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!

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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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Day 5: Canoeing the Lower Locks on the way to Kiwassa Lake

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The next morning all of our gear was packed away and put into the canoes as fast as possible, so that we could have an early departure.  We all knew that today would be a day of extensive paddling, as we wanted to cover about 10 miles before reaching our next and last night on the trail.   Tonight we were heading for a private island in the middle of Kiwassa Lake!  Our actual destination appeared to be a short two hour paddle away, so to accumulate some more miles, we headed in the opposite direction toward Lower Saranac Lake.

For what seemed like several hours, we paddled, passing by many small islands.  The wind had picked up considerably so we needed to stay close to shore.  Our bearing was southwest, but we were paddling into a stiff breeze and we felt like we were getting nowhere fast!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After an exhausting morning, we stopped on the far shore at campsite that had a rock peninsula for a quick lunch and a few pictures. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch, we turned around and headed back to our original riverside campsite, then continued down the river into some of the most remote wilderness of all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Trees were growing out of rocks in the middle of the water and there were many fascinating natural sights.  While we were expecting to see some 4 legged wildlife in this pristine wilderness, the only wildlife viewed were a wide variety of birds.  The peaceful serenity of our picturesque setting distracted us from noticing our aching and sore muscles from paddling.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Suddenly, we came upon an extremely rare sight: a canal.  Due to the presence of different water levels between two lakes, we were required to enter a canal and to be lowered down about 10 feet,  so that we could continue on our paddling journey.  The “lower locks” were extremely fascinating, as this was the first time that any of us had experienced this.

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After what seemed like endless paddling, through connecting channels and across small lakes, we eventually arrived at our desired location!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our last night on the trail was on a very small, semi-private island in the middle of Kiwassa Lake, which was actually pretty cool, as we would be able to claim it as “ours” for that night!  Since we arrived in the middle of the afternoon, it gave us plenty of time to set up camp, explore the island and relax.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On this final night, the scouts were to prepare everything on their own― without the help of any of the adults, including Kelly.  The scouts were expected to build and maintain the fire, cook dinner, clean up, and hang the bear bag.  Let’s just say that given all the practice we had had during the week, all of these tasks were handled very well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the fire, a few “infamous” skits, commonly performed by Troop 353, were presented.  Afterwards, the traditional “Rose, Bud, Thorn” ceremony was conducted, as we all exchanged ideas of what we thought was the best and worst parts of the trip, along with what we look forward to doing.

Meaningful words were later spoken by the adult Scoutmasters and Kelly, as they explained about everything this trip should mean to the scouts and how it should be remembered for being such an amazing experience.  From this, the scouts had embraced the fact that they had all accomplished a lot and learned a whole lot of new things, perhaps more than they thought was possible originally.

As the fire died down, everyone was very satisfied (and very tired) & we made our way to the tents, where we bedded down in the chilly Adirondack air to spent the final night on this amazing trip and easily fell fast asleep listening to wind whistling through the pines.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Day 4: Dealing with the Adirondack Weather — A Few Lessons Learned

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While we largely dodged the threatening rain on Tuesday, on Wednesday morning everybody woke up to the sound of rain hitting their tents.  On this cold and wet morning, it was quickly decided to pack as quickly as possible so that we could begin hiking as soon as possible.  So the first lesson of the day was how to deal with taking down a campsite in the rain–not something our troop has had the pleasure of experiencing much over the years.  We did not appreciate the many challenges brought by the rain, as it soaked our gear and posed unexpected difficulties with packing away the tents, including adding extra weight to our packs.

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OMG, Was that lightening?

It was raining fairly hard by 7am and we were so dis-oriented by packing away in the rain that one our colleagues mistook a camera flash for lightning.  This added a much needed moment of levity in an otherwise pretty uncomfortable environment.  A scout is cheerful–even under extreme conditions!

Miserable and wet, we all had a quick breakfast and headed back up the slippery +1 mile trail to the road to our pick-up point, where a truck and a trailer full of canoes was OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwaiting to drive us +40 miles northwest to start the canoeing portion of our trip on Lower Saranac Lake.

Before departing however, we needed to replenish our food supplies, shed our hiking gear & get ready for the paddling portion of our trek, so we re-organized at a local beach in Long Lake Village under a gazebo.   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Just prior, we made a stop at a classic Adirondack camping good store, Hoss’s and Stuart’s (convenience store) where we were able to buy a warm, morale-boosting breakfast sandwich.

