Hiking the Historic Northville-Placid Trail – Adirondack Adventure 2014 – Pt 2 *

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Bright and early the next day the scouts enjoyed a lavish breakfast prepared by a few counselors at Camp Read.  Full of energy, the scouts were now ready to take on their first full day on their high adventure trip, when the real action started.   We were headed out to hike a small portion of the historic Northville-Placid (N-P) Trail.  The N-P Trail is 132 miles long and was the first project undertaken by then newly-formed Adirondack Mountain Club in 1922.    The N-P Trail was completed two years later and donated to the State of New York in 1927 with the Conservation Dept. (DEC) becoming responsible for it maintenance and upkeep.  Today the DEC, along with numerous volunteers and organizations, are stewards of the trail.  “The trail passes through what many consider the wildest and most remote parts of the Adirondack Park, notably the high plateau that encompasses the Spruce, West Canada, and Cedar Lakes area, along that of the Cold River.  The highest point the N-P Trail reaches (3008 ft) is at  the crest of the ridge to the east of Blue Mountain (3759 ft) and of Tirrell Pond.”  And these latter landmarks were our destination!

NP Trail

After an hours’ drive northwest of Summit Base, our van dropped us off Hwy 28 near Blue Mountain Lake to pick up the 16 mile segment between Lake Durant and the Caitlin Bay lean-to at Long Lake.  (Click on the map at the left for more detail.)  We all had to get our backpacks adjusted and get acclimated to carrying all our gear–nothing we had ever done on any weekend campout back home.  The official Summit Base itinerary had our trek stopping at the north end of Tirrell Pond after hiking less than 5 miles of the segment, a destination we reached easily by lunch time.  The initial hike was relatively easy and flat terrain through heavily wooded forest until we finally arrived upon the beautiful & remote Tirrell Pond.

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Our group was happily hiking along side the remote Adirondack lake when a pontoon plane flew in for a water landing.  The plane motored around then took off again and flew right past us.  It seemed surreal that we were watching the ultimate in human presence against a stunning remote backdrop of wilderness–it looked like one of those aerial scenes from the TV show ” Alaska: The Last Frontier”.

On this our first day of hiking, our group was refreshed from a healthy lunch on the sandy north shore of Tirrell Pond and our ambition to experience more adventure inspired us to hike further.  Importantly, we concluded it was probably a good idea to even out the expected mileage of Day 2, which entailed a 1000 foot elevation gain, cresting the highest point on the N-P Trail and then descending 1000 feet along with a forecast of rain arriving Tuesday mid-day.  And, equally as important, a guide book we had indicated that there was “an informal campsite can be found jut past the bridge on the left .. at mile 7.3….”  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So we decided to hike an additional 2.5 miles past our picturesque lunch setting and “hoped” that there really was a small available campsite for us to rest our weary feet for our first night in the wilderness.  As we started again, we came across a trail sign that reminded us how far we needed to hike by the end of the day tomorrow to reach Caitlin Bay, so we felt good about our decision to press ahead.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA In the heat of the day, our ambitious group headed north into the woods again and down long over-grown logging roads, and crossed some bogs with wooden plank walkways to end up on a remote dirt road.  The air was extremely humid and there was no sound of mankind anywhere, just the “quiet” of nature.  As we trudged along the dirt road, we had become so weary that we complete missed the peaceful and desolate campsite at the base of a bridge, next to a beautiful creek…just as the guide book indicated!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe campsite was intimate, and ran alongside a long creek in which the scouts were able to wash their clothing, acquire clean drinking water (through the pump, iodine tablet, or boiling water), and eventually to enjoy the accomplishment of completing their first challenge of the week. Despite the extremely slippery rocks and dense population of insects flying around the surface of the water, the scouts ventured off down the river to find a beaver dam at the end.  This intricate structure was an amazing sight to see at the end of their first fun day.

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After returning back to the campsite, Kelly taught everyone the basics of cooking food on this trip and how to effectively obtain clean water.  He educated the entire crew on the directions of using the small, portable stoves and taught them the methods of using the iodine tablets and pumping water.  One scout in particular got special use of the pump due to a shellfish allergy, making it mandatory to go through the exhausting pumping process to access clean water every day. The entire crew even learned of a new method of cleaning up individual mess kits through “munging” in which clean water would be poured into a dirty bowl to make a “nice, soupy” meal to drink the mess away.  Yecchh!

