Troop 501 Eagle Scouts

Andrew Jackson - 2011

Project: Recycle Bins at the World Bird Sanctuary

William "Billy" John Fisher, III - 2012

Project: Fire Truck Reading Center at Arnold Branch Library

Christopher "Blake" Hufford - 2013

Project: Flag Pole Installation and Beautification Project at New Hope United Methodist Church

Paul Morton Claeys - 2013

Project: Playground Renovation and Update; Construction and Installation of Benches at New Hope United Methodist Church's Preschool

Drew Vitello - 2014

Project: Development and Installation of interactive, 3-D, educational playground mural at New Hope United Methodist Church's Preschool

Blast Had at Scout Orienteering Festival

The Scouts of Boy Scout Troop #501 had a blast at the annual John G Smerek Scout Orienteering Festival at Beaumont Scout Reservation on Saturday, March 23. It was a gorgeous morning, sunny, warm, mostly dry and perfect in every way. Who could believe that in less than 24 hours we would have blizzard conditions? The boys started out with their maps, studied them, and the placement of the controls and their values, and charted a course. This was a “Score-O” event, in which the object was to locate as many controls with varying point values scattered throughout the reservation, correctly punch their card, and make it back to the finish line within 1 hour. After accumulating 170 points, the boys were 600 meters away from the finish line… only 2 minutes and 40 seconds remained of the hour… Time was ticking, and the penalty – 10 points for each minute late – was drastic! Steven backtracked, met Avery for the control card, and ran for the finish line… There were still a few obstacles – A rocky road, an open field, a campsite with boys breaking camp, and then getting around the lodge, with lots of people, to make it to the finish line. As the remaining boys continued to make their way to the finish line, Steven met them, walking back. Only one question was on their lips… “Did you make it?!?!” “Yes,” came the answer, “with 58 seconds to spare!”

Great job, boys!

Using a Compass

This is a very easy lesson, and not sufficient for those who would like to travel safely in unfamiliar terrain.

the directionsThe first thing you need to learn, are the directions. North, South, East and West. Look at the figure and learn how they are. North is the most important.

There are several kinds of compasses, one kind to attach to the map, one kind to attach to your thumb. The thumb-compass is used mostly by orienteers who just want to run fast, and others. Let’s take a look at a standard map compass:

drawing of compass
You see this red and black arrow? We call it the compass needle. Well, on some compasses it might be red and white for instance, but the point is, the red part of it is always pointing towards the earth’s magnetic north pole. Got that? That’s basically what you need to know. It’s as simple as that.

But if you don’t want to go north, but a different direction? You’ve got this turnable thing on your compass. We call it the Compass housing. On the edge of the compass housing, you will probably have a scale. From 0 to 360 or from 0 to 400. Those are the degrees or the azimuth (or you may also call it the bearing in some contexts). And you should have the letters N, S, W and E for North, South, West and East. If you want to go in a direction between two of these, you would combine them. If you would like to go in a direction just between North and West, you simply say: “I would like to go Northwest “.

rotated compass housingLet’s use that as an example: You want to go northwest. What you do, is that you find out where on the compass housing northwest is. Then you turn the compass housing so that northwest on the housing comes exactly there where the largedirection of travel-arrow meets the housing. 
compass arrow alignedHold the compass in your hand. And you’ll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn. Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn’t turn, and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.

Now, time to be careful! It is extremely important that the red, north part of the compass needle points at north in the compass housing. If south points at north, you would walk off in the exact opposite direction of what you want! And it’s a very common mistake among beginners. So always take a second look to make sure you did it right!
A second problem might be local magnetic attractions. If you are carrying something of iron or something like that, it might disturb the arrow. Even a staple in your map might be a problem. Make sure there is nothing of the sort around. There is a possibility for magnetic attractions in the soil as well, “magnetic deviation“, but they are rarely seen. Might occur if you’re in a mining district.

When you are sure you’ve got it right, walk off in the direction the direction of travel-arrow is pointing. To avoid getting off the course, make sure to look at the compass quite frequently, say every hundred meters at least. Don’t stare down on the compass. Once you have the direction, aim on some point in the distance, and go there. But this gets more important when you use a map.

There is something you should look for to avoid going in the opposite direction: The Sun. At noon, the sun is roughly in South (or in the north on the southern hemisphere), so if you are heading north and have the sun in your face, it should ring a bell.

