Adiron Park map

The Adirondack Park in upstate New York is a major recreational destination year-round.  It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this area.  Wikipedia defines it as follows:

“The Adirondack Park is a publicly protected, elliptical area encompassing much of the northeastern lobe of Upstate New York, United States. It is the largest park and the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States, and the largest National Historic Landmark…The park covers some 6.1 million acres, a land area roughly the size of Vermont and greater than the National Parks of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier, and Great Smoky Mountains combined.…”

Our Council is fortunate to have a camp in the heart of the Adirondack Park and Summit Base near Brant Lake, NY is viewed as the outdoor gateway to the park for scouts from all over the country.  After several years of high adventure treks at BSA National camps (Sea Base & Philmont), other Councils (outer banks of NC & Colorado) & other countries (Bahama Sail School), our troop opted for an adventure closer to home.  Suffice it to say that the combo backpack & paddling adventure was every bit as challenging within a stunningly beautiful setting and at a very affordable cost as any trek pursued in prior years!  The following enjoyable description of the trip has been largely reproduced by the scouts that took the Adirondack challenge:  Andy M., Jason C., Jeffrey F., & Justin W.:

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In the summer of 2014 four of our senior scouts and two adult leaders courageously ventured up north to Summit Base to begin a week long high adventure trek encompassing approximately 45 miles of backpacking and canoeing in & around Adirondack Park.

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In preparation for this challenging week the scouts first had to help raise the funds to make the trip affordable for them all.  During the Troop’s annual car wash at Chester Heights Fire House, the four scouts led the troop in having a very successful fundraiser, raising over $2500 for the troop and for the high adventure trip.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   In addition to funding the trip, the scouts prepared by going on a weekend long backpack trip in Harriman State Park where they were given a glimpse of what the trip would really be like–hard work!  The scouts would be exposed to backpacking and camping overnight away from the comfort of their cars like most weekend troop campouts are–we really were a bit nervous and not totally sure what we would face, but we were up for the challenge!  Fortunately, a watering hole deep in the park provided needed refuge in the +90 degree weather in early July.

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Although preparation for this high adventure trip was not as tedious as most previous trips, all arrangements were finalized and the scouts were eager to start their first high adventure trip.

Day 1: Upon arriving to Camp Reed, everyone was greeted by the friendly Summit Base staff and we were introduced to our Guide for the week: Kelly, who would accompany and lead all the scouts throughout the entire endeavor.  To ensure that everyone would be capable of swimming in case of any emergency that could occur on the canoe portion of the trip, the scouts and adults were required to perform the standard BSA swim test.  Slowly but surely, everyone completed the test.

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Next, our group underwent a comprehensive gear shakedown to ensure we had the proper gear for the grueling trip.  Although unpacking and packing all the gear was quite boring and endless, all scouts were prepared and were ready to take on the challenges of the next day.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After dinner at the Camp Buckskin Dining Hall it was getting late & all scouts returned back to our campsite in the more remote environs of Summit Base for the night.  Regardless of the structured and civilized campsite, little did the scouts know that they had had their sole encounter with wild animals for the week with little varmints successfully nibbling through plastic bags to eat the snacks needed for the remainder of the week and even chomping on a few exposed fingers in the middle of the night!  Ouch!  Despite the unexpected and unwelcomed visitors at 3am, our crew fell fast asleep (again!), eager to take off the next morning on a new adventure in the historic Adirondack Park!

Next:  Day 2, Backpacking the Historic Northville-Placid Trail

 

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Our scouting year coincides with the school year, so we always plan a blow-out canoe trip bash at the end of June.  This end-of-year paddling extravaganza is extremely popular with our troop as guests and family are invited and alumni scouts often come out for the day.  It is not uncommon for us to have over 30 canoes and kayaks spread out along the Delaware River–it looks something like a Spanish Armada…except with water fights!  Getting everyone (including the many adults) paddle-ready, means lots of prep work:  BSA Swim test, Safety Afloat, Safe Swim Defense, review required equipment and parts of canoe and various strokes, and an actual paddle practice at a nearby lake.

