Multi-Day Canoe Trip - 6/3/2014 to 6/7/2014

by Jason R

Planning for our 50-mile canoe trip started weeks and months ago, but the physical part of the trip started last Tues night (June 3rd).  All the scouts brought their gear packed in their dry bags and went though them with Paul M.  All participants were fitted for life jackets and paddles.  With a lot to do we stayed an extra hour to gather patrol gear and load the vehicles for a speedy departure the next day.

We met at the church at noon (6/3) and with canoes hooked up and gear loaded, we hit the road.  After a short stop at the SC welcome center we took an early exit off the freeway and ended going through Clemson, SC, which delayed us a little bit.  We arrived in Rosman, NC and found the launch site at Champion Park (river mile 1). 

It took longer than expected to load the canoes and drop off the vehicles at Headwaters Outfitters.  But once that was done we were off to our first campsite about 8 miles down the river.  We arrived after 8pm and quickly set up camp before dark.  We quickly learned that the banks of the French Broad are steep and are not that canoe friendly.  After a quick Troop meeting we were supposed to go to sleep, but I, for one, did not sleep much the first night, like most.  However the fireflies were amazing as hundreds, if not thousands, lit up the trees and hillsides of NC like a sparkling Christmas trees.

The next morning (6/4) the idea was to fill our 5-gallon water jugs with clean, clear water out of a spigot.  But what came out was brown and cloudy, even after running for 10-15 min, but we were reassured that it was safe to drink.  After a quick breakfast of summer sausage and bagels, we loaded up the canoes and started down the river for our longest day of 16 miles.  We stopped periodically for mid-morning snacks and to re-gather the patrols.  After lunch of chicken salad served on a small sand bar, we had our first canoe swamping as the crew turned the canoe sideways and got caught up in some branches overhanging in the river.  Luckily the water was only waist deep and they easily brought the canoe to shore, unloaded all gear (which was tied down securely and not lost), and drained out the water, overall shocking but no big deal.  After another 5 hours on the river we finally pulled into our second campsite, Riverbend.  This was a nice campsite with plenty of space for both patrols, but again a steep bank.  After setting up camp and having a dinner of mac-n-cheese with dogs and beans, we gather for our nightly ritual of Thorns-n-Roses.  After a light rain and another firefly show, most participants hit the sack early and slept better than the previous night.

The morning of our third day (6/5) brought on some relief as this was to be our shortest day on the river of only 6 miles.  After a breakfast of oatmeal and bacon, we again packed up camp and the canoes.  Our canoeing maneuverability skills were put to the test as we had to “Thread the Needle” as a tree blocked almost the whole river except for a 4-5 ft gap.  As if this was not difficult enough, there was a branch sticking straight up just past the gap.  Everybody made it through the gap with some scrapes and bumps, but the “Silver Bullet” (same canoe that swamped the previous day) did not fair so well as it rode the branch up and over.   Again, luckily the water was only chest high and the canoe was easily brought to the shore and drained of all water, no gear was lost.  The trip on this day seemed extremely short as we arrived at our next and most beautiful campsite in no time, but almost missed it if it wasn't for the picnic table and the thought that it would be a good spot for lunch.  We later found out the signs were covered by branches and poison ivy.  After we brought the canoes up Mount Everest and set up camp, we had a lunch of tuna salad.  The afternoon was filled with much needed R-n-R of card games and napping.  Before dinner, Jason R taught some requirements of the Camping MB, for example camp stoves, tents, sleeping bags, and backpacks.  Most importantly, Paul M and Jason R covered the importance and process of water treatment by different methods for the merit badge, but also since we were running low on drinkable water and no fresh water available at the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th campsites.  After dinner of spaghetti and corn, we were treated to a campfire of songs, skits, ghost stories, and more fireflies.

