Annual Canoe Trip — Best Weekend of the Year!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

Troop Tradition: Winter Wonderland at TMR

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

A Week of Fun at Camp Keowa!

20130805_202729

This past summer, 26 scouts enjoyed a wonderful week at Ten Mile River Camp Keowa. The fun-seeking scouts who came, earned over an amazing 100 merit badges. Badges that were earned included ones required for Eagle Scout, and many other merit badges were earned for fun. Many scouts also advanced to a higher rank such as, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class.

Along with completing merit badges and advancements, the troop participated in events that were optional, but were still extremely fun.

These events were:

  • Archery shoot on Monday
  • Rifle shoot on Tuesday
  • Canoe / kayak lunch trip on Wednesday
  • Wayne County Fair in Honesdale Pennsylvania on Thursday
  • And the COPE course on Friday

Starting off with their adventure, on Monday, Scouts went to the archery range and competed with each other as well as the adults, to see who could score more points. Some Scouts were so good at archery that they took the badge.

Camp Keowa 2013 006

On Tuesday, the rifle shoot took place. Scouts had a blast, loading their bullets, and shooting at cans, targets, and piles of dirt.

Camp Keowa 2013 094

 Camp Keowa 2013 095

Wednesday afternoon was the canoe / kayak trip across Crystal Lake to a campground for lunch. The Scouts loaded up in their watercraft of choice along with a bagged lunch to start the ½ mile journey across the lake to eat. The trip included the usual water fight that happens whenever they end up in any sort of boat.

Camp Keowa 2013 043

On Thursday, the Scouts went to the Wayne County Fair in Honesdale Pennsylvania. They had an awesome adventure as they went on dizzy rides, drank homemade soda, looked at farm animals, and purchased random things as they walked through the fair.

Camp Keowa 2013 065

For their last event on Friday, scouts had a thrilling time, zip lining across wires, climbing obstacles, and grappling onto nets, as they tried the High and Low Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (also known as COPE).

Besides troop events, the camp had other fun and daring things to try.

Such things included:

  • The Polar Bear Swim
  • Mile Swim
  • Camp Keowa’s Campfire Skits
  • Critter Hunt

At 6:00 in the morning five scouts woke up, put on their bathing suits, and dove into the freezing cold lake for over 15 minutes! This optional challenge called The Polar Bear Swim was achieved by Scouts Alejandro U, David E, Dillon P, James P, and Jeffrey F.

Camp Keowa 2013 018

For his breathtaking effort, brave and daring, Dillon P dove into the cold lake and swam One Mile.  This feat was only achieved by nine scouts in the whole entire camp! Dillon received the coveted Mile Swim award for his accomplishment.

Camp Keowa 2013 034

At the closing campfire the whole troop preformed a skit called “Raisins from Jamaica”. Of course the skit was the funniest of the evening.

Troop 353 came in second place in the critter hunt!  Scouts went out and searched for frogs, toads, snakes, bugs, and many other creatures to claim this rank.  Some scouts found critters in the most unlikely place!

Camp Keowa 2013 112

Other things that also kept us entertained were Matt I’s surprise birthday, singing and laughing at our troop campfires, Jack M and Alejandro U having guitar battles throughout the week.

Camp Keowa 2013 013

All in all, the boys had an amazing trip at Camp Keowa Summer Camp 2013, and plan to have another awesome trip next year.

A very special thanks to acting Scoutmaster Dave F who ensured that we all had fun, Assistant Scoutmaster Julio U for planning the trip and making sure everything went smoothly, and Mickey M for taking care of all the boys that needed medical attention as part of the Keowa medical staff.  We also would like to thank all the adult leaders who drove the boys up and stayed with them during the week Tom B, Phil K, Mike I, John M, Joey P, Ed P, and Matt S!  This trip, as well as all of the others, would not have been possible without all of the outstanding effort put into it by our adult leaders!

For more great pictures click here!

Camp Keowa 2013 088

Summer Fun at Camp Keowa in the Catskills!

Troop 353 enjoyed a week of fun and sun (mostly) at Ten Mile River Camp Keowa this past summer.   The 20 scouts who attended achieved a record 78 number of merit badges, and several advanced in rank as well!

As this was the first summer camp experience for many of the scouts, we relied heavily on the older scouts to provide leadership.  Specifically, SPL Jack F and acting ASPL Chris S kept the troop on task and represented us well at Camp dining hall roll calls. The boys were split into two patrols which were lead by James T and Andy M.

When the boys performed the traditional rose(their favorite part of the trip), rosebud(what they look forward to), thorn(their least favorite part of the trip) at the end of the trip, a majority of the boys stated that their thorn of the trip was the rain! Everyone loved the activities that the troop did which included but were certainly not limited to:

  • An archery shoot (Tuesday evening)
  • A rifle shoot (Wednesday evening)
  • Wayne County Fair located in Honesdale, PA (Thursday evening)
  • High and low COPE course (Friday evening)

At the archery shoot the boys were able to freely shoot a bow and arrow along with the adults! Some scouts even challenged the adults to a competition to see who could get more points!

