Bears Dean, Bluemont, VA
May 18-19, 2019
The annual May 2019 Scout Skills campout brought Troop 1128 back to where we have gone every year, Bears Den in Bluemont Virginia. The Scout Skills campout is the first campout that all of the scouts that are new to the troop go on in which they get numerous requirements checked off that are necessary for advancement in rank. Things such as the Totin’ Chip, the Firem’n chit, first aid, and knots are taught by the older scouts over the course of the campout. This gives an opportunity for not only the new scouts to get advancements signed off, but also older scouts to practice their leadership and teaching abilities in an environment that allows for mistakes.
The Scout Skills campout began with a 7:30 arrival at Andrew Chapel to take attendance and make sure everybody had a ride, then an 8 o’clock departure to Bears Den. After about a 45 minute ride, everybody had arrived at Bears Den. The first thing to be done was setting up tents which, with new scouts, can take a little while as they do not always know exactly how to go about putting a tent up. This time, however, nobody took longer than ten or fifteen minutes and we were quickly ready to begin the teaching.
In order to teach all of the new scouts in a reasonable amount of time, the older scouts split all of the new scouts in to 5 groups: Totin’ chip, Fire’m n chit, knots, lashings, and a first aid group. The goal was to have the new scouts rotate through each station in groups spending about 45 minutes at each station. This was going well until we took a break for lunch.
During lunch, some scouts were throwing around a football and, while trying to catch it, a scout hurt his knee on a tree stump. This prompted a real world example of some of the first aid that the new scouts were learning during the stations. However, after the small excursion, it took a while to get everybody back to the stations. Once we did, it took about an hour to finish up.
After the teaching was done, there was about an some time to fill before dinner, which most patrols used to choose a scout for the poker and caps tournaments that were to take place later that night. At around 5, scouts began to prepare dinner and their dessert. The desserts were important because they were going to be judges for Goshen points. The patrols made various kinds of desserts, from grilled banana marshmallows and chocolate to a peach cobbler in the dutch oven. The patrol that ended up winning was the Sharks with deep fried oreos followed by the Amazons and then the Bison.
After dinner, the poker and caps tournaments began. The caps tournament did not take long to finish, only about 30 minutes. The Zeus won caps followed by the Bison in second place. The poker tournament took much longer, about 2 hours. After lots of wagering and bluffing, the Bison emerged victorious with the Zeus coming in second. When the poker ended it was 10:30 and time for everyone to go to bed.
The next morning, the patrols got up bright and early to cook breakfast. Breakfast did not take long, it ended at around 8:30, giving the troop a lot of time to fill before our departure at 11. So, we decided to take the small hike to the viewing rock. The hike was about a mile long and we got some incredible views. We returned back to the campsite and 10:30 and began to load our gear back in to the cars. After all the gear had been loaded and attendance taken, we left back to Andrew Chapel. After the 45 minute drive, all the scouts arrived safely back home ready for the next campout.
Seneca Rocks, WV
April 5-7, 2019
Troop 1128’s April 2019 campout was a three-day climbing trip to Seneca Rocks, West Virginia. Seneca Rocks used to be a place where the army trained in assault climbing as it has many different places to climb with much variation in difficulty. Now, however, Seneca Rocks is a popular place for beginner and expert rock climbers to test and improve their skills.
On Friday at 4:30 pm, we assembled in the Andrew Chapel parking lot. At five, we left to Seneca Rocks, bringing along 25 scouts and 8 adults assembled in to four patrols. Usually we would leave on Saturday, however we needed to be at the base camp at 7:30. This meant we would have needed to leave at four in morning on Saturday because the drive was three hours long. So, instead of waking up so early, we figured it would be better for everyone to just leave on Friday and spend an extra night at Seneca.
We arrived at around eight o’clock and set up camp at a campsite less than a mile away from the base camp at the rocks themselves. The site was luxury for many scouts as most of the trips that we go on have campsites with no running water, no showers, no bathrooms, and no gravel pads for tents; this site had all of those things. Since everyone had eaten dinner before we left, there was no cooking to be done. The only thing that needed to happen was setting up tents. We then promptly went to bed as we had an early wake up to prepare for the next day.