When do you need this technique? If you are out there without a map, and you don’t know where you are, but you know that there is a road, trail, stream, river or something long and big you can’t miss if you go in the right direction. And you know in what direction you must go to get there, at least approximately what direction. Then all you need to do, is to turn the compass housing, so that the direction you want to go in, is where the direction of travel-arrow meets the housing. And follow the above steps.

Why isn’t this sufficient? It is not very accurate. You are going in the right direction, and you won’t go around in circles, but you’re very lucky if you hit a small spot this way. And that’s why we’re not talking about declination here. And because that is something connected with the use of maps. But if you have a mental image of the map and know what it is, do think about it. But I think you won’t be able to be so accurate so the declination won’t make a difference.

If you are taking a long hike in unfamiliar terrain, you should always carry a good map that covers the terrain. Especially if you are leaving the trail. It is in this interaction between the map and a compass, that the compass becomes really valuable. And that is dealt with in .

Using a Lensatic Compass

imgresAn Engineer’s or Lensatic compass maintains a primary function of taking accurate bearings for land navigation. An additional function of this compass is to direct artillery fire. For these reasons, it is a highly coveted piece of equipment used by the military. Standard Lensatic covering is square with one side ruled. This is to aide military personnel in triangulating known landmarks to gauge positioning.The compass is comprised of three major components: the cover, the base and the lens. The cover serves the purpose of protecting the compass rose dial. It contains sighting wires and dots utilized in nighttime navigation. The base is where all movable parts of the compass reside. A floating dial rotates indicating direction each time the compass maintains a level position. Incandescent figures depict the directions east (E) and west (W). In the center lies the directional arrow. This always points in the direction of north (N). East falls at 90° and west at 270°. There are also two scales. The outer scale denotes miles and the inner scale denotes degrees. The inner scale indicator is in red color.


A bezel ring is also inside the compass base. This ratchet device turns 120 clicks on a full rotation. Each individual click represents 3°. A short incandescent line works with the north-directional arrow in navigation. This line lies in the glass face of the bezel ring. The floating dial contains a fixed black index line as well. The final component of the base is a thumb loop. This simply attaches to the base as a handling mechanism.

The last component of the Lensatic compass is the lens. This is what reads the floating dial. A rear-sight navigational slot works with the front sight wires in the cover to locate objects. In addition, this slot protects the compass when in the closed position. This works by a lock and clamp system. The rear-sight mechanism must remain open at a minimum of 45° in order for the compass floating dial to work.

To Take a Bearing

1. Unlock the cover half way so that the compass card forms a 90° angle.
2. Raise the lens arm to a 45° angle.
3. Stabilize the compass by placing thumb inside the thumb hook. Ensure the hook is all the way towards the bottom before doing so.
4. Locate the target object.
5. Adjust the sighting wire so that it lies in the center of the target object.
6. Read fine degree marking on the compass card. Do this by moving the lens up and down until the degree mark reads without taking your eye off the target.
7. Read the bearing in degrees or MILS, whichever is preferred.

Set a Bearing

1. Follow the directions above.
2. Bring the marking on the bezel in line with the north direction arrow. Indication of this comes off the compass card.
3. Once the bezel marking and directional arrow align, orientation is set.
4. Proceed on course in direction indicated by sighting wire.

Follow a Bearing

1. Follow directions above.
2. Pinpoint landmark in the distance to serve as a reference point.
3. When reference point disappears, due to weather or trees, use compass to stay the course.
4. Occasionally set a new bearing for your selected reference point.

More documents about the use of Lensatic Compasses can be found here:

How to Use a Lensatic Compass Guide

Lensatic Compass Information

Orienting Compass to Map

This is the important lesson, and you should learn it well.
It’s when you use both compass and map the compass is really good, and you will be able to navigate safely and accurately in terrain you’ve never been before without following trails. But it’ll take some training and experience.

First, a quick summary of what you will learn in this lesson:

  1. Align the edge of the compass with the starting and finishing point.
  2. Rotate the compass housing until the orienting arrow and lines point N on the map.
  3. Rotate the map and compass together until the red end of the compass needle points north.
  4. Follow the direction of travel arrow on the compass, keeping the needle aligned with the orienting arrow on the housing.

Here is our compass again:

drawing of compass
The principles are much the same as in lesson 1 but this time, you are using the map to tell you which way is correct instead of your intuition.