Camp Keowa Summer 2012 072

   DSC01129

The boys also had an awesome time at the rifle shoot, where they were able to shoot on the rifle range for a whole hour!

DSC01157

Scouts from all troops across the camp were able to participate in a rifle shooting competition to see who could get the most amount of points in order to win a trophy! Out of the 15 winners throughout the camp, 2 of the winners, Jimmy F and Noah O came from Troop 353!  Great job guys!

Camp Keowa Summer 2012 153

On Thursday evening the scouts went to the Wayne County Fair located in Honesdale, PA and had a blast on all the rides and were able to buy various knick knacks from several vendors throughout the fair!

Camp Keowa Summer 2012 114

Scouts were sad when the week came towards an end on Friday evening, but were able to be cheered up by the exhilarating High and Low Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (COPE) courses! Some scouts and adult leaders were even able to go zip lining!

Camp Keowa Summer 2012 171Camp Keowa Summer 2012 161A few brave boys, including scouts Andy M, Jake B, James T, Dillon P and David E, were willing to wake up at 6:00 AM to participate in the Polar Bear Swim, where they had to stay in the icy waterfront for a whole 15 minutes!  Excellent job scouts!

Camp Keowa Summer 2012 055

When the boys had some down time, scout Jack M entertained them with his outstanding guitar playing!  Very cool Jack!

DSC01107

Part of being a scout is becoming acquainted with the outdoors and being able to respect nature. Scouts were able to view and appreciate beautiful sunsets on the lakefront that the campsite was situated on!

DSC01101

The boys had an absolute blast at Camp Keowa Summer Camp 2012, and cannot wait for the amazing trip ahead of them for next year!

A very special thanks to acting ScoutMaster Dave Flannery who ensured that we all had fun, Assistant Scout Master Julio Urbina for taking the lead with respect to planning the trip and to all the adult volunteers who drove the boys up to the site, including Uli Mrose, John Murtha, Ed Poletti, Joey Panico and Jeff Schaeffer!  This trip, as well as all of the others, would not have been possible without all of the outstanding effort put into it by our adult leaders!   For more pictures, click here!

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!

3rd Annual Frank McCluskey Friendship Canoe Trip

The annual Frank McCluskey Friendship outing is perhaps the favorite monthly outing of the year! In addition to spending considerable time splashing in the warm waters of the beautiful Delaware River, the scouts are encouraged to invite a friend to the canoe trip. This very special initiative was taken to commemorate the friendly nature of former ASM Frank McCluskey, whom passed away unexpectedly in 2008. The scouts and their families have really embraced this outing. It is amazing how every year there are about 50 people on this trip and about 20% of the participants are not scouts. On the relatively calm +10 mile stretch of river we paddle, our +20 canoes and dozen or so kayakers (must have canoeing merit badge) look something like the Spanish armada, spread out for quite a distance. The scenery along the Delaware River is spectacular with frequent sitings of Eagles, fish, and the occassional deer or black bear. Often, other scout troops are paddling as well, so there is very much a family-feel along the river that day.

At night, the patrols camp & cook via the patrol method and then gather for a yearend campfire where numerous spoof awards are handed out to scouts and adults alike. As everyone slowly drifts off to sleep after 11pm to the sound of crickets and giggling children, there is a considerable feeling and respect for all that is good in the scouting program — even among our many non-scouting guests. The next morning, our group of sore and stiff river rats slowly awaken to a beautiful campsite setting, feast on huge breakfast, pack up, participate in a short Interfaith Prayer Service and then head back home with new customized t-shirts, heralding the end of another  simply awesome canoe trip !

Winter Playland at Ten Mile River

The annual winter outing to Ten Mile River is never short of fun activities!  The new twist this past year was the attempt to go snowshoeing–something most scouts have never done.  Unfortunately a warm front in the week leading up to the event resulted in most of the area snow melting.  By Saturday morning, it was well below freezing again and our snowshoeing guides ended up taking the boys on a brisk 5-mile hike, where scouts found both interesting ice formations as well as spectacular views of the Delaware River valley.  The afternoon was reserved for the traditional ice fishing adventure, courtesy of long-time troop friend Ray Lewis.  Mr. Lewis brought the gear, the bait, the augur and the cheerful encouragement!  Though the fish were not biting, the boys entertained themselves on the thick slippery ice by sliding around in chairs from the cabin.  The traditional Thanksgiving-style meal and a good night’s sleep capped off another fun winter playland weekend for the scouts.  Check out the photos here.