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After enjoying a delicious meal and feelings of disgust towards munging (One scout believed that hot sauce would be beneficial to the process. Heads-up: It is not a good idea), the scouts packaged all items from their pack that was either food, or had strong smells to prepare multiple bear bags.  For most scouts, this would be their first attempt at setting up a bear bag to prevent not only bears from attaining the group’s food but also to prevent raccoons, other medium-sized animals and those pesky chipmunks from eating our food.

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Our guide Kelly’s first few attempts of hanging the massive weight of our food and supplies were unsuccessful, and as it became dark, everyone slowly began to realize the futility of trying to hang bear bags  in a patch of the woods consisting of only Lodge Pole Pines with no horizontal branches.  Eventually it took Mr. McCandless’s decision to look for a more suitable area of the forest (in the dark) and Mr. Wauchope’s complex rope & carabiner system to hang the bags successfully high enough.  (Scoutmaster’s Note:  Many lessons were learned in this exercise!)

Through the ambitious extra mileage and the back woods lessons taught by Kelly, it was safe to say that our first day on the trail of this high adventure trek was a great success!  We all had no trouble falling fast asleep against the soothing backdrop of the nearby babbling creek.

Next:  Day 3, A Memorable Trek to Caitlin Bay — a Backpacker’s Paradise!

* – As largely written by the scouts on the trek.

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Adirondack Adventure 2014 – Part 1

 

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

 

Troop Tradition: Winter Wonderland at TMR

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Every troop has its traditional outings.  For Troop 353, it is the annual winter outing in January to Ten Mile River (TMR) Scout Ranch in the southern part of the Catskills.  The range of outdoor activities in this winter wonderland are more numerous than you might imagine:  snow ball fights, sledding, snowshoeing, quinzee-building, snow skiing, and even ice-fishing!  And even in years when snow is not as abundant most of these activities are still possible.  This cabin campout is a clearly a troop favorite and you can see when viewing the pictures.

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The typical schedule involves a 2.5 hour drive to TMR, dropping the gear in the 2 cabins and rushing to our snowshoeing / hiking destination near the Delaware River.  After 3 hours on the trail, the troop comes back to the cabin for a quick lunch and then the ice fishing instruction by long-time troop friend Ray Evans ensues.  The scouts have a few hours of sunlight to try and catch a fish, but mostly skate across the frozen pond in metal chairs, aka “chair curling”.  The scouts often seem puzzled about the effectiveness of the small bait fish used, as they are literally frozen!  The grand Thanksgiving feast, a flag retirement ceremony, perhaps a skit or two and then a late night cracker barrel cap a day full of fun activities!  Many (but not all!) scouts typically have no problem falling asleep Saturday night against the backdrop of a warm fireplace glow.

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Perhaps it is the fact that the scouts do not do have to do much to prepare meals for this trip (adult-led Thanksgiving feast) or that the cabins are heated with full kitchens and bathrooms or the ability to play board games (Risk!) late at night or the special respectful flag retirement ceremony; or maybe it is the ice sledding on the lake, or maybe it is the whole weekend!!  The biggest challenge is always cleaning up Sunday morning and apportioning unmarked clothing that scouts leave laying around.  Unquestionably, it is a very fun event and remains one of the scout’s and scout leader’s favorite outings of the year!

As a testament to HOW much fun the trip can be, the recent Scout of the Year winner, Andy M, created a wonderful 5 minute video highlighting the recent 2014 trip — it is full of great clips of our scouts having a blast ==>  Awesome TMR video 2014!

Lots of great photos can be found here from each of the past three years:   2012, 2013 & 2014!

Rocky Mountain High Adventure – Pt 2

Day Five:  After two nights each at beautiful Camp Dick & Horseshoe Campgrounds, we would be camping at the even more picturesque Lake Turquoise,   5 miles west of historic Leadville for the last four nights.  Leadville has the distinction of being North America’s highest incorporated city at 10,430 feet and is a legendary gold and silver mining town where many Coloradoans made their fortunes in the 1800s.  Along with many nearby ghost mining towns, Leadville is where the infamous Doc Holliday (notorious gunfighter and gambler) was finally arrested and is the home of Colorado’s most famous couple, Horace and Baby Doe Tabor.  Lake Turquoise is also home to several bike races, 10ks, 5ks and various gun shooting events.

