Wintoree 2019

Wintoree is one of Troop 353’s annual traditions. We team up with other troops and head up to Durland Scout Reservation for cabin camping, merit badge classes, merit badge counselor meetings, and other rank advancement work.

This year’s Wintoree was a bit later in the year – and a whole lot warmer – than usual, with sunny late-March weather permitting merit badge classes to be held outdoors at the campfire ring!

Thanks to Troop 1 Bronxville and Troop 2 Bronxville for joining us this year!

Orienteering Hike at Durland Scout Reservation

On Saturday, scouts from Troop 353 participated in a 2km (1.2 mile) orienteering hike at Durland Scout Reservation. We also learned to estimate the size of objects and obstacles.

The scouts that attended were able to complete several requirements for First and Second Class ranks.

Thanks to Mr. Liverance for leading the hike!

Troop 353 Dominates District Event Honoring Gordon Hamilton, Former Troop 60 Scoutmaster


On Saturday, October 7 thirteen scouts and five adult leaders from Troop 353 participated in the Gordon Hamilton Memorial Cook-off and dedication of a lean-to in Gordon’s honor at the Durland Scout Reservation.  The day started out somewhat chilly and overcast but soon brightened.  The first order of business for the day was the dedication of a lean-to in Gordon’s honor.  As many of you know, Gordon was a longtime Scoutmaster for Troop 60 in Scarsdale and very active in scouting.  If there was a district, national or even international scouting event happening, you were likely to find Gordon there swapping stories and collecting badges.


The lean-to provides not only shelter for camping scouts during inclement weather but is also used as an administrative office during the Boy Scout Day Camp held at Durland each summer.  Troop 353 conducted the opening flag ceremony as part of the dedication which featured representatives from the Westchester-Putnam Council, BSA Area II and Troop 60.

After the dedication ceremony, it was time to head back to our campsite to prepare for the cook-off! The boys prepared an excellent meal of Alamo Chicken, grilled potatoes, cornbread, fruit salad and Pineapple Upside-Down cake (a Gordon specialty).  The tastiness of the meal was surpassed only by the presentation to the judges.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All members of Troop 353, including the adult leaders, wore white shirts and black bow ties.  Two of our scouts meet the judges in the parking area and escorted them to Chez 353 where they were greeted by a phalanx of scouts and ushered into their private dining room.  The two waiters presented the first course of fruit salad while the “sommelier” poured two flutes of the finest sparkling apple cider.  The judges then admired their meal while being serenaded by a violinist.

After asking the cooks some probing questions about the meal prep, the judges were escorted back to their car by two members of the troop.


After the presentation, the troop lined up and marched to the strains of the violin to the tasting area where the meal was presented to a different set of judges.  After all meals and desserts had been presented to and tasted by the judges, there was a brief consult and then the winners were announced.  Troop 353 won first place!

After a brief troop celebration, it was time to head back to the campsite to prepare dinner which was followed by a nighttime hike down the trail to visit Pack 353 who was also camping at Durland that weekend.  Sunday morning was a quick breakfast and pack-up in the rain.

Despite the rain, it was a fun weekend. We learned a few cooking lessons, i.e. always line the Dutch oven before attempting to bake a cake and potatoes take a long time to cook. We intend to successfully defend our title next year and hope to have all of you join us.




The Brotherhood of Scouting

There is no better example of the Brotherhood of Scouting than witnessing two active scout troops in two different Councils work together to create a tremendously successful event.  That is exactly what happened (again) at this year’s Wintoree Merit Badge Seminar, where Troop 240 Riverdale, in conjunction with Troop 353 Eastchester, created a challenging but effective and intense learning environment during a winter weekend at Durland Scout Reservation in early March!  Ten of our scouts completed 16 merit badges (including 9 Eagle Required) and numerous partially completed merit badges.  Other scouts made significant progress toward completing lower rank advancement.  A shared feast, skits and crackerbarrel capped another near perfect day of fellowship with our good friends at T-240.  Check out the photos here!

Backpacking at Its Best!