Paddling down the Delaware River gap is indeed a national treasure.  The area is full of wildlife.  In addition to fish, we have seen deer, black bears and numerous eagles & hawks!  One year, several of us paddled through a massive 20 minute down pour–which was nothing short of exhilarating (except for the pesky flies afterwards).   There are plenty of places along the way to stop and enjoy lunch or a swim and it is not uncommon for scouts to spend more time out of the canoes than IN the canoes.  Typically, the other big challenge is ensuring the scouts drink enough water to stay hydrated under the summer sun.

At the end of the day, our caravan motors over to a nearby campsite at Ten Mile River scout camp where the scent of bug spray replaces the smell of sunscreen!  It is our tradition to have a yearend “spoof” awards at our post-dinner bonfire, recalling some of the funnier moments of many individuals during the prior 12  months.  The Annual Frank McCluskey Friendship Outing is destined to be a favorite for years to come!  Pictures say a 1000 words about how much fund this trip really is to everyone! Here are great pictures from 2011 and 2012!

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It is not every day that a child with disabilities gets to have a social outing at a local swimming pool. It is also not every day that a scout gets to “earn” community service hours for playing in a water park, but both are exactly what occurred in August 2013.  Scouts from Troop 5 Bronxville and Troop 353 Eastchester participated in helping children with special needs enjoy a few hours of FUN at the local water park, Tibbetts Brook Park.  The event was sponsored by the Tommie Cares Foundation (TCF), which focuses on selected sports (selected water & snow sports) for children with special needs.  The TCF was started in 2013 by the founder of the Tommie Copper organization, a line of copper-infused compression sports clothing.  The event was exceptionally well-organized and the pre-event training for volunteers on how to understand and play with children with special needs safely and comfortably was exceptionally practical and thorough.  Even though passing thunderstorms delayed the start of the event for an hour, there was no shortage of FUN activities inside waiting for the rain to pass.  After an hour or so in the pool, a special awards ceremony recognized every child!  It was a particularly happy moment for many children and families.  Not only did the scouts have a very gratifying time, but the special needs children had the memory of a lifetime!  Here are some more great photos here!

 

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On May 12th, 2014, Westchester-Putnam Council, BSA had their annual recognition dinner with the primary billing being the Court of Honor for the award of Silver Beaver for adult volunteers that have made exceptional council-wide contributions over time.  The Silver Beaver award is the highest honor an adult volunteer can receive in a local Council.  The Court of Honor MC was the incoming Council President, John G. Callahan.  John is also the founding Scoutmaster of Troop 353 back on May 1, 1992.  It was a very special evening for both the Callahan family as well as Troop 353 as seen in the photo above, as most of the troop’s prior and current Scoutmasters were present as well as a few Eagle scouts that started as Cub Scouts with Mr. Callahan!  Congratulations to John Callahan and all his family!

From left to right:  David Kindberg (Eagle Scout, Cubmaster Tuckahoe Pack 7), Mike Occhicone (Scoutmaster 2011–2013), Tom McCandless (Eagle Scout, Scoutmaster 2006–2010), Dave Flannery (present Scoutmaster), Mrs. Lynn Callahan (current Pack 7 & Troop 353 Chartered Org Representative), John Callahan (Troop 353 founding Scoutmaster, Silver Beaver 1999), Richard Schraudner (Scoutmaster 1998-2002, Silver Beaver 2006), Matt Keller (Eagle Scout 1999), Don Wauchope (Scoutmaster 2002–2005), John Clark (Eagle Scout 1999, Scoutmaster 2005), Andrew Callahan (first Eagle Scout of Troop 353, 1997).