The next morning (6/6) we ate grits and slim jims, packed up camp and the canoes, and once again set out on the river for a short 7 miles. This day was uneventful, as far as canoe swampings go, but we did have to negotiate a complex weave of trees to get to the take-out spot for our final campsite.  After a lunch of chicken salad wraps (a favorite), we started our service project of building a trail to the campsite from the take-out location.  We found numerous, large, dead trees to line the trail with and even cut some dead trees down.  Most of the vegetation in the trail was removed and any small rocks that were found were used to upgrade the campfire ring. When we arrived at this site the campsite was not easy to find, because of a lack of a distinct trail, and it was filled with downed tree limbs. But when we left, it was cleaned up and one can easily find the campsite using the trail. The report back from WNCA, after notifying them of our service, was excellent and they were very impressed with our work. WELL DONE SCOUTS AND ADULTS!!! After our service, we were treated to an excellent dinner of “Dirty” rice with sausage. After dinner the PLC decided to prepare for tomorrow by making PB&J sandwiches ahead of time, to prepack most gear, and arise at 5 am.  Once again we had a campfire with skits, songs, ghost stories, and Thorns-n-Roses.

The next morning (6/7) we awoke before dawn and had a quick breakfast of oatmeal and beef jerky. After which, we quickly packed up camp and loaded our canoes.  However, despite our best efforts to leave camp early, right out of the starting gate the second canoe out swamped, which lead to Patrol B working as a team to successfully rescue and assist the wet canoers. This stretch of river was deep, filled with downed trees, and the rain the previous night increased the water level, which increase the river flow slightly. So it made for a very stressful situation, but nobody was hurt and the only thing lost was a hat. After this situation was remedied, we pressed on for our final 13 miles to finish our trip at the Westfeldt River Park (river mile 51.5). The last 2-3 miles the river became wide and slow and almost became a lake, which made paddling less productive. But, we pulled all canoes from the water, unpacked them, and loaded them onto the trailers.  We were met there by a van from Headwaters Outfitters to help transport scouts and gear back to Rosman and our remaining vehicles. At Headwater Outfitters we changed clothes back into our scout uniforms and prepared for the drive back home.  We stopped at the Georgia welcome center for a break and arrived back at the church just before 5. 

This was a great trip and I would do it again in maybe two years, perhaps on a different river.  The French Broad River was not a fast moving river, but still could not be underestimated at anytime.  It was very technical in the sense that the canoers needed to master the skill of maneuvering their canoe around obstacles quickly.  Overall the scouts did a great job with their canoe, service project, and camping skills.  I hope they learned a lot about canoeing, camping, and themselves.  The biggest thing I learned on this trip was that I now know how to make scouts appreciate their homes, parents, home cooked meals, showers, and soft beds; take them on a long adventure.

Wilderness Survival Weekend - 4/4/14 to 4/6/14

by Alex P

We had a great trip last weekend and the scouts had an opportunity to show off many of the skills they learned throughout the past six months. Despite the initial weather forecast, we had excellent weather and our Scouts did great! Remember, on this trip, they did not have tents, sleeping bags, extra clothing, or the usual amount of gear they travel with, and were challenged to function as teams with minimal adult guidance.

On Friday, we gathered at Friendship Presbyterian Church shortly after 4, checked survival kits and our three teams reviewed their final plans for the event. Tyler M led Camo team (Ethan H and Nicolas P), Conner T led Blue team (Jake F, Jake A, and Will T) and Kaleb M led Red team (Nathan P, Miles M and Collin P).  We ate sack dinners en route and got to the Buckeye Plantation, near Covington (special thanks to Robbie McD for setting up access and the platform for conducting the trip). They were conducting controlled burns throughout the weekend, and had downed a lot of vegetation and trees, so there were plenty of supplies to be had with no cutting necessary. 

Mr. Chris T and Mr. Alex P established the three campsites for our teams, while the adults set up a “base camp” by the pond. 

Cornucopia:
Each survivor had the opportunity to bring along a small “survival kit” in a sandwich-sized plastic container. In addition, they each received some TP, water bottles, and a garbage bag; and each team received safety essentials including water, sunscreen, bug repellant, and hand sanitizer. Paul M and Craig P managed the Cornucopia, where our contestants were also able to choose 2 items per person to aid their teams in their survival and competition.  Items such as saws, trenching tools, mats, tarps, buckets, etc were chosen, and this was a moment for the scouts to coordinate and strategize.  This moment to a degree would have impact on the how well the teams would endure the weekend with regard to shelter building and the games.

The Cornucopia

The Cornucopia

The teams were taken to their assigned sites to start work on their shelters and fires and prepare for the next day’s activities; the adults brought water jugs to each site.