Although Camp Durland is our Council’s short-term camping property, and even though we camp there at least twice a year, it seems like there is constantly new ground (literally!) to be discovered!  If it is November, then it must mean it is time to go backpacking!  This year, we decided to start and end from our campsite inside Durland instead of starting north of Durland inside Fahnestock State Park and then having a few adults shuffle all cars down to Durland.  With a varied group participating, the Green Bar correctly decided to create a shorter and a longer trail, though the group would be together for a good portion of the trail, prior to splitting up!  The weather and the guests and the scouts all held up great!  The scouts appreciated discovering the remnants of old Denytown from the mid-1800s and likewise enjoyed finding new rock formations to explore.  The surrounding seemed so interesting that many forgot about their backpacks.  Some of the older scouts learned how to prepare a quick lunch using a backpacking stove while on the trail, while younger Scouts learned about building a fire and worked further on Totin’ Chip after the hike.  All in all, there was something for everyone and, these pictures show, everyone had a great time once again!

Backpacking the AT into Durland — Always Memorable!

Every year the troop plans a mini-trek for backpacking in order to give the younger scouts a taste for self-sufficiency.  The Scouts typically start in Clarence Fahnestock State Park and backpack a portion of the Appalachian Trail (AT) into Durland Scout camp.  First year scouts, and even guests, are instructed to wear day packs only as some have not experienced much hiking, especially around the hills of Durland Scout camp!  Scouts must prep for backpacking and target total pack weight of only one-third of their body weight and ensure they have comfortable fitting hiking boots (not sneakers!).  Sometimes the troop splits into two groups, with the younger scouts taking a path less than 5 miles.  Too, they get ample practice with map and compass on the trail.

There is a rich history in the area with several abandoned mines from the mid-1800s.  Iron ore was mined in those days and shipped westward to nearby Cold Springs to the foundry there.  There are even remnants of an old town deep in the woods.  If the history is not enticing enough, the natural beauty of a hike during fall foliage is!  Temps can drop into the teens on Saturday night, so the outing is also a good primer for Winter Camping skills.  Many often stay warm after dinner by performing acrobatic skits to everyone’s appreciation.  Prior to departing for home, however, scouts often engage in a traditional game of “acorn wars”.  There is a degree of comfort in camping at Durland each year, akin to donning an old pair of sneakers, as these pictures clearly show!!

Fall Court of Honor & Annual Troop Awards

The fall Court of Honor in our troop is always the biggest and best as a pot luck dinner is a part of the festive night!  This year was no different, as more than 75 people were present and a record number of advancement awards were handed out following summer camp at Read Reservation: + 80 merit badges for 12 scouts & 12 scouts advancing in rank.  Also, special congratulations to Michael P–winner of the 2009–2010 Scout of the Year.  There was a two-way tie fo the Annual Good Turn Service Award between William B & Michael I, as these scouts accumulated more than 100 hours of community service across a wide range of community service opportunities.  Special BSA Emergency Preparation and Mile Swim Awards were also handed out to Willaim B, Chris L & Michael P.  Here are a few pictures from this memorable night!

Wintoree 2010 – More Memorable Than Anyone Knew At The Time

My parents always told me that “you could never have enough friends.”  Well, I am grateful for the many friendships I have developed in Scouting and one of the most special is that of the many wonderful adult leaders at Troop 240 Riverdale, especially former Scoutmaster Joe Acquafredda.  Because of the strong ties between our two units, our troop continues to be invited to T-240’s annual Wintoree merit badge seminar at Camp Durland.  In 2010, the two troops made an extra effort to celebrate the brotherhood of scouting and reflected on the Centennial celebration with a recounting of the history of merit badges and a display of scouting paraphernalia from the 1960s.   In addition, Scoutmaster Joe Acquafredda led yet another impressive Wood Badge beading ceremony for one of his several adult leaders on Saturday night.
As everyone knows, Scoutmaster Joe passed away suddenly this past April from cancer.   His legacy, which is something that is talked about a lot in Scoutmaster training, is enormous!    He positively impacted hundreds of scouts and scout leaders during his many years in Scouting including the last 12 as Scoutmaster!  He helped our troop immeasurably with his constant offering of encouragement and creative ideas.  Joe’s unbridled Scouting spirit was simply big enough for everyone.  And I am so grateful that our troop got to be exposed to this rare breed of leader!   He, and his wonderful wife Edna, have been true friends.
Watching the scouts of the two troops inter-mingle during the weekend was particularly gratifying.   It was a Norman Rockwell scene of all that is good in Scouting.  As I told the combined group of +50 scouts on that picturesque Saturday morning:  “you will have many circles of friends throughout life.  Not all of these circles will intersect.  That is ok.  One thing is quite certain, however, your circle of Scouting friends will likely end up being true friends, ones that truly care for you and will do so for all of your life.” 