 Although Leadville is less than 25 miles due west of Fairplay, it is separated by the Mosquito Mountain Range and the massive Buffalo Peak  Wilderness–there is no direct route between.  Before we would make it to Leadville, however, we had to travel 130 miles south.  So Sunday was our longest day, as the group traveled to the Great Sand Dunes National Park—home to the largest sand dunes in our country and nestled against the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains.  The enormous sand deposits cover an area equal to an astonishing 330 square miles!  The mountains of sand are as tall as many ski slopes on the East Coast and temps can reach upwards of 140 degrees during the day, so we needed to arrive by 9am (when the park opened), rent special sandboards and be finished around 1—2pm optimally.

 Four-wheel drive and deflated tires allowed us to drive up the sandy road to the beautifully remote Canyon Creek wilderness area to attempt sandboarding.  The scouts were surprisingly challenged in climbing the unusually tall mountains of soft sand and all needed rest prior to their semi-speedy, and often ungraceful, descent.  Everyone crashed repeatedly and was covered in sand, but everyone unquestionably was having a blast! 

After about two and half hours of sandboarding, our group decided to call it quits and headed to an  oasis–the coveted Sand Dunes Swimming Pool (hot springs fed) for lunch, swimming and volleyball!  We finally arrived at our reserved Baby Doe Campground sites that night about 10pm.  Despite the long trip to this commercially-untouched area of South Central Colorado, many of the scouts cited the unique sandboarding opportunity as one of the highlights of the trip!

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 Day Six:  After our late night arrival at Baby Doe Campground (elevation 11,600), the scouts once again had to rise before 6am in order to arrive on time at the ATV rental in Salida 60 miles away. With the recent limited approval of driving ATVs by the BSA, combined with considerable experience of most of the people in our group along with the ultra-cautious training and guidance provided by the ATV operator, our excited scouts confidently headed up a gentle, dirt road for the Continental Divide about 10:15am. 

Fifteen minutes later, disaster struck.  One of our scouts lost control of his ATV and crashed into a ditch.  He was a bit shaken and holding his arm.  We quickly concluded that his head & neck were ok, but that he may have separated his right shoulder.  Two of our scouts quickly created a stabilizing arm sling with spare clothes.  Back in the parking lot 20 minutes later, the injured scout was joking around with everyone else relishing his hard-earned celebrity status.  Still, a quick trip to the local medical center revealed a cracked bone in his upper arm. 

 In retrospect, the scout was lucky that this was the extent of his injury, as there were warnings  by the ATV operator of an irresponsible rider needing to be air-lifted out a few weeks prior.  Fortunately, our group was more controlled and organized, and our injured scout was responsibly driving.  Still, he did manage to lose control on a smooth part of the road—this serious incident was a huge reality check for the remainder of the group that stayed behind to finish their four-hour exploratory ride to the Continental Divide.

  After arriving back at Camp Baby Doe later that afternoon, it was decided that the injured scout would fly home the next day, given his inability to participate in any of the remaining activities.  He was pleased that he had been able to experience so many new activities, but still disappointed that his trip was ending two days early.  Even a steady rain did not spoil the special pasta dinner and high spirits of the evening, as we all reflected on fun events of the past week and as we wished our fellow departing scout a speedy recovery!

 *****

Day Seven:  The rain had cleared overnight and our group was up early again.  Most of us were preparing for the second more challenging “14er” hike—attempting to peak Mt. Elbert (14,433 feet), the tallest peak in Colorado and the second tallest in the lower 48 states!  A 7am departure put us at the trailhead (10,000 feet), up beautiful Halfmoon Creek, by 7:45am.  It was another bright and beautiful day in the mountainous Sawatch Range—home to more 14ers than any other range in the state!

  To put the climb up Mt.Elbert in perspective, the hike up to Mt. Cameron on Day Four involved roughly 4.5 miles round trip and 2,200 feet of steep, rocky elevation gain.  To peak Mt. Elbert would involve 9 miles of hiking and climbing as well as 4,700 feet of elevation gain.  (The climb up the “Brothers” mountains at Camp Read in the Adirondacks is only 1000 feet of elevation gain…and much closer to sea level.)  Mt. Elbert involved a long hike through the forest to the tree line and then an equally steep but moderately longer climb up rocky terrain like Mt. Cameron.  Both peaks are considered to be Class 2 in terms of degree of difficulty (requiring some off trail hiking, occasional use of hands for balance and hiking on talus/scree). 