Take a map. In our first example, we look at a map made for orienteering, and it is very detailed. Well, not really. We look at a fictitious map I drew myself, but never mind. To the point. map with compassYou want to go from the trail-crossing at A, to the rock at B. Of course, to use this method successfully, you’ll have to know you really are at A.
What you do, is that you put your compass on the map so that the edge of the compass is at A. The edge you must be using, is the edge that is parallel to the direction of travel arrow. And then, put B somewhere along the same edge, like it is on the drawing. Of course, you could use the direction arrow itself, or one of the parallel lines, but usually, it’s more convenient to use the edge. At this point, some instructors say that you should use a pencil and draw a line along your course. I would recommend against it. First, it takes a lot of time, but offers no enhancement in accuracy of the method. Second, if you have wet weather, it may destroy your map, or if it is windy, you may loose it. You should keep your map (preferably in a sealed) transparent plastic bag, and if it is windy, tied up, so it can’t blow away. But most important is that any drawings may hide important details on the map. 
CAUTION!Time to be careful again! The edge of the compass, or rather the direction arrow, must point from A to B! And again, if you do this wrong, you’ll walk off in the exact opposite direction of what you want. So take a second look. Beginners often make this mistake as well.

map with orienting<br />
lines alignedKeep the compass steady on the map. What you are going to do next is that you are going to align the orienting lines and the orienting arrow with the meridian lines of the map. The lines on the map going north, that is. While you have the edge of the compass carefully aligned from A to B, turn the compass housing so that the orienting lines in the compass housing are aligned with the meridian lines on the map. During this process, you don’t mind what happens to the compass needle.
CAUTION!There are a number of serious mistakes that can be made here. Let’s take the problem with going in the opposite direction first. Be absolutely certain that you know where north is on the map, and be sure that the orienting arrow is pointing towards the north on the map. Normally, north will be up on the map. The possible mistake is to let the orienting arrow point towards the south on the map.
And then, keep an eye on the the edge of the compass. If the edge isn’t going along the line from A to B when you have finished turning the compass housing, you will have an error in your direction, and it can take you off your course.

When you are sure you have the compass housing right, you may take the compass away from the map. And now, you can in fact read the azimuth off the housing, from where the housing meets the direction arrow.

Be sure that the housing doesn’t turn, before you reach your target B!
The final step is similiar to what you did in lesson 1arrow<br />
alignedHold the compass in your hand. And now you’ll have to hold it quite flat, so that the compass needle can turn. Then turn yourself, your hand, the entire compass, just make sure the compass housing doesn’t turn, and turn it until the compass needle is aligned with the lines inside the compass housing.


The mistake, again, is to let the compass needle point towards the south. The red part of the compass needle must point at north in the compass housing, or you’ll go in the opposite direction.

It’s time to walk off. But to do that with optimal accuracy, you’ll have to do that in a special way as well. Hold the compass in your hand, with the needle well aligned with the orienting arrow. pointing at a treeThen aim, as careful as you can, in the direction the direction of travel-arrow is pointing. Fix your eye on some special feature in the terrain as far as you can see in the direction. Then go there. Be sure as you go that the compass housing doesn’t turn.
If you’re in a dense forest, you might need to aim several times. Hopefully, you will reach your target B when you do this.

At this time, you may want to go out and do some training, so you could check out some .

Unfortunately, sometimes, for some quite often, it is even more complicated. There is something called magnetic declination. And then, for hiking, you wouldn’t use orienteering maps. And this is the issue for .

Magnetic Declination

Unfortunately, there is something called magnetic declination. You see, the compass is pointing towards the magnetic northpole, and the map is pointing toward s the geographic northpole, and that is not the same place. each of the northsTo make things even more complicated, there is on most hiking-maps something (that is very useful) called the UTM-grid. This grid doesn’t have a real north pole, but in most cases, the lines are not too far away from the other norths. Since this grid covers the map, it is convenient to use as meridians.

On most orienteering maps (newer than the early 70’s), this is corrected, so you won’t have to worry about it. But on topographic maps, this is a problem.

First, you’ll have to know how large the declination is, in degrees. This depends on where on the earth you are. So you will have to find out before you leave home. Or somewhere on the map, it says something about it. One thing you have to remember in some areas, the declination changes significantly, so you’ll need to know what it is this year.

If you are using a map with a “UTM-grid,” you want to know how this grid differs from the magnetic pole.

