an adventure race tomorrow.

Becoming a Scout Leader

Two months ago, I embarked on a new element of my outdoor adventure journey. I entered a world that was totally foreign to me. A world I had often heard about but which had remained a mystery. I decided to see whether I would like to be a Scout Leader.

It started quite innocently. I was searching the internet to see whether there was any meaningful, fun and ongoing volunteer work available in my community. It’s not that I don’t have enough on my plate, what with work, uni, my monthly Justice of the Peace obligations and endurance racing. But I just felt called to look for something.

I didn’t know what I was looking for until I stumbled across my local Scout Group’s website. There it was in black and white: “Assistant Leaders needed for immediate start. No experience. Self-paced training.” It didn’t take me long to fire off an email. And, seemingly instantly, I received a response from the Group Leader inviting me to come meet with herself and the leader of the Scout section.

I did some research. I watched YouTube clips, and read a range of websites and blogs. From what I found, Scouting looked like a lot of fun, not just for Youth Members but also for Leaders.

I started with minimal commitment. I just attended a couple of Scout meetings and a Group Council to see whether the format appealed to me. The Scout meetings were great fun. Tents were pitched, canoes were set up on dry land so the Scouts could practice their paddling strokes, plans were made for camps and discussions were held about hikes. Before I knew it, I was choosing a Scout name and signing an application for membership.

Last week, my application for membership was approved and I was given my Scout membership number. I’ve ordered my uniform and started the eLearning component of my leader training. On Saturday, I’m going to my first Scout camp. I won’t be staying overnight because I have a race on Sunday. But I’m looking forward to taking this next step into what was previously a mysterious world: Scouts. And I’m quite proud of my personal decision to share my outdoor skills and experiences with tomorrow’s outdoors men and women.

(I didn’t train today. I decided to do some stretching and get back into the exercise tomorrow. I didn’t want to risk returning to training too quickly after the weekend because I am very aware of how I pushed things last year and ended up injured.)

Mother and son road cycle

Mother and son by Andrew Gills
Mother and son, a photo by Andrew Gills on Flickr.

It didn’t take much to convince Mum to come riding with me this morning. She enjoys a morning cruise as much as I do. Actually, she’s up for just about any adventure that comes along; so long as it doesn’t involve running 50km.

That’s something I’m grateful for: that my parents are outdoors people. I can’t remember a time when they didn’t take me cycling, bushwalking or camping. As a child, it was normal for us to spend our free time outdoors playing in the sun, rain and wind.

Weekends and holidays were times for camping and exploring; no cotton wool provided. I was still in primary school the first time my family went on a 15km bushwalk and when I was ten years old, Dad took me on a 50km road ride. Being outdoors wasn’t something you planned to do one day; it was just something you got up and did.

I have come to see that the life I live today is heavily influenced by the outdoor experiences of my childhood. And this is why I have recently signed up as a Scout leader; to share the outdoors with the next generation just as my parents shared the outdoors with me. Perhaps one day they will see that getting up before the dawn to walk, run, cycle or paddle is normal and fun.

Mum and I had a lovely ride this morning. Yet another shared experience in the outdoors.

Total: 42.3km road cycle.