It took us 5 solid hours to reach the summit, as the altitude allowed only gradual progress    before needing to rest again.  The higher we climbed, the slower the progress.  Often one could only hike 20-25 steps, literally, before stopping to catch your breath and to calm one’s pounding heart.  Between 13,500 – 13,900 feet is the most strenuous part of the hike as there is a steep, rock-strewn face that literally requires Class 3 scrambling as the trail mysteriously disappears off to the side (but we found it on the way down thankfully).  On the way up this long climb, the uninformed hiker is duped into thinking the summit is (finally) near. 

Quickly, one must overcome the disappointment of the “false” peak at 13,900, as there is still another 500 feet of elevation to go!  Fortunately, this last   part of the incline is “mild” in comparison.  By the time we reached the top, our legs were like rubber, and all were thankful they actually made the summit, and everyone took a seat to rest their weary legs.  A few of us had developed serious doubts as to whether or not we would actually reach the summit by 1pm—our targeted turnaround time.  During this time of year, thunderstorms often appear quickly around 2–3pm and Colorado’s legendary lightning can easily travel up to 25 miles for a ground strike.  Colorado is home to the second most deaths by lightning and one is particularly vulnerable above the tree line.  So, our game plan was to monitor the clouds vigilantly and start heading down around 1pm, no matter how far we had progressed!

                       

 

As the stunning pictures attest, the views on the way up were magnificent and the 360 degree panoramic view from atop Mt. Elbert was every bit as awe-inspiring as the view from Mt.Cameron.  The hike to the top was well worth it to capture this unparalleled view!  We could easily see Lake Turquoise and Leadville nearly 20 miles away.  After a few family-related phone calls (ample cell phone coverage!) from the top and several photographs, the scouts, with one eye on the incoming clouds, knew we needed to make a relatively speedy retreat down the mountain. 

 Hiking down is no cake walk either, as the surface is covered in loose rocks and gravel and the exercise is equally tough on the legs.  A curious marmot, along with a brief sleet shower, combined with spotty sunshine, added a special element to our hike down the famous mountain.  We passed very few people hiking up the mountain—meaning we were one of the last ones to leave the summit.  At the tree line (11,900 feet), we stopped for a much needed rest and got involved with feeding nuts and raisins out of our hands to birds and chipmunks.  By 5pm, we made it to the parking lot and rewarded ourselves with chocolate chocolate-chip cookies on the 45-minute drive back to camp. 

Back at Baby Doe camp, a delicious Mexican dinner feast awaited us, as the group that took our injured scout to the Denver International Airport 140  miles away, had time to start dinner prior to our arrival back.  And with only Cliff Bars and energy drinks for lunch, the hikers were starving!  For once,  nobody complained about cleaning dishes, despite being physically exhausted from the long hike.  Several spent time at the lake after dinner where the star-lit night sky was equally as breathtaking as the unequaled mountain top experience earlier that day.

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Day Eight:  We slept late today…6:30am!  We only had to be 30 miles away by 9:15am.  The chilly upper 30 degree morning was not conducive to enhancing the appeal of white water rafting.  By the time we rolled into Buffalo Joe’s in Buena Vista, the temps were rising and the scouts eagerly scrambled to change clothes and secure PFDs and helmets before jumping into   the group van to the launch site on the Arkansas River, twenty minutes away.  At the put-in site for “The Numbers” (named for 7 different sections of the river), the typical river safety briefing ensued.  Within minutes we were happily paddling down the chilly Arkansas river! 

  The nationwide drought has hit Colorado fairly hard.  First, the snowpack during the winter was lighter than normal, resulting in lowered water flows in the rivers.  Second, the state had experienced many wildfires during May & June, but not as badly in South Central Colorado where we were camping (and the seasonal daily afternoon rains had begun during July). 

The  lower river levels also negatively impacted the fishing, as water temps were  warmer than normal (but still brisk!).    Today, however, the low water level meant a more technical river traverse than the fast & furious pace of a “high water” year.  Class 3 & 4 rapids, however, were still very challenging but fun.

  Mastering sharp turns, backward spins and narrow shoots became easier by the time we stopped for the customary steak lunch.  There was ample time for swimming in the cold river and we stopped in a location to jump through a special rock with a large hole and side vent that passed into the river.  And we even saw people panning for gold! 

Back at the Baby Doe Campground that afternoon, we relaxed playing a game of “spoons” and getting organized for the trip home.  A celebratory pizza was enjoyed along with left over pasta.  Afterwards, one last trip down to the beach at Lake Turquoise to see the bright lights of Mother Nature made one realize that Colorado is indeed an unusual place of breath-taking beauty and a seemingly endless list of potential outdoor adventures around every corner!  Despite the ATV incident, all agreed the trip had been an extraordinary success and vowed to return to Colorado again some day!  Clich here for more truly spectacular and memorable photos!