When you are taking out a course, you will do that more or less as described in lesson 2
CAUTION!but this time, you must also look out so that you don’t align the orienting lines with the grid lines pointing west or east, or south for that matter. When you have taken out a course like you’ve learned, you must add or subract an angle, and that angle is the angle you found before you left home, the angle between the grid lines or meridians and the magnetic north.

the directionsThe declination is given as e.g. “15 degrees east”. When you look at the figure, you can pretend that plus is to the right, or east, and minus is to the left and west. Like a curved row of numbers. So when something is more than zero you’ll subtract to get it back to zero. And if it is less, you’ll add. So in this case you’ll subtract 15 degrees to the azimuth, by turning the compass housing, according to the numbers on the housing. Now, finally, the direction of travel-arrow points in the direction you want to go. Again, be careful to aim at some distant object and off you go.

You may not need to find the declination before you leave home, actually. There is a fast and pretty good method to find the declination, wherever you are. This method has also the advantage that corrects for local conditions that may be present. This is what you do:

  1. Determine by map inspection the grid azimuth from your location to a know, visible, distant point. The further away, the more accurate it gets. This means you have to know where you are, and be pretty sure about one other feature in the terrain.
  2. Sight on that distant point with the compass and note the magnetic azimuth. You do that by turning the compass housing so that it is aligned with the needle. You may now read the number from the housing where it meets the base of the direction of travel-arrow.
  3. Compare the two azimuths. The difference is the declination.
  4. Update as necessary. You shouldn’t need to do this very often, unless you travel in a terrain with lots of mineral deposits.

There are a few riddles and rhymes to help you remember whether you should add or subtract:

empty sea, add water.

eMpTy Cea, add Water

MTC, add W

Map To Compass, add West.

Which means, when translating from map to compass, add the number of degrees of west declination. Subtract east declination. When going from compass to map, just reverse, adding east declination, and subtracting west.


You can’t always expect to hit exactly what you are looking for. In fact, you must expect to get a little off course.

How much you get off course depends very often on the things around you. How dense the forest is, fog, visibility is a keyword. And of course, it depends on how accurate you are. You do make things better by being careful when you take out a course, and it is important to aim as far ahead as you can see.

uncertainty is one tenthIn normal forest conditions we say that as a rule of thumb, the uncertainty is one tenth of the distance traveled. So if it is like in the figure, you go 200 meters on course, it is possible that you end up a little off course, 20 meters or so. If you’re looking for something smaller than 20 meters across, there is a chance you’ll miss. If you want to hit that rock in our example you’ll need to keep the eyes open!

In the open mountain areas, things are of course a lot easier when you can see far ahead of you.

Orienteering Excercises

For the absolute beginners, it is important that they master the techniques described in lesson 1 and 2. This can be done partially with practice without going anywhere, but that gets boring pretty fast, you could let the kids do it a few times. In this first exercise the aim is solely to choose the right control from several you can see. This way, you get practice, but need not fear getting lost. It requires some work done, however. Check out this figure:

Your backyard...
Above, imagine, is a map of your backyard. In the middle is a symbol start, which is a symbol used in orienteering to denote start and finish when they are at the same place (otherwise, start is a triangle, and finish two concentric circles). There are controls all around you, and all of them can be seen from this center. A control, as used in orienteering, looks like A Control, and they are placed in all the circles. The map here is of course an imaginary map, and you would have to draw a map of your own back yard. The scale isn’t very important, but it has to be correct with regards to the compass. Also on the figure above is a detail from the upper left corner of the map as it would look in the real (imaginary…) world. You should draw all buildings, large rocks, bushes and trees and other features you see, like you see from the detail.

The kids are going to choose the right control using the map you drew, and the compass. The first time you do this, you should take your time, and help each one of the kids with taking the compass course. When they have taken the course, they decide which control is the right one, run or walk up to it, and come back. Then they do the same with the next control. The sequence each kid does this, is however, unique.

The second time, it is time to do some more fun. Here is one example. Make it a treasure hunt! This is the plan: At each control, put a bag of some treasure on the control, one for each kid and unique to the control. Take for example, starting in the upper left corner by the north arrow, a bag of bananas by the bushes, a bag of oranges by the corner of the house, a bag of apples by the tree and so on. Each one of the kids is going to fetch the treasures, in a unique sequence, as fast as they can, they are supposed to be running back and forth to the stating point between each control. The controls are numbered, and each kid gets the sequence he or she is going to run to the controls in, and which treasure is at which control, so if he or she finds the wrong type of treasure, he or she knows it is the wrong control. You are standing there checking everybody got the right sequence. Which means you get a hard time… This is going to be chaotic, everybody running in different directions, and chaos is fun!