On Saturday we woke up around 6:30, an hour before we needed to be at the base camp. All four patrols made breakfast and finished in under an hour, so we were able to make it there on time. Once we arrived at the base, we separated into two groups of climbers; beginner and intermediate. The beginner group had most of the troop, around twenty people while the advanced group had only about twelve. Each scout then got their own gear from the base camp and carried it on the hike up to the cliff. The beginner and advanced groups hiked to separate locations, the intermediate grouping having a shorter but more difficult hike. Once we got there, we began to climb by getting in to groups of three. One person would be climbing, one person belaying, and one person backup belaying. At the intermediate side of the mountain, only a couple people were able to make it all the way to the top of all three climbs, and I am told it was about the same story at the beginning side. The beginner group combined climbing a repelling from the same general area. After a few hours of climbing and lunch at the bottom of the climbing cliff, it was time to head back.
The intermediate group had fun repelling down a couple cliffs and then hiking the rest of the way. The beginner group got back by hiking down the way they had come. Once back at the base camp, we thanked our guides and walked back to the camp. We then had some time to relax before making dinner. All four patrols cooked their dinner, and let me just give a shout-out to Charlie and Ethan for cooking me some of the best hamburgers I have ever had. After dinner, almost all of the scouts played cards until it was time for bed. Everyone was happy to get to bed after a long day of climbing.
The troop woke up at around 6:30 again and made breakfast. After everyone finished breakfast, we packed up and got ready to leave. We had to wait until nine to leave because we had to wait for another car to come and we could not be at the church until twelve, so some scouts started up another card game while we waited. Once it was nine, we all headed in to cars and drove home to Andrew Chapel. We arrived right at twelve, perfect timing, and headed home to relax for the rest of the weekend
White Rocks, WV
March 23-24, 2019
On March 23-24, 2019, Scouts from Troop 1128 went backpacking near White Rocks, WV. This was a “first” for all Scouts and Scouters since we, as a Troop, had not backpacked this area before. White Rocks spans the West Virginia – Virginia border of a portion of the Shenandoah National Forest and includes the Appalachian Trail. We knew that the area did not receive snow like many parts of the Forest south of us but, as we found later on — it was time to earn a snowflake. :). Thirty-five (35) Scouts and nine (9) Scouters made the two hour drive. We left the Church parking lot at 7:30 a.m. with the wonderful assistance of the Troop transportation team that assembled sufficient drivers and backups.
We planned for an assembled as four Patrols. For the first time in a while, the Scouts (not the Scouters), assembled their backpacking (freeze-dried) food from Troop stores. Once we arrived, each Patrol followed their custom maps on separate routes. As a result, each Patrol had different routes, opportunities and different views of sunset and sunrise.
Each Patrol assembled and cooked Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast. Many Scouts learned cooking, cleaning and bear safety procedures for the first time.
Most of us turned in early Saturday night after a rigorous day of hiking up and over knobs and ridges. While that night the temperature dropped below freezing, many viewed a clear-lit, starry sky free of usual light pollution. Similarly, dawn was spectacular and very much appreciated.
We assembled Sunday morning and ate breakfast. Several Scouts and Scouters demonstrated their first aid skills by helping a fellow Scout who got cold. Well done !
We returned to Andrew Chapel around 2:30 pm. After thanking our drivers and Scouters, the Scouts retrieved their gear and enjoyed Sunday afternoon with their families.
Wind Cave, Pequa, PA
Feb 23-24, 2019
The February 23-24 campout was built around a caving trip and was expected to be an activity fun to do regardless of conditions above ground. While the ground happened to be mostly free of the white stuff, the cave turned out to have more than a little ice. This was the first time the troop went to Wind Cave, located in Lancaster County, on the banks of the Susquehanna River.