The adults set up camp and went over the schedule for the next day and determine the components for evaluating the teams.  The testing and evaluation of the 7 key priorities of a. Positive Mental Attitude, b.  First Aid, c.  Shelter, d. Fire, e.  Signaling, f.  Water, g.  Food. would be at the core of the weekend's activities. While the teams were spread across a large area, the adults regularly checked on them, and all teams made a good start to their shelters (Red team’s was especially well done) and wisely settled down for the night’s rest fairly early.

The next day (Saturday), the adults checked on each team around 7, providing an opportunity to forage for eggs and bananas. After adult breakfast, we mustered at the crossroads at 8:30 am to start the competition.

Fishing: All teams had the chance to try their hand at fishing. Despite securing bait, they did not catch any fish.

Boiling Water: To start the day's events, Paul had the scouts purify water using a fire and an orange peel.  Yes, you can actually do this.  After Paul demonstrated the technique, each team went and gathered supplies, built and lit fires using battery and steel wool, and prepared their orange peel to boil water in. Blue team won this event handily and did this in minutes.  They were a great example to the other teams in terms of speed and effectiveness.

Boiling Water in an Orange Peel

Boiling Water in an Orange Peel

Search and Rescue: Teams were challenged to find the “missing adult” (Craig P), treat his wounds appropriately, and use lashing to construct a way to drag him to the “helicopter landing area”, then signal for help. Oranges were provided upon successful completion. All teams did well, especially Red team’s lashings!

Primitive Skills: Teams started fires using flint and steel to “smoke out bees,” resulting in a candy reward; they wove baskets or other items out of wild grape vine (strawberry reward); and also got to make projectiles using river cane (and dowels & duct tape), practicing launching these at a target with a slingshot. Blue team used their team tools (tinder) to get their fires the fastest, while Red team made extra projectiles and creative weavings; Camo leader Tyler was especially skilled at the marksmanship.

Signaling:  The priorities of a survival situation were gone over in detail and the scouts worked on the various types of signaling including use of mirror to signal planes and far off distances, setting up air signs to signal for help, building and managing a proper signal fire.  All scouts performed well and completed this element above and beyond the requirement.  So the speed of set up became a priority.  Additionally, all scouts had the opportunity to start their individually made fires with a magnifying glass and we were only able to get the fires smoking; no fire was lit primarily due to the crosswind at the area we chose.  Some scouts refused to give up and were rewarded with sun burnt hands (Collin and others).  Blue team inadvertently put out their signal fire before they added the grass to create smoke, but quickly remedied the situation with speedy firestarter!  All teams were essentially "neck in neck"; their skill exceeded my expectations!  Red team won this event by the slimmest of margins, as they were able to get all four fires smoking with a magnifying glass and signaled using smoke very quickly with the signal fire. The “rescue plane” saw all teams’ signals and rewarded them with tasty canned meat.

Marksmanship: At the end of the afternoon, all teams mustered and each participant had three tries to shoot their projectiles for accuracy. The blue team emerged victorious, receiving some additional food; all teams were sent back to their camps with carrots, sweet potatoes, and wild boar shoulder to prepare in creative ways, ranging from shish kebob on arrows, to stew.

Some teams (Red, Camo) did even more work on improving their campsites that evening, and all did well with morale, buddy system, and safety. By our final check of the evening, many were long asleep! Even a few showers in the middle of the night did not throw the survivors off their game.

Sunday:  On Sunday morning, after checking in with apples for each survivor at 7, teams were charged to return their sites to “leave no trace” condition and mustered at 8:30 am near the adult site. Each team checked their gear back in and washed hands, and the boys were fed a meal of fruit and cold cut sandwiches, chips and cool aid.  The scouts spirits were still high and after a short worship service, the awards for best team were given out. Each team did well and according to Paul, the level of skills and teamwork were some of the best ever for this trip. The scouts of Red Team came out on top, especially due to their Positive Mental Attitude, excellent shelter construction, and strong teamwork; they were able to choose a recognition item of titanium sporks for hiking trips or waterproof first aid kits.

We checked campsites, loaded and left camp reasonably early and were back at the church by 10:20 am.  Exhausted, but happy in a job well done.

Special thanks go out to those on the trip and those who helped including Robbie McD (who provided the site), Cyd W (who filed the trip permit), Cris T and Craig P (whose participation and cooking made the trip an absolute blast for the scouts and adults alike).