More reflections & a Memorial on former Scoutmaster Joe Acquafredda can be found at the Troop 240 Riverdale website

Oh yes, our troop completed over a dozen merit badges and another dozen merit badges were partially completed that weekend.  For pictures of this memorable friendship weekend, please click here.

Fall Camping

Though the troop often has very specific plans for each campout, some outings are more “scheduled” than others! Unlike prior November outings where the troop backpacked in to Camp Durland’s “North End” through Fahnstock State Park, this particular outing to our local council’s short term camping facility was one such outing that had a bit more time to relax. The weather was near ideal for that time of year too. The main event of the day was the ever-popular “Man Hunt” around our immediate and adjoining campsites. That night more festivities were enjoyed by a visiting troop from NJ, where scouts learned new skits, stories and overall scouting spirit from the visiting Scoutmaster. And basic cooking and camping skills were honed, including first aid for errantly thrown stick. Ouch! Here are some photos from this outing click here.

Winter Backpacking Along the Appalachian Trail

Green Trail to Camp Durland

November can be a tricky month to plan an outing. The two weekends around Thanksgiving are likely “forbidden”; hunting season begins in our neck of the woods and the temperature fluctuation can be substantial. Following last year’s successful hike through Fahnestock State Park along the Appalachian Trail (AT) to the highly-sought site #40 at Durland Scout Reservation, our scouts wanted to repeat the mini-trek, but take a different trail into scout camp. This year, the hike plan called for a slightly shorter journey, departing the AT after only a mile or so. Instead of heading Southeast at the trail head to Hidden Lake and the Old Mine Railroad path, our scouts headed Southwest and followed the White Trail up across the top of Bushy Ridge (about 1200 feet above sea level) where one could witness beautiful, sweeping vistas both to the East and to the West. As the White Trail descends a few hundred feet and intersects the Blue Trail, we came across the clearly visible foundations and stone walls of the historic mining town of Odletown. A short distance later and the troop had arrived mid-afternoon at our destination: site #37 at Durland Scout Reservation.

The weather outlook for that weekend was for clear skies–unlike the prior weekend (our originally scheduled camping date) which witnessed a torrential downpour all day and night. The only weather element to battle was the chilly fall air. Instead of a typical range of 30–45 degrees, we had 15–25 degrees, with 10 mph winds and gusts up to 30 mph! It was more than just “crisp”–it was really cold!! The boys were prepared and had lots of winter clothing and extra blankets and sleeping bags to keep them warm. Besides, the scouts were so busy running around trying to build bigger & bigger fires that very few suggested they were cold. There were a few scouts and scouters that opted to depart for a warmer environment after a tasty dinner and entertainment around the bonfire in the Old Goat Patrol’s campsite. After a crystal clear night, perfect for star gazing, the boys awoke to their frozen world–literally. It was so cold, that food items left in food boxes outdoors had frozen solid as had dishwashing tubs from the night before. Likewise, the propane stoves did not all function properly. So scouts learned a valuable lesson about winter camping: keep ample firewood about as cooking and cleaning definitely take longer. Perhaps bringing prepared meals that only need warming would have been the best solution of all! Following a brief Interfaith Prayer service and prior to departing Sunday morning, a crew of hearty campers eagerly embraced the opportunity to complete one hour of service project work near the Campmaster’s cabin, entitling the scouts to earn the special “Outdoorsman” patch. For look at some truly memorable photos, click here.