ASM Fitzmaurice made arrangements with Terrapin Adventures (301) 725-1313 to guide the scouts thru a day of spelunking, after which, the troop would camp overnight at Tucquen Park Family Campground (717) 284-2156. Scouts assembled early on Saturday at Andrew Chapel and departed for the Pequa Boat Launch to meet up with guides. The guides passed out helmets and headlamps and gave a brief safety talk. Major points of this talk included keeping three points of contact with the cave and to follow all guide instructions. After a short walk to the cave, the troop was split into 2 groups and the plan was for both groups to enter the cave, then each group would loop around via different passages and return to the main entrance, emerging for lunch. This would make it easier for the guides to manage and allow for a better experience. However, the guides took a preview of the cave the day before the trip and found much of the cave to be unsuitable, if not impassable, for scouts given the icy conditions. As the scouts advanced into the cave, they inched carefully along a slick, icy path. Each group made its way thru their respective routes keeping three points of contact, even though it meant cold hands and wet clothes. Scouts worked as a team, and the ones in front would relay messages about the path to ones following. Eventually, both groups made it back outside and had their lunch. The guides & ASMs recognized that some scouts were a bit too cold and wet to want any more caving, and so the option was given for the scouts to choose to do a service project of collecting trash about the area while the more adventurous among us could go back inside the cave that afternoon.
Both groups set off after lunch on their respective tasks. The outside group with trash bags and the cave men making use of a different entrance that required crawling head first. Once inside, the group climbed down an actual aluminum step ladder to reach a lower level, then squeezed between the sides of the cave to reach yet another drop. Negotiating this drop, required each person to get on their stomach, let their feet dangle off a ledge, and listen for instructions as to where to place a foot. One couldn’t see the footing, so the guide had to tell each person… and even take a boot and place it on a rock so the climber could lower himself down safely. Safe to say that this was a new experience for most scouts! As the group moved along, progress halted in a fairly good sized chamber. Stopping like this was a bit unusual, so there must have been a good reason. As it turned out, taking a break to look at the inside of a cave was only part of the reason for the halt. The main reason was that to exit the cave seemed to be up a largish, steep incline of slick ice that had to be scaled to reach a rocky ledge whereby one could crawl out thru another upward sloping narrow tunnel to the outside. So the best part was last! It took a few minutes to decide how, without ropes or ice picks we were going to get up and over a 5-6 ft tall slick, mini glacier. With the help of our guides, the scouts rose to the occasion. A guide wedged himself halfway up the ice slope and helped each caver up over the icy obstacle. Pulling yourself over the rocky ledge took muscle and will power and each scout was able to make it…. In truth, the guides were more worried about the adults not being able to make it than the boys….I myself had doubts if I could make it out or if this cave would be my home till after the spring thaw. But as I had to drive scouts home the next day, this writer had no choice but to get moving. The scouts thought the caving was great fun but as it was getting on, the troop needed to set up camp and get started on the cooking competition. We thanked our guides and they wished us well as the troop returned to vehicles to carpool to the nearby campground.
Tarcquan Family Campground was located within five miles of Wind Caves. The scouts set up tents and a couple patrols started on their Dutch oven meals. There being a dinner cooking competition, a successful Dutch oven creation would be sure to attract favorable opinion of the judges. At the time of this writing, the winner was unrevealed, but just as hunger makes the best sauce, each patrol had a strong chance of winning the competition. [Edit by webmaster: the winner was Bob Whites and Viking combined crew]. The campground had most sources of water shut off for winter, so the water jugs were loaded into a car and we were directed to a spigot up near the camp office to use. This saved the scouts from walking thru a very muddy, very soupy dirt road to get water. Other than this, the campsite was fine. The Scoutmaster kindly purchased some firewood and the adults got one good fire going and as they say, “Light a campfire, and everyone is a storyteller”. A cold, drizzling rain started up and kept up most of the night, dampening the fire and causing most all to turn in early. The next day we broke camp and returned to Andrews Chapel where we were met by friends and family.