Rocky Mountain High Adventure – Pt 1

For the past three years, our senior scouts have chosen to pursue water-related venues for their summer high-adventure trip.  2012 proved to be a different year in that the scouts wanted to pursue a mountainous adventure that included more than the typical 10-day backpacking trek offered by Philmont, the ageless national high-adventure camp located near Cimarron, NM. 

The core planning group of senior scouts looked at BSA properties from Montana to Maine, ultimately wanting to choose Longs Peak Council’s high adventure package in northern Colorado.  Unfortunately, the school year begins earlier in Colorado than it does in New York, so our group was forced to plan an independent high-adventure trip to Colorado for early August—a far more complex planning endeavor than attending a typical BSA high-adventure venue. 

Fortunately, scouting & family contacts in Boulder, CO were more than eager to assist & provided considerable guidance.  The scouts needed to prepare for challenges many had never faced before:  getting in physical shape for rigorous physical activities at high-altitudes, planning all meals (cooking gear, food prep, storage, purchase points, etc.), understanding statewide freshwater fishing rules and risk management (wildlife, weather, and first aid).  Planning a successful car-wash fundraiser was also critical to financing our trip and in determining the scope of our affordable daily activities.   And the targeted daily activities were both fun and challenging:  rock climbing, hiking/climbing 14ers (peaks higher than 14,000 feet), ATV (all-terrain vehicles) exploration, gold medal fresh-water fishing, white water rafting and a visit to the famous Great Sand Dunes National Park to attempt sandboarding.  Finally, coordinating a schedule of activities with campsites that met our criteria was also a logistical challenge.

   The first two nights the scouts called Camp Dick (elevation 8600 ft., 25 miles northwest of Boulder) their home.  Through National, State & local parks, as well as the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and official State Wildlife Campgrounds, Colorado is blessed with literally hundreds of available campsites & many take reservations.  All three campsites chosen for the trip were on US Forest Service properties and all were well-maintained, catering to both tent-campers and RVs alike (potable water and vault restrooms), and importantly, reservable.  In order to get acclimated, it was determined to camp at increasingly higher elevations during the week.

Day Two:  The first full day in Colorado was spent rock climbing in scenic Boulder Canyon with two certified guides from the well-regarded Colorado Mountain School.   There are literally dozens of places to climb along the highway in Boulder and other nearby canyons.  After warming up with several +60-foot ascents, the scouts tackled technically more difficult climbs involving virtually no natural hand or foot holds.  One scout actually climbed to the top blind-folded!  The adult scout leaders also participated in climbing and everyone assisted in belaying other climbers.  Our group celebrated that night at a “Welcome” BBQ at the Barber family residence in Boulder where we learned more about what to expect during our upcoming week.  

Day Three:  The next day entailed traveling 120 miles southwest to Horseshoe Campground (elevation 9600 ft.), just below Fairplay/ SouthPark.  After a casual morning, the group broke camp and drove down the scenic Peak-to-Peak highway.  Stocking up on groceries in Frisco and confirming the trailhead location outside the tiny town of Alma for the first planned attempted “14er” the next morning were required before arriving at camp and then squeezing in trout fishing at the nearby Gold Medal Waters of the South Platte River.  Gold Medal Waters are defined by the Colorado Parks and Wildlife as “any river or lake which is producing a standing stock of at least 60 pounds per acre, and at least 12 trout that are 14 inches or longer per acre on a sustained basis.”  A hardy dinner of Alamo Chicken provided the needed protein for the group’s first attempt at “peakbagging a 14er” early the next morning.

Day Four:  One cannot appreciate the popularity of climbing one of Colorado’s 53 famous +14,000 foot peaks until you arrive at the trailhead the first time.  Our group’s 8:00 am arrival at the Kite Lake trailhead (12,000 ft, above the tree line) was welcomed by so many cars that we had to park over ½ mile away from the parking lot!  Clearly, we were “late” arrivals.  Literally hundreds of people had turned out this glorious Saturday morning to attempt to climb (not hike) rocky Mts. Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and /or Bross, all connected along a 13,500 ft ridge in a semi-circle of a few miles within the Mosquito Range of the Rockies.  As an aside, the website 14ers.com was also incredibly helpful in planning our two big hikes.