For small kids, it is important that everybody is a winner, and although somebody is going to be fastest, nobody is a loser when they get all these treasures.

There are of course, many possible variations of this method, relays, take as many treasures as you can in a specified time, and so on. Lots of fun! You should continue with variations of this method, maybe taking them out in the forest, until everybody feels confident they can use the compass safely and accurately, This may take some time. In a proper orienteering course, compass usage is of course only a small part of it. Consequently, you may use the two first exercises (this one and the next), for the compass part of the course for a full year, but with variations of course.

Let’s move to the bush. Compass usage is most important when you haven’t got any other features to guide you, such as paths, streams etc. So to get proper training, the kids have to go where they don’t follow paths and such. This makes things more difficult, of course, and it is easier to get lost. Which means we are talking about the feared “feeling of being lost”. Therefore, it is essential, assuming the kids have not yet got all the confidence they need to be out there completely on their own, to plan the exercises with a “security net”, so that they cannot get really lost. This is achieved by ensuring there are features like roads, large paths, streams etc. that they can’t miss, if (when) they miss the control.

Map with controls and roadIt may be a good idea to put the start at a point that is visible from quite a distance, like a tower, for instance (the ‘T’ in the start symbol means tower). This time, the place you use should be covered by a real map, preferably with a large scale. Two controls are indicated as examples. Neither of the controls are visible from the start, which means the kids would need to use more techniques to get there. Before you start, you would need to instruct the kids what to do if the miss the control. If they think they cannot go right back to the start, they should just proceed until they find the road, and take one of the large paths back.

While only two controls are indicated here, there are supposed to be controls all the way around, like in the previous example. And also like in the previous example, they are supposed to run back and forth. The distance from the start should be around 100 meters, and must not be more than 200 meters.

The first times you are out this way, it may be a good idea to follow the kids around. In this case, you may not need to go back and forth, but go a course with 100-200 meters between the controls. Let the kids do the orienteering. Then you can again arrange treasure hunts, relays and such as the kids run back and forth. As the kids build up confidence, some will surely do this faster than others, they may take two controls for each time they run out, so they won’t have to run the same path back and forth.

Hopefully, during this process, the kids will build up confidence in themselves, and know what to do when they miss. Eventually, they will be able to cope with the feeling of being lost, and then they may proceed to greater challenges.

A Real Orienteering map with compass<br /><br /><br />
training courseThis is the greater challenge. This is a real orienteering map. It illustrates how one uses a black pen to make parts of the map unreadable, which forces the runner to use the compass. In general, this method is regarded too difficult for beginners, but I have made some simplifying additions to the method, so I believe it is now appropriate for second-year beginners. It is, however, important that the kids have learned to cope with the feeling of being lost, it is nothing they fear anymore, because anybody who uses this method will get lost once in a while.

As you can see, I have made a course on the map, and there are different levels of difficulty associated with each of the controls. The first control is the easiest. One crosses several roads and paths on the way to the control, and there are paths leading into the control from each side. The crossing of roads has mainly two purposes: The child can see how far he or she has got, and secondly, it helps to build confidence. It doesn’t play a very important role in finding the control, because the compass is supposed to play the main role in that. It can be used to correct the bearing if it is obviously wrong though. The control has also a “security net” – the road just after the control. If the control is missed, it provides a way to get back in, a detail that cannot easily be mistaken. The red arrow indicates such a detail.

The second control is a little more difficult. There are, contrary to the first control, few crossings. A few details are allowed to be visible though, so that the child can check his or her bearing and make sure he or she hasn’t gone very wrong. The control has still a security net, the red arrow indicates a good place to get into it again.

The third control has only the security net left, even the road that is crossed is blacked out. This is pretty difficult, and suited to teens that are getting experienced are about to move up to more difficult courses.

So is the fourth control. The kids who can run courses with this kind of controls are confident in the forest, has already been doing a lot of missing, and has analytical experience enough to find back without aid.

The fifth control is a control that may be good for experienced orienteers for this kind of training.

For all levels, the distance between controls shouldn’t be more than 200 meters, a good deal less for the kids. This map has been enlarged for instructional purpose. Also, the blackout here is somewhat transparent, this is also for instructional purpose. In a real exercise, it should be completely black where it is grey here.