Scouts Trace BSA’s Early History Along Trail Wednesday, Aug 14 2013 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For Scouts and Venturers weary of traipsing up and down the Summit’s hills and expanses, a friendlier post-jamboree alternative can be found in the nation’s capital. It’s an urban path, rich in Scouting history that, not coincidentally, is named the History of Scouting Trail.

The trail debuted in Washington, D.C., over Memorial Day weekend when 3,111 Scouts — mostly from the National Capital Area Council — hiked it. During that weekend, Scouts and Venturers walked either of two lengths of trail — a 2.5-mile History Hike for Cubs, and another nearly six miles for Boy Scouts and Venturers that is the Colin H. Livingstone Hike. Scouts and Venturers were even spotted hiking the trail the few days preceding the jamboree kicked off.

HOST is part hike, part treasure hunt, part advancement recognition — and all fun.

One of the many interesting stops on the The Extra Mile - Points of Light Volunteer Pathway.  Photo by Axel Anderson.

One of many interesting stops on the The Extra Mile – Points of Light Volunteer Pathway. Photo by Axel Anderson.

Hikers are challenged to scour the city for symbols, figures, and physical features of man-made objects, and answer questions about them. Clues are found near the White House, Ellipse, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Boy Scout Commemorative Tribute Memorial, and even the exact place of origin of the Boy Scouts of America. Hmmm … where could that be?

Before beginning the trail, hikers need a $10 bill, camera, compass, downloaded questions, and a small plastic bag. The $10 bill will provide some clues.

The man behind HOST is Peter “P-B” Bielak, who chairs the History and Archives Committee and HOST subcommittee for the National Capital Area Council. P-B prefers to be known by his initials because they’re easy to remember (like “peanut butter”), and they allow him to quickly move to discussing Scouting history. For the past two years, P-B, with the effort of many others, researched, planned, tested, and proposed the trail to NCAC and BSA officials. One major supporter of the trail is former NCAC President Dan McCarthy, who is also director here at the Summit.

Shortly before the jamboree, P-B met with McCarthy and presented him with a framed inaugural Livingstone Hike Medal and a photo of representatives of the D.C.-area’s four oldest troops hiking the Taft Bridge.

“It’s a special presentation on behalf of the National Capital Area Council HOST Committee because he’s promoting the trail to jamboree troops,” said P-B before the ceremony. “When the trail concept began two years ago, he was president of the council, and he was supportive of the project.”

Said McCarthy earlier: “It was an excellent concept to have a trail dedicated to Scouting in the national capital,” then adding to his comment today by saying, “What could be more perfect?”

The HOST idea came to P-B at a district roundtable meeting, when a leader wondered when Scouting started in the United States. P-B said he asked himself why more people don’t know about the origins of American Scouting, especially in Washington, D.C., a city rich in BSA history.

“The Boy Scouts were such an integral part of the city at that time (1910),” says P-B, adding that Scouts have long helped stage presidential inaugurations. They even did so this year.

P-B was also inspired by the “National Treasure” movies, where clues are sought — even in a hidden compartment in the president’s desk — to solve mysteries.

“I thought kids really liked that … let ‘em find clues, use a compass and their brains,” ys P-B. “I thought that would be more fun than simply walking along a path.”

P-B loves to rattle off Scouting historical trivia. Among his plums:

  • In Scouting’s early years, all Eagle Scout awards were presented at the White House.
  • In 1913, police lost control of the crowd during a woman’s suffrage parade in D.C. Boy Scouts, who all carried staves at the time, stepped in to restore order as well as administer first aid.
  • In its fledgling years, many major Scouting figures met in D.C. , including Robert Baden-Powell (world Scouting’s founder), William Boyce (a newspaperman who imported Scouting to America), Juliette Gordon Low (who founded the Girl Scouts), Colin H. Livingstone (the BSA and NCAC’s first president; he held both jobs at the same time), Dan Beard (national commissioner), Ernest Thompson Seton (chief Scout), and James West (the BSA’s first Chief Scout Executive).

Besides his motivation to add fun and education to Scouting, P-B also had a lofty goal: To help support Scouting financially. Proceeds from the sales of HOST medals and patches will go to enable the NCAC to provide good Scouting opportunities for all local youth.

P-B will eagerly tell anyone in earshot that Washington, D.C.’s oldest Scout troop — 100 — was begun in 1918. Maryland’s is Troop 8 (1919), Virginia’s, 104 (1916), and in the NCAC, 52 (1913). Scouts and Scouters of all four troops led HOST’s Memorial Day weekend hike.

HOST is the only BSA historic trail that can be hiked 365 days a year and that the effort can be accomplished in a day, P-B says. This means trail maps can be downloaded, the trail hiked, questions answered, form stamped, and medals and patches purchased. Scouts and Scouters who satisfactorily complete HOST’s requirements are eligible to buy a medal and patch. Both trails end at a pair of trail project “partners”: the International Spy Museum, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.

