Scouts Endure Harsh Winter Conditions & Learn Firsthand About “Being Prepared”

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In late October, Troop 353 had the privilege of camping at the beautiful campsite North South Lake. Located in the Catskills, North South Lake is full of beautiful scenery of the mountains and water—but we would not appreciate this until Sunday morning. The troop first arrived at the park early Saturday morning, after a two hour car ride. Eager to set up and go on the hike, the boys began to setup camp under increasingly harsh weather conditions.  As the scouts were constructing their tents, it started to rain and the wind coming off the lake was accelerating. This rain eventually turned into fast falling, ie blowing, snow. Temperatures started to decrease further as the boys scrambled to finish setting up in +20 mph winds while trying to stay dry and warm.  It was definitely much colder than when we left the Tuckahoe Community Center.

After a quick lunch, we drove to the nearby trailhead. We were shocked by the extreme snow storm that was occurring just outside of our warm cars.  The wind was accelerating through a funnel-like formation and blowing as much as 30—40 mph.  Reluctant to get out of the sheltered cars, the boys eventually built up the courage to huddle together and start the hike through the somewhat snowy mountains.

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To the troop’s surprise, the wind and snow wasn’t as bad in the mountains. This was mainly due to the trees providing a nice protection from the elements. The boys stopped at various points in the steep mountains to admire the scenery, but it was near white-out conditions and we had no idea how scenic the viewing points were!   Although barely visible, the mountains and lake looked like something out of a movie–something that could only be experienced in real life.  It was brutally windy and cold.

After the hike, the boys came back to the camp to start Troop 353’s annual golden spatula cook-off contest.  Fire building was the #1 priority at that time as we were wet and very cold!  As tradition, there is a secret ingredient that the scouts don’t know about until they cook. This year’s ingredient was the tomatillo plant, a Mexican plant similar to a tomato. Three patrols took part in this event:  Dragon Ninjas / Wolverine Patrol, Phoenix Patrol, and the combined Sasquatch / Eagle Patrol

There were two parts to the cookout, dinner and dessert. The scouts competed with beautiful dishes such as a fancy macaroni & cheese and a steak plate with fried vegetables and the winning patrol (Sasquatch/ Eagle) topped it all off with a dutch oven cobbler!

After the cookout contest, the boys got ready for the long, cold night that they were about to face. The wind continued to howl and temperatures reached all time lows as the scouts tried to keep warm in their tents. Eventually they made it out alive in the morning. The morning showed hope for the boys as the sun came up and the sky was clear.  We could see snow on the mountain tops behind the park.  Temps were rising, though still freezing, and the wind was beginning to slow.

After cleaning up & packing up, we drove to the next drop off to take another hike along the famous Escarpment Trail. This hike was much more memorable for the scouts as it was warmer than the last one, and the views across the Hudson Valley were absolutely spectacular! Climbing up rugged rocks and terrain, the troop finally made it to one of the more scenic overlooks:  Artist Rock.  The sight was like none other!  Scouts looked speechless at the wonderful sight in front of them. We were at the top of the world looking down at God’s gift. The autumn colored trees topped it off.

In the end, this trip was definitely one of the troop’s best and we learned a lot about “being prepared”.  Scouts had a blast hiking the mountains in the snow and then viewing the spectacular world from on high. This is a memory the boys will definitely not forget!  We strongly encourage you to check out more incredible video clips and photos on this trip, by “clicking here”.

2016 Troop 353 Adirondacks High Adventure Trek

353Troop 353’s High Adventure Trek took place in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. The week-long trip started and ended at Summit Base Camp, located within the Camp Read Scout Reservation in Brant Lake, N.Y.  The High Adventure 5 Day Trek included a 2 ½ Day Backpacking and Hiking Trek and a 2 ½ Day Canoeing Trek in the Adirondack mountains covering over 44 miles.

What: High Adventure Trek out of Summit Base at Camp Read, Brant Lake, N.Y.

Where: High Peaks Backpacking (Mount Marcy) / Long Lake to Raquette River

When: Sunday, July 3rd – Saturday, July 10th

Who: Marcus, William DeKnatel (Adult), David, James, Gabriel, Alex, and Brian

Highlights:

  • Backpacking with a full backpacks weighing between 35-55 lbs.
  • Hiking straight up Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain on a water runoff trail to an elevation of over 4,200 ft.
  • Spending a day jumping and swimming in freezing water at Bushnell Falls followed by water bottle races and merit badge classes
  • Learning how to paddle your canoe straight during the first nine miles on Long Lake
  • Learning how to capsize your canoe and get back into it
  • “Portaging” or carrying your 45 lbs. canoe on your head along with your full backpack for over a mile to the next river entry point
  • Dealing with direct sun, high humidity, gnats, flies, mosquitos, and dragon flies during the 16-mile trek along Raquette River
  • 5 Days of drinking only from a lake, river or waterfall, and eating rehydrated food in foil packs
  • Zip lining into a pond performing many high wire acts and wipe outs
  • Getting car sick and slaphappy trying to find a place to have dinner near Summit Base
  • Sleeping in Hammocks
  • The crew earned Canoeing merit badge and earned partials for Backpacking and Hiking

Community Service — 23rd Annual Holiday Food Drive Benefits ECAP

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Our troop’s signature community service event is our annual food drive to benefit the local Eastchester Community Action Program (ECAP), which serves Bronxville, Tuckahoe & Eastchester.  In our largely middle class area, it is surprising how many families need food.  ECAP director Don Brown expressed how his initial disbelief about serving the community turned into a deeper appreciation after only one season, as over 200 families are typically served during the holiday season, and some families benefit from multiple meals in one day.