Our original input point was Middle Saranac Lake and we were to paddle up the connecting river through a canal to the southern end of Lower Saranac Lake & then up the 6 mile oblong-shaped lake toward First and Second Pond and eventually to our targeted lean-to on the river.   During the long car drive, in between desperate efforts for a cat nap, our guide Kelly led us to believe that we should change our itinerary to launch our canoes much closer to our targeted lean-to  campsite in order to hang up our wet gear to dry (as an updated rain forecast suggested that the rain would be letting up).  Afterwards, we could get our mileage back up by paddling around the beautiful Lower Saranac Lake, enjoying lunch on one of the many picturesque islands there.  Lesson #2.

According the New York DEC, there are over 55 state-owned campsites along the shore and on the islands.  There are literally hundreds of lakes, ponds and connecting rivers in this area of the Adirondacks, which is part of the St. Regis Canoe Area.  This region is a paddlers paradise and is often compared to the boundary waters of Northern Minnesota.  Check out the map ==> Lower Saranac Lake

After an hour+ drive, we arrived at the designated public boat launch to begin our paddling expedition.    We unloaded the canoes and our gear and then headed in a southeastern direction across Second Pond down a narrowing river to our targeted riverside campsite.   As soon as we entered the water, it started to rain (lightly) again, but we were optimistic that this would soon pass, and besides we were no longer carrying 50lb backpacks.  How bad could this be?

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After a short 30 minute paddle, we made it to our campsite about a mile from the boat launch.  There, we unloaded all of our gear and hung everything that was wet on clotheslines and the lean-to so that they could dry while we paddled around the lake.  Right after this task was completed, we got back into the canoes and paddled back past the boat launch, through First Pond and eventually out to the big lake.  Along the way, we observed lots of different birds, including some friendly cranes.

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We paddled through what seemed like a maze of small islands and the reality of how easy it would be to get lost made us grateful for our detailed paddling maps.   Lesson #3.  Eventually we got to the open water of the lake and made a decision to stay relative close to the shore to minimize the physical exertion that would be required to paddle against the waves and wind and to seek refuge should we hear any thunder from the still threatening skies.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA After about an hour we spied an ideal island at DEC campsite #22–time for lunch!  On this small island, we relaxed, explored and enjoyed a lunch served, courtesy of our multi-talented guide Kelly.  An intense discussion emerged pondering how those pesky, starving chipmunks could be present on this tiny island.  We never came to consensus on this.  After lunch, we mapped out a paddling route and decided to do more exploration.  The topography was very diverse and we saw so many interesting campsites along the way.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before we made it back to our campsite, we encountered rain yet again.  So we sought some refuge under some trees near shore.  Luckily, it did not rain extremely hard for too long, but we were definitely soaked.  At least one of our crew learned first hand why experienced outdoor enthusiasts say “cotton is rotten”.  Lesson #4.  By the time we got back to the campsite a few hours later, the rain had finally stopped.

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During our afternoon paddling expedition on the lake, Mr. Wauchope decided to stay behind to watch our gear and, unfortunately, complete some mandatory work for his job.  When we returned, we found our gear was indeed safe, but it had been impossible to bring all the gear inside the lean-to, so much of it was still hanging up…and still very wet.  Unfortunately, it was also discovered that Kelly’s backpack was left open outside of the lean-to and his bedding and all contents were soaked.  Uggh!

Tensions rose and the scouts soon learned about how to manage group dynamics when unpredictable events occur.  The wet gear was even more problematic as the campsite was picked clean of all firewood, so we could not even start a fire to dry out!

They say “Necessity is often the Mother of Invention”.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt some point the group decided to look for wood on the other side of the river, where there was ample firewood.  So an important excursion was made across the river.  Finding a landing spot was tricky and very muddy, but once ashore it was easy to find enough wood to fill our canoe.  A few wood gathering trips yielded quite the bounty!  One of our scouts took great pride in pushing over a dead tree at least 20 feet high!

Now with plenty of dry firewood, we began the process of drying out our clothes and, importantly, Kelly’s sleeping bag!  We were able to attach a tarp to the front of the leanto and used hiking poles to bring the front edge of the tarp near the fire, creating a convection oven effect inside the lean-to.  Slowly but surely, the redirected heat from the fire began to dry out all the gear!  Tensions eased.  Lesson #5.

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Later that afternoon it looked like the sky was finally clearing.  With full stomachs and water bottles, as the night pulled in, we all stood around the fire drying off our clothes and we reflected on both the rugged beauty of our surroundings and how we overcame multiple challenges due to the atrocious rain. We fell asleep to cooling temps & a symphony of nocturnal wildlife calls.  Tomorrow was going to be a brand new day!   From a Scout Leader’s perspective, many valuable lessons were learned today–this was turning out to be a great high adventure trip!

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Next:  Day 5, Canoeing the Lower Locks on the way to Kiwassa Lake

Adirondack Adventure 2014 – Part 1

 

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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

 

Annual Canoe Trip — Best Weekend of the Year!

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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!

Community Service — A Special Day for Special Kids 

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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!