Plans are for the trail to evolve into two other hikes — each progressively longer and more challenging. The first one that opened on Memorial Day weekend was the aforementioned Livingstone hike, which begins at the Taft Memorial Bridge. An hour later, the shorter History Hike began.

Details on HOST can be found at

By Axel Anderson
Jamboree Today
July 23, 2013

Washington’s American Indian Museum Can Inspire Scouts Wednesday, Aug 14 2013 

By Axel Anderson
Jamboree Today

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Headdresses, ceremonial garb, and symbolic dances inspired by and saluting Native American cultures are common sights at Boy Scouts of America camps around the nation. Historically-inclined Scouts can also earn the Indian Lore merit badge. The BSA’s reverence for Native American culture dates back decades.

Any Scout or Scouter elected by his peers to the Order of the Arrow — the BSA’s honor society — understands the mystery and richness of the culture that America’s native peoples offer, says Kevin Gover, a Pawnee, who is director of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

“The long-held idea that the Americas were a largely un-peopled wilderness before European contact has been upended,” he says. “This museum has contributed to the broader understanding of our ancestors as philosophers, physicians, inventors, scientists, engineers and great thinkers”

“The museum’s objective has always been to build a place that would enable the world to explore the past, present and future through the perspective of Native peoples,” Gover says. “We keep moving forward to realize that vision.”

The $199 million museum, which opened in 2004, is a destination that Scouts and Venturers sometimes visit when touring the national capital before and after the quadrennial national jamborees.

Unlike some older brick facilities, the museum has a striking chestnut exterior that looks like stratified stone carved from the elements. Surrounding the building is a small wetland and visitors walk among 40 large rocks and boulders called grandfather rocks.

Inside the museum, a wall of video screens greet visitors in 150 Native American languages, conveying the presence and diversity of the peoples indigenous to this continent. A few more steps inside the cavernous room, Scouts and Venturers can find Native American canoes on display. In addition to the exhibits, the museum has two theaters: the Lelawi Theater, a 120-seat room that shows a 13-minute multimedia experience titled “Who We Are,” and introduces visitors to the museum.

The museum’s signature film, “A Thousand Roads,” is screened daily in the facility’s Rasmuson Theater. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily; admission is free. The museum is on the National Mall at 4th Street and Independence Avenue. The nearest Metro station is L’Enfant Plaza. Group tours can be arranged.

Scouts and Venturers planning to attend the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s summer programs in 2014, or coming to the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, may wish to consider touring Washington, D.C., on their way to or from West Virginia.

Posted on
July 26, 2013

www.OutdoorEdge.TV morphs into Thursday, Apr 18 2013 

The Web address is now

To connect better with people, I added “.com” to my company’s name.  The Canoeing and Cycling videos I sell have not changed.  They can still give Boy Scouts like you the “outdoor edge” in earning those two merit badges.  You won’t have to wait until you get to summer camp to learn what you need to know in five days — or less.

With the help of these videos, you’ll be able to sign up for other Eagle-required merit badges at summer camp — like Environmental Science, Swimming, or Lifesaving.

I’ll also be changing the look of my Web site.  Again, the products won’t change.

By the way, if you try and visit, you won’t find it — at least under my company’s name.  I gave it up for  It will be easier for people like you to find!

Yours in Scouting,

“Outdoor” Ed

REI: Expertise, great gear, workshops, and the most liberal return policy in the world Wednesday, Nov 21 2012 

I don’t usually endorse companies, but REI is different.

If you’ve ever wandered into an REI store, then you know that different sections of the store have informative sheets telling you what kind of equipment to buy, such as tents and backpacks.

Of course you don’t have to rely on sheets; you can talk to a store employee, who can help you size a pack or recommend a tent — and not just the REI house brand.  You can also take some gear into the store — like an external frame backpack like I did — and get help in adjusting the straps so hiking isn’t such a burden on the incorrect part of your body.

I didn’t even buy the backpack at REI, which makes the customer service even more appreciated.  I plan to take my backpack in again because the buckles keep allowing the hip belt to loosen.

And for those of you customers who have strolled into REI, you’ll know that the company has the most liberal return policy in the world.  I bought a rooftop carrier for my car in the fall a few years ago, then found that it didn’t fit.  The next spring I returned it to REI, and the store took it back — without a receipt.

REI also has workshops on different topics — hiking the AT, basic map and compass, and basic bicycle maintenance.  Many of the workshops are free.

The reason I’m so tied to REI is that there is no other nationwide retain chain that serves outdoor people.  OK, there’s Campmor, but Campmor only has one store, and it’s in New Jersey.  However, Campmor is a low-rent operation — that’s a good point — and it liberally sends out catalogs — reproduced on inexpensive newsprint — to current customers and prospects alike.

There’s also Sierra Trading Post, LL Bean, and Eastern Mountain Sports, but with those you have to worry about returning items via mail or overnight carrier if a product doesn’t serve your needs.


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