Scouts who did not complete the Wilderness Survival Merit Badge in previous years, got many requirements completed this weekend, and should check with me or Paul about finishing the rest!

Raccoon Mountain Caving Trip - 3/15/14 to 3/16/14

by Mark W

A great event to Raccoon Mountain Caverns Saturday 3/15 to Sunday 3/16.  Thanks to all that attended as the trip went very smoothly.   The Troop started to arrive at 7:30AM to pack up that morning and we left around 8:00AM with four vehicles packed with 12 scouts and 4 parents anxious for some caving.  We arrived after 11AM and started to set up camp thereafter.  Bagged lunches were brought by each person, so each ate before set up.  We divided into two Patrols, each patrol set up patrol equipment then personal equipment.

Setting up Camp at Raccoon Mountain

Setting up Camp at Raccoon Mountain

The tour started at 2:30PM so we arrived 15 minutes earlier to get caving equipment.  There are several tours available depending on expertise and timeline.  We went on the 'Echo' tour that is approximately 4 hours in length.  The tour included caving through the Scout Room, Canyon Crawl, Surprise Dome, Sticky Dome, 49 cent Squeeze, Ankle Breaker, and plenty of Rope Assisted Climbs.  There was an area where we rested in complete darkness with a few scouts attempting to scare the others.

After four hours we saw daylight.  Many took showers to get the dirt off, apparently the dirt in the cave is the same type used in mud baths (per our guide) so the dirt would come off easily, plus be good for our complexions.  The patrols started cooking meals, one patrol had the quality HOBO meal, and the other had old fashioned hot dogs.  After cleanup it was skits and story time, some great skits were done by scouts with plenty of laughs, then Scout Master Paul concluded with two great stories as usual, most kids went to sleep right after.

When 7am arrived it was time to repack all gear in the RAIN.  Each patrol had breakfast and have a Sunday service, sweep the area for trash and departure instructions.  We returned back to the church at about 12:45pm, with some very tired scouts and adults.  It turned out be a very fun and safe weekend for everyone!  Thanks again to the scouts, adults, drivers and parents!

Cumberland Island - 1/18/14 to 1/20/14

We had a great trip to Cumberland Island this past weekend. After months of planning, 13 scouts and 7 adults made the trip.

 

Scouts attending were: Cutler S. , Parker P., Kaleb M.,  Joseph B.,  Nick B., Cy R.,  Conner T.,  Carter W.,  JR M.,  Colin P.,  Parker A.,  Matthew S. and William D. The adults were Scoutmaster Paul, Mr. Pennell, Mr. Shiver, Mr. McDaniel, Mr. Bowdler, Mr. Becker and Mr. Pannell.

We met at the church on Saturday morning to gather the troop gear and organize car assignments, hitting the road at the scheduled time of 9:00. At a lunch stop in Metter, half the group enjoyed McDonalds and the other half chose Zaxby's.

We arrived at Camp Tolochee near Brunswick around 2:30. After checking out our accommodations for the night at the camp health "lodge", some of the scouts and adults enjoyed an active game of ultimate frisbee. There were no major injuries, just some sore old guys afterwards. Many of us enjoyed a walk around the camp to see several groups of scouts, webelos, and cub scouts camping at Tolochee.

Dinner was at the camp dining hall, where we discovered that much of the cooking equipment was not functional, and in one case had become the winter home to some furry visitors. As prepared boy scouts, we broke out our propane stoves and improvised the cooking with some help from a microwave oven. JR's patrol enjoyed hotdogs and chips, while Parker's patrol dined on bacon-wrapped chicken nuggets and mac 'n' cheese. The night was restful for most, with the luxury of heated sleeping quarters.

We got off to an early start and everyone pitched in to pack up and clean up. After a quick cold breakfast, we sang Happy Birthday to Conner and after that to JR. It was only a short drive to St. Mary's and we quickly checked in and loaded the gear onto the ferry. After the 45-minute ferry ride, we unloaded the gear and got a short briefing from the park ranger. It was a short hike over to Sea Camp and we found our assigned group site and set up camp.

Lunch was sandwiches for both patrols along with chips and a few cookies and "cosmic" brownies. After lunch, the group set out for a hike around the island. We went about a mile down the beach, seeing lots of shells and even the remains of a dolphin. Crossing the dunes off the beach, we were greeted by a small herd of wild horses who came right past us. We then took in the ruins of the Carnegie mansion, seeing several more wild horses in the area. We headed back to camp for a little free time before dinner. Some went back to the beach, and a couple returned with wet shoes to show for it.