T-353 Scouts Score Big Advancement at T-240’s Annual Wintoree

Winteree cooking

This past spring, Troop 353 scouts participated broadly in the multiple advancement opportunities as invited guests to Riverdale Troop 240’s annual Wintoree merit badge seminar. Riverdale Troop 240 is one of the larger troops in the Greater New York Council and, in many respects, is regarded as a model troop, notably through the number of dedicated and committed BSA-trained leaders. The large, well-planned event was held at Camp Durland at the end of March. Troop 353 was fortunate to be invited to such a special advancement opportunity. Years of relationship building between the two troop’s senior adult leaders allowed this rare opportunity to become reality.

With ample preparation, T-353 scouts completed over 40 merit badges, with several being Eagle-required. A few T-353 leaders also participated in instructing merit badge classes. In addition, troop 353 received an added benefit of witnessing a rare Wood Badge beading ceremony for two of T-240s adult leaders Mary Ellen Willen and Dino Forzano, following 18 months of “working their ticket” (achieving 5 strategic goals related to the betterment of the troop). Importantly, T-353 scouts and adult leaders were introduced to the notion that all registered adult leaders can and should pusue their own special training and advancement through the Wood Badge leadership program. It’s common knowledge that more trained adults equates to a stronger troop program for Scouts & T-240 was a living example of this old adage.

Saturday night also witnessed a fun, but chilly, joint campfire and bountiful Cracker Barrel (sponsored generously by T-240). Finally, another “gift” from T-240 was the receipt of an Interfaith Services Prayer Book, utilized in a 15-minute Sunday morning service (a Scout is Reverent). Troop 353 is extremely grateful for being invited to such a well-managed event and being able to witness such terrific Youth Leaders in action, like T-240’s SPL Kevin B. The enduring benefits to T-353 from participating in the Wintoree far exceed the +40 merit badges that our scouts received. A heartfelt thank you to T-240’s dynamic Scoutmaster Joe Acquafredda and his wife, T-240 Committee Member & Event Coordinator, Edna for being such generous hosts. Great photos from this special and memorable weekend can be found here.

Backpacking Along the Appalachian Trail

Ready to Trek along the AT!

In mid-November, Troop 353, led by former SM Don W., embarked on an ambitious mini-trek: backpacking five miles through Clarence Fahnestock State Park along the Appalachian Trail into the beautiful site No. 40 at the recently renamed Durland Scout Reservation (formerly Clear Lake Scout Reservation).  In addition to this event being the first time for many scouts to carry a full backpack, it was also one of the coldest tent camping events ever for most participants, including most adults.  Temperatures dropped down into the upper 20s, and with the wind blowing in from the lake, it was even colder.  Still, there were no shortage of eager scouts willing to go out and explore the beautiful foliage while hiking and camping during the midst of clearly frigid conditions.  As the scoutmaster often says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”

Though light rain and snow immediately preceded the weekend, the skies cleared on Saturday morning allowing the strong sunshine to accentuate the stunning Autumn colors of the leaves.  The scenery along the Appalachian Trail was surprisingly beautiful, which made it easier to forget about the heavy pack on your back.  There were several people out with their dogs on the trail, enjoying the crisp air.  After a much-needed lunch break, and a brief history overview of the region’s attempt at mining iron ore in the 1800s, the scouts began to slow during the last mile into Durland Scout Reservation.  Fortunately, a handful of industrious fathers had transported the voluminous camping gear (by car) up to the backpacking site.  Needless to say, everyone learned a few lessons about packing lighter and about staying warm.  Scouts also learned that cold weather can impact how much propane is used while cooking, the importance of following their patrol duty rosters, that dehydrated food is not so bad and that washing dishes in hot water, no matter how dirty the wash bin, is another way to keep warm!  For a look at the scouts in action during this beautiful weekend, click here.