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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Day 3: A Memorable Hike to Caitlin Bay — A Backpacker’s Paradise!

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Waking early in the morning again, the scouts packed up camp quickly departed their picturesque campsite along the Salmon River.  Today was another 7–8.0 miles of hiking, except that we had to immediately traverse the 3000-ft ridge atop Blue Mountain and then back down the other side–and hopefully do so before the rain arrived.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe total elevation gain from our campsite to the top was approximately 1000 feet and although it took a solid +3 hours, the hike through the beautiful Blue Mountain Wild Forest was filled with breathtaking beauty.  After about two miles, the scouts witnessed a stunningly beautiful sight as we entered into a large meadow that was dominated at one time by an active beaver population.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACompletely isolated, the pathway was surrounded by an area dominated by tall grass and enclosed by a ring of hilltops and trees.  The scouts were amazed at this marvelous sight, taking their time to walk through the tall grass and wooden bridge dividing the two halves.

With still an estimated 1.5 miles to the summit, the scouts pressed on.  The trail began to get steeper and muddier.  Along the way, we discovered the remnants of a lumber camp, with decayed blocks of cement foundations.  The last 1/2 mile was particularly tricky as we climbed up wet, muddy, rocky gullies.  The mountaintop breeze was particularly refreshing given the amount of energy we were expending in the very humid environment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It wasn’t very clear to us that we had reached the top as the tree cover was so thick, but if one looked closely through the trees (at left) there was a tiny sliver of a view of Long Lake in the distance to the Northwest.  The flat trail that curved around the side of the mountain quickly began to descend through the Birch and Maple forest.  Hiking downhill was even trickier given the steep, muddy surface and the fact that we had heavy backpacks.  Those of us that had hiking sticks found out just how useful this trail tool can be!

Our trek of hearty hikers, made fairly solid progress all the way down the backside of Blue Mountain and by 12:30pm, we decided it was time for a well-deserved break for lunch. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  After such a vigorous hike and a relaxing lunch, we all began to fill a little cramping and soreness in our legs as we rose to continue on our trek toward Caitlin Bay.  After lunch, a light rain began to ruin what had been so far, bright and sunny weather and we still had at least another 3 miles–at least we had relatively flat terrain and the thick tree cover shielded our group partially from the precipitation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We hiked at a solid pace for at least another hour, crossing a few small creeks OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(some bridges were in better shape than others).  With the light rain however, the bridges became very slippery.  Our trail map indicated that we would go through some low-lying, soggy areas near the end, characterized by boardwalk trails to prevent damage to fauna.  This area does not get much sunlight so the boards also had a thin layer of moss at times.    Nearly all of us slipped on these unstable wooden planks, as we were becoming increasingly fatigued and sloppy in our hiking techniques.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tired and sore, the scouts were eager to reach their next campsite, but eventually discovered that they would soon be caught in a dilemma.  Finally after exiting the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwoods at the DEC registration box, the exhausted group stationed themselves alongside Hwy NY 28N, a large and busy road, to gather their bearings.  At last, we could stop hiking!  Fortunately, no one in our group had blisters, but we were tired.  So, we were happy to take a break while our guide Kelly decided to walk into Long Lake Village 1.5 miles down the road to gather a few needed supplies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Our group was only a mile from our destination and after our nice 45 minute rest, we thought we’d be at our Caitlin Bay campsite in less than half an hour. WRONG!  Expecting a short walk from the highway, the scouts became furious when they discovered they had to hike up a steep hill for at least a half mile and then only to see the sign for the campsite which indicated it was at least 1.5 miles away! Uggh!! We had no choice but to continue to plod along.  And hike we did, albeit downhill, for over an hour before crossing over a boulder-filled riverbed into our destination.  During our rest, we had thought it would be “convenient” to set up camp, and take a leisurely stroll into town to pickup some treats.  However, by the time we arrived, those thoughts had completely perished from our minds!

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But the wait and hard work was worth it, as our group arrived to a calming and gorgeous campsite!  It overlooked the Caitlin Bay and was beautifully set-up.  It had stopped raining, but the skies were still threatening.  Lean-to’s on one end of the campsite, and nicely positioned picnic tables to cook and view the peaceful water at the other end of this very large, spread out Adirondack campsite!  There was even a hammock to rest upon.

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The lake water was a comfortable temperature, and though we did not go swimming per se, we did wade in to cool off and to rinse our smelly clothes. And of course, we refilled our water bottles and treated them accordingly.  With Mr. Wauchope grabbing a quick nap and Mr. McCandless exploring the area and taking pictures, the scouts had a relaxing game of cards (as became our end-of-day tradition) before Kelly decided we should probably prepare our dinner before it got too late and/or more rain arrived.

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As always seems to be the case after a full day of backpacking, our dinner was delicious and “munging” was becoming at least partially tolerable.  The scouts were even able to reflect the skills they learned the previous day during the group’s dinner (and another card game) and scoped out a suitable tree to hang the bear bag before dark.  We waved cheerfully at another group of scouts that were paddling by at dinner time, knowing that starting tomorrow, the less physically demanding part of our trek (paddling) would begin.  After a small campfire, we all were grateful that our hiking was over, that the predicted rain had largely held off and that we were all actually having a really great time and an adventurous trek.  As we trundled off to bed at a reasonable time, nobody had any trouble falling to sleep!

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Next:  Day 4, Dealing with Adirondack Weather — A Few Basic Lessons Learned

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!

Historic Night for Troop 353 Adult Leaders

 

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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).

Community Service — Graymoor: Annual Good Turn Weekend & Iron Chef Cookoff 

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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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