Everyone had worked up quite an appetite, so those on cook duty got to work. JR's patrol dined on sausage, mac 'n' cheese, and carrots, while Parker's patrol enjoyed a creative meal of hamburger helper burritos and salad.

We got a nice warm campfire going as the temperature dropped after dark. Carter led a great campfire program, highlighted by an Irish sing-off between Cy and Paul, along with some hilarious skits, cheers, and even a little political satire. Paul closed the campfire with a scary ghost story. After campfire, everyone got a chance to go out to the beach for stargazing. It was a clear night and there were many constellations in clear view. A lucky few hung around long enough to see the moonrise over the Atlantic Ocean!

Everyone was very tired and got to sleep quickly. The camp was visited by a few raccoons overnight, and Paul was able to salvage the trash before they carried it off into the woods.

We awoke to a hot breakfast of pancakes and some hash browns. Everyone pitched in to break down their personal and troop gear and haul it back to the ferry dock across the island. We had a nice worship service (pretending it was Sunday) at the dock before boarding the ferry at 10:15. We hit the road at St. Mary's around 11:30, stopping for lunch at Wendy's below Savannah.

The trip was smooth for most, although one vehicle was slowed by a brief stop, after which the scouts helped the driver keep up with the posted speed limit the rest of the way. ;-)

We arrived back at the church at 5:30, tired but hoping for a return visit to Cumberland Island in the future.

YIS,

Tim P.

Biking the Silver Comet Trail - Sep. 8-9, 2012

Map of the Silver comet Trail

It was a enjoyable weekend for riding on the Silver Comet trail. Weather was great ,except for the one big thunderstorm saturday afternoon.

Friday we loaded up and drove to The Rock RV campground in Rockmart GA. It was dark when we arrived, so we set up camp by headlights, nearby streetlights and flashlights.  [ Troop 1134 from Roswell was also camping there at the campground]. We set up camp, had a brief meeting and then settled in for the night. Scoutmaster Paul sang us to sleep.

Saturday morning, we had a quick breakfast of breakfast bars, fruit, and milk. we split into two groups. Mr Cline took Harper, JJ, and Tyler and headed out for 50 miler. Tyler was having trouble three miles in, he came back to our group, which he met on the trail as we were just starting our ride. Mr Cline escorted him down then rode back to his group. 

Scoutmaster Paul and I worked with other scouts: Matthew S., Cy, Matt M., Kaleb,  on Map and Compass orienteering and then we headed out for a 10 mile ride on the trail. we rode 5 miles east on trail, then back to camp. Took a short break, and then rode west  4 miles toward Rockmart for lunch at Dairy Queen. we rode a few more miles on trail and then turned around and went back to camp.

As an impromptu  conservation service project, each scout was assigned a mile to pick up  trash. on the way to town. All of it was thrown away in trash receptacles along the trail.

Upon the return trip to camp, the scouts had a race during the last two miles with Mr. Paul. Cy won, I believe. Overall, we rode about 20 miles.

Mr. Cline, Harper, and JJ completed the 50 mile trip, including getting caught in downpour. Drove to DQ for lunch and returned to camp.

Back at camp, scouts worked on other rank advancements including knife sharpening, ax/hatchet saftey, Matthew s. worked with Mr. Cline on fly fishing knots.

Miles M.  participatied in  10 mile ride and rank advancement activities

Dinner was spaghetti and sauce, green beans, bread and butter with cookies for dessert.

We had a combined troop campfire with Troop 1134. Each patrol (ours and their two patrols) did a skit. Paul entertained with a ghost story and closed with Scout vespers. Cy was the master of ceremonies along with another scout.

On Sunday, we had a cold breakfast of cereal, fruit, and milk. Packed up our personal and troop gear.  We took a group pic with Troop 1134, per campground owners request for a picture for their website. held a short worship service and headed back to athens.

On 441, north of Madison, traffic was stopped due to a bad wreck in the road. we waited a while and the road was finally cleared. Arrived back at FPC about 12:30 PM.

Overall, it was a great trip. Congratulations to  Harper, Mr. Cline  and JJ (2nd time) for completing the 50 miler!