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Here in Southern Westchester County, we are blessed to live in such close proximity, from beach camping in Montauk to ice climbing in the Catskills.  And with the harsh winter we have had this year, combined with specific requests from our senior scouts, the time was right to revisit ice climbing after a two year layoff.  Indeed, it was two years ago exactly that the troop hired the highly regarded outfitter Alpine Endeavors out of New Paltz.   Their guides have some of the best climbing credentials and many are also EMTs.  Suffice it to say that not only are their guides well-qualified but they are terrific when working with youth and adults!

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Ice climbing has some similarities to rock climbing (you are belayed), but in many people’s view, ice climbing is technically more challenging and gratifying and FUN!  And FUN is exactly why our crew of 5 adventurous senior scouts and (two intrepid dads) braved the single digit temps that day just outside of Phoenicia, 50 miles northwest of New Paltz.  A few of the scouts had been ice climbing previously and felt at ease “on the pitch”.  The first-time climbers had to learn the correct techniques, including a firm planting of the toe spikes of the crampons as well as where & how to plant their hand axes.  And of course everyone had to be happy being up to 40–50 feet above the ground with only your toe spikes holding you!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  As their skills increased throughout the day, our guides Alan and Ron challenged the boys to try climbing with only one hand axe and many succeeded!  A few even tried climbing without any hand axe or gloves! Ouch!  We stayed warm by taking turns belaying or playing the role of backup belay and keeping the rope out any water and freezing.  Hot chocolate also helped!

By the end of the day, everyone had exhausted their energies but enjoyed a newfound sense of pride and satisfaction at mastering one of the neatest winter sports of all:  Ice Climbing!  For some cool pics, click here!

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It may not feel like it now with all the snow, but before the troop will be planning its annual spring time camping schedule.  For the past several years, our troop has adopted a Good Turn Weekend outing which includes camping on the beautiful grounds of the Graymoor Monastery in Garrison, NY.  The “Good Turn” element typically involves a “spring cleaning” of the prominent 9-11 prayer garden and surrounding area.  For most scouts, and especially the adults, the 6 hours of yard work is therapeutic, as there is a strong appreciation of the thousands of visitors that frequent this sacred ground throughout the year.   Our liason Brother Ted Novack is always careful in his choice of additional special projects and patient in his all-knowing horticultural guidance to the scouts.

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To get the best appreciation of the importance of the troop’s work maintaining the sacred 9-11 prayer garden, please check out these videos of the reverent & respectful services from 2011 & 2013 ==>  9-11 Services video clips.

Although the scouts claim to be “exhausted” and too tired to work any longer by 4:00pm, they miraculously “rally and play either kick ball or softball for at least an hour prior to dinner prep, which often includes a dutch oven treat prepared by one of the adult leaders using the special food ingredient for the next day.

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After a few years, a special feature was added to the outing:  the Iron Chef cookoff on Sunday morning (after Mass) with Brother Ted the tasting judge.  The winning patrol carries the coveted Golden Spatula award for the next twelve months.  The troop’s PLC chooses a special ingredient to be included in the popular cookoff event, such as apple, lime, chocolate, pineapple, etc.

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 The scout’s breakfast concoctions often are original creations–which is often a good news/ bad news development.  “Good” in that it spurs their creativity and there is planning involved, “bad” in that the end result is not always aesthetically pleasing to Brother Ted!  Rule #1 is that it must be edible and something the scouts will eat–not a bad rule to follow under any condition!

Pictures from  2012 are found here!

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Pictures from 2013 are seen here!

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The current generation of scouts has a difficult time fully appreciating the tense & tumultuous period of the 1960s in our country.  As each year passes, the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. become more and more awe-inspiring.  The fight for equal treatment of all human beings against a culture of segregation that was brutally enforced at times is an unbelievable endeavor that demands everyone’s utmost respect.  So it is with tremendous appreciation that our troop serves to perform the opening flag ceremony at the annual appreciation breakfast for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sponsored by the Eastchester Community Action Program.  The breakfast is attended by a wide variety of public service-oriented groups, including many politicians, to honor the legendary Dr. King.  And Troop 353 scouts proudly post the colors! More photos here!

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