The high elevation quickly became apparent as each step was “up”, and the rocky trail added to the degree of difficulty.  People of all ages turned out that day and many brought their dogs  and/or their children.  Some labored up and down, while some actually ran.  Most proceeded up slowly, resting often to try and get more oxygen into their panting lungs.  The citing of a large, white mountain goat casually relaxing on the rocky hillside in the sun not far off the main trail helped to distract one’s thoughts about how challenging the hike was becoming.  Ultimately, our group reached the 13,500 ft “saddle” ridge before 11am (see first photo above).  The views were breathtaking and the photographs do not fully reflect the feeling of seemingly being on top of the world. 

 Attaining the saddle was particularly gratifying for one of our asthmatic participants, while the rest of the group trudged upward to top Mt. Cameron (14,238 ft) for the next hour, where the wind chill was clearly below freezing and with wind gusts up to +50 mph.  The very steep climb to this “unofficial” peak was exhausting for our group of “rookies”.  (Mt. Cameron is one of five unofficially designated +14,000 ft peaks).  We quickly learned the importance of staying hydrated & planning a high-protein breakfast & trail snacks, as hunger and altitude sickness gradually began to emerge.  A decision was made not to hike over to Mt. Lincoln over one mile away and instead, head back toward the base.

By 2pm, we were all enjoying a picnic lunch back at Kite Lake, drinking lots of fluids, and fighting off headaches from the altitude.  Unquestionably,   everyone had an incredible sense of pride and accomplishment at bagging their first “14er”.  After a short rest at camp a few of us took off again to try and snare some rainbow or brown trout in the bountiful South Platte River.  This  Gold Medal stretch of the river is known for its large aggressive trout.  This is catch-and-release territory unless you are fortunate enough to land a fish longer than 20 inches and no live bait is allowed either.  Most locals prefer fly-fishing, but our group was forced to use typical casting spinner lures.  After 2 hours and with only three small trout to their credit, the returning fishermen were rewarded with the citing of three elks crossing the dirt road near the beaver-pond ladened area close to Camp Horseshoe.

Needless to say, nobody had trouble falling asleep that night, especially after a day of extreme exercise and rewarding ourselves with a big, marinated steak dinner!  Thus far, our Rocky Mountain High Adventure trip had been near perfect!   Check out more incredible photos from the first four days!

 Next:  Deflated tires; the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat; & some unexpected sites on the river!

Winter Campout, Ex Snow & Ice

The troop recently took its annual pilgrimmage up to TMR where the temps are typically below freezing most of the month of January. As such, the lake typically frozen and ice fishing ensues. Unless snowball fights or sledding are more popular. This year, however, the weather has been unusually mild and the ice on the lake was too thin. Still, the boys spent most of the day Saturday outdoors: hiking and teaching advancement skills for the lower ranks. The traditional turkey dinner was expertly prepared by ASM Mike I, whom was shipping off to return to service for our country the next day. His presence, along Mr. William and Mr. Evans (both served in the armed forces) added a very special meaning to a very respectful and reverent flag retirement ceremony Saturday night. And the scouts got a first hand look at just how flammable a Christmas tree is when it is totally dried out! All in all, another awesome winter weekend at the base of the Catskills at TMR! Memorable photos are found here!

Hiking With Eagles

During the yearend holidays, the troop arranges a hike with many of its Eagle Scouts that might be home from college, as well as those that have since graduated and still live nearby.  Too, the invitation list is not restricted to Eagle Scouts exclusively–all former scouts and/or their parents are welcome!  And that was the case in 2012 as a few parents participated without their sons!   This short hike is a terrific opportunity for younger scouts to mingle with Eagle Scouts and learn first-hand how & why these boys made it all the way to Eagle Scout (or Life Scout, etc).   The influence of a 22 year old on a 13 year old scout is far greater than any Old Goat!

There are a few hikes in northern Westchester County that are favorites, however, winter trail conditions can preclude certain hikes.  One that is nearly always accessible is Storm King Mountain, just north of West Point in the scenic Hudson Valley.  This year our group of hardy hikers opted for a longer hike, crossing a valley prior to climbing and encircling the cap of Storm King and then returning returning.  Still, we managed to make it to the northern side of the mountain for a brief lunch in the gusty wind.  Down below, parts of the Hudson River were visibly frozen and one could see Banneman’s Castle in the distance.   There are numerous scenic overlooks on this short hike that have helped make this one a Troop 353 Eagle Scout Classic!