As Troop 353 has grown in size over the past few years, so have our scout’s combined food contribution efforts.  Each scout is tasked with placing 12 empty grocery bags (750 were donated by Trader Joe’s) in their neighborhood with a request to contribute non-perishable items to this worthy cause.  As the volume of food bags contributed continued to escalate over the years, so did the demand for an organized space to sort and store the food.  The solution arose in the form of an outstanding Eagle Project by Jason Chin, whereby he contributed several wire shelves on rollers as well as built shelves in the upstairs after-school/ recreational room.  (For more info about Jason’s project, check it out his written summary on the Eagles Nest page.)

Another indication of how big and popular this single night of massive food organization has become is the clearly growing number of non-registered adults that also eagerly volunteer.

Unquestionably, these nights are some of our troop’s proudest moments!  A very special thanks to one Mr. Michael William, the event’s founder and ever-passionate supporter!  Giving back to the community — a Scout is indeed Helpful!

Community Service — Tommie Cares Foundation — Always a FUN event!!

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During the past few years the local athletic clothing vendor of Tommie Copper has created a few seasonal events to benefit special needs kids.  Some events are on snow, others on horseback, but the summer events are probably among the most popular!  The Tommie Copper Foundation organizes these events with ample youth volunteers, including many local boy scouts, for each participant (at a 4:1 ratio) and with great preparation for the volunteers.  Volunteers also earn a few hours of community service and get a free t-shirt as well.  It is truly a FUN event for the volunteers AND the participating kids as these 2014 photos attest!

Day 6: One Last (unexpected) Adventure

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As we all awoke on our last day, we were all eager to go home.  The night before we figured out that we needed to get on the water earlier than normal, so that we could hit our destination between 10am & 11am.  It was still cloudy and cool and early in the morning getting in the water was not “fun”.  The only other living mammals up at that hour were the loons!  Now we know where the phrase “crazy as a loon” came from.

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After studying our lake map the night before, we fully expected a short paddle to our pick-up point.  The paddling route seemed very straightforward, we had a short, easy route along the “right” edge of the lake to a river that would lead us up to Saranac Village–our final destination.  Or, so we thought…

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As we slowly made our way towards our desired location, we kept heading into coves instead of the targeted river.  We cut across what appeared to be cove inlets on the belief that the river entrance was “around the corner”.

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A couple of interesting houses diverted our growing weariness as the morning wind began to pick up.  We made our way through the lake, passing by many islands.

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After several stops, it was clear that we were unsure as to where we were and where we were supposed to go.  It was a bit shocking that our confident guide Kelly, whom claimed this lake area as his “home”, was so lost on the water.  After over an hour of paddling, we suddenly realized that we had traveled in a giant circle and were near the canal, where we had entered the lake the afternoon before!   We ended up paddling back and forth for about two hours before figuring out where to go.

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Finally, to get back on track, the adult leaders asked a motor boat driver for direction, while cross-checking their paddling maps & GPS.  The solution?  Follow the easily marked boat lanes…back across the lake…ugghh!      OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The whole morning, the clouds were threatening and as we got across the lake into the beginning of the river channel, we were forced to stop at somebody’s lake garage due to some thunder that was heard.  So, we all took a break, grabbed a snack, and played some more cards.

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After a 45 minute wait, we were cleared to start canoeing again, so we all made the final push to arrive at our pick-up point.   The next portion of paddling seemed to take forever, as we all saw civilization, but could not stop until we arrived at the exact pickup location.  We passed many houses and camps.

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Finally, we reached the pick-up point and though we were over an hour late, we didn’t care, as we could finally stop paddling and this concluded the trip!

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Before we made our way back to Summit Base, we stopped for a quick lunch.  During the long car ride many of us were able to enjoy a well-earned nap. Upon arriving at Summit Base, we were welcomed with a nice lunch & took hot showers before we headed out on our 4-hour drive back home.

In conclusion, the entire experience of this High Adventure Trip was extremely rewarding because of the mileage we were able to accomplish.  Even though we did not travel enough to earn the 50-Miler Award, it still gave us an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.  Not only had we traveled a vast distance in such a short period of time, we had also learned so much more and experienced what “real” camping was like.  Despite the many challenges, it was an awesome and extremely memorable trip for us all!

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