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.
Prince William Forest Park
Dec 8-9, 2018
Troop 1128’s annual orienteering campout took place on Dec 8-9th at Prince William National Forest Park. PWNF is a great local NPS park that offers 60 pre-set navigation points many organizations use and it’s about 35 miles from our base of operations in Vienna. In addition, the PLC decided to blend in a cooking contest, engage the troops Outdoor Ethics Guides and a trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. As always this, time of year can be questionable weather-wise and 10 days out snow was forecasted and/or rain in 38F. Waking up to snow is fine. Bush wacking through the woods in 38F and rain not so much.
The campout was 24 scouts strong along with 8 ASMs. An 8am departure led to a 9am arrival. After checking in and collecting maps, the troop held off on setting up camp to get out into the woods as quickly as possible. Viking ASM Carlton Wilson spent 40 mins on a refresher of map and compass skills as well as pace counts and other nuances of orienteering. Four crews were set up: Zeus, Arctic Wolves, Viking/Shark and Bison/Bob White. Two maps were chosen with two crews on each, going in clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. The weather was perfect for orienteering with each crew spending 3-4 hours trying to find small posts in the forest and eating lunch. All four crews had success albeit some posts seemed to be lost themselves. One crew found a dead deer and another was being stalked by an 8 point buck. Once all were back by 3pm, tents were up, fires burning and dinner was being prepped.
The cooking contest resulted in two crews using their dutch oven skills while two coming up with some deep fried options. Zeus went with a meat lasagna and Italian bread. Arctic Wolves had a dumpling offering. BobWhite/Bison offered up classic American – burgers and old bay seasoned hand-cut french fries. While Viking/Sharks went with a sausage/green bean casserole. SPL Marschoun and ASPL Hindley were the judges and decided the Viking/Sharks took the prize while BobWhite/Bison was a close second due to their french fries.
After dinner and clean up, 1128’s first ever Night Time Land Navigation session was held. Only five scouts and three ASMs took advantage of this 60 min session as the majority of the scouts convinced our SPL it was optional. Next time it will not be optional. Led by ASM Wilson, the participants learned the nuances of not being able to see that far, how to use only red light and instead of picking a bearing and going for it, use a series of attack points to narrow in on the goal. All came back with a greater appreciation of night time land navigation. And no scout or leader was lost.
After hanging out around the fire, most scouts hit the sack by 10pm as temps were dropping. Wakeup was scheduled for 630am and all earned a snow flake as temps were 28F-30F at 615am. It wasn’t as cold as last time which hit near 21F. Thankfully it was drilled into the scouts to prep for winter sleeping and all survived the night without freezing – much. Breakfast was made with most choosing to eat a hot breakfast while Zeus who opted for a bowl of cold cereal. Just before leaving, each crew and the ASM’s all presented one of the seven points of Outdoor Ethics as a reminder on how to tread lightly in the forest – even if car camping.
A quick drive led the troop to the National Museum of the Marine Corps where they spent two hours learning the Marines history from being founded in a bar in 1775 to it’s latest deployment in the Middle East. The NMMC gives a superb history of the Marines during it’s first century as a small multi-faceted fighting force to it’s second century growth and legendary battles in WWI and island hopping in the Pacific theatre in WWII. All scouts and ASM’s left with a greater appreciation of the cost of freedom.
The scouts arrived back at Andrew Chapel just before 1pm. After a quick gear check the patrols disbanded and everyone headed to a warm home and lunch.
Gettysburg National Military Park
Nov 17-18, 2018
On Nov. 17/18 BSA Troop 1128 visited the National Battlefield Part at Gettysburg, PA. The trip was co-ordinated by ASM Fitzmaurice. It was both a bicycle tour of the battlefield and a guided historical tour. A service project was built into the event as scouts collected trash along the way.
The troop left Andrew Chapel about 9am on Saturday by car and met at Gettysbike (www.gettysbike.com) in the parking lot of the visitors center to pick up rental bikes. Gear was left in the cars while the rest of Saturday was spent touring the battlefield on bike.
The route took the Scouts thru the tip of the town of Gettysburg over to Confederate Ave.. Once on the battlefield proper, scouts rode past many cannons, historical markers and monuments. Perhaps the most impressive of these were the North Carolina and the Virginia monuments. That weekend just happened to be ‘Rememberance Day’ and there were many men and women dressed in period costumes wandering about.
Scouts ate a bag lunch along the way, most waiting until they reached the 75 foot Observation Tower. This tower offered a nearly birds-eye view of the location of action the occured on day two and three of the battle. The ride passed along the Wheat field and Peach Orchard, scenes of heavy fighting on day 2. We returned the bikes and car shuttled over to Artillery Ridge Campground to set up camp for the night. It had snowed a couple days previous and by then the melt had turned much of the ground into a fine soup like consistency. Temperatures dropped fairly low that evening and Scouts earned a Polar Bear or Snowflake for the trip.
The next morning, Scouts broke camp, packed up gear into cars and returned to Gettysbike for another ride. This ride took everyone past the large Pennsylvania memorial, the Confederate high water mark and Meads Headquarters. This days ride was somewhat shortened due to the opportunity to have a licensed Battlefield guide give us a personal tour of Devils Den and Little Round Top. We returned bikes once again to Gettysbike and shuttled by car over to Devils Den. The guide was very knowledgable and explained the events surrounding the desperate struggle around Devils Den and Little Round Top. He explained the role played by J.L. Chamberlain, credited by many with saving the battle for the North, but pointed out that there were others, lesser known today, who also had key roles in the battle, but just didn’t get a mention in the movie “Gettysburg”. The film that caused Little Round Top to become the most popular tourist destination of the battlefield.
The Scouts returned to Andrew Chapel by around 3pm, a little wiser, a lot muddier than before we left
George Washington National Forest
Oct 6-7, 2018
Hurricane Florence put a damper on Troop 1128’s first backpacking trip of the 2018 season scheduled for September 15 – 16. Over 40 scouts and 8 adults were rearing to go, but the USDA Forest Service closed the George Washington National Forest that weekend to free up the park rangers to respond to other potential disaster needs, so despite the beautiful weather, we had to postpone to October.
Instead of trotting into Dolly Sods for a 3-day hike over Columbus weekend, the PLC decided to scale back that event to just two days on October 6 & 7 in the George Washington National Forest so that the new scouts could attend their first backing trip and learn from the older scouts. Three dozen Scouts and 8 adults took part in the Introduction to Backpacking Trip. The troop was a bit cut short in that several older scouts attended the three-day Order of the Arrow ordeal that same weekend.
Nevertheless, the new scouts learned how to properly load their packs, but it was a challenge to adjust some of them to support the pack weight on their hips instead of their backs. We started out with four consolidated patrols; two headed in opposite directions on a nearly circular path from the vicinity of the Wolf Gap Recreation Area. This took us past many beautiful fall color sites, overhangs, relics from old Civilian Conservation Corps projects, and some horse riding campers as well. There was even a group of cowboys toting six shooters! The grounds were still soaked, but the weather was otherwise dry and near perfect with clear skies and 60F. Overnight it got a bit cooler as we camped out near a spring down into the upper 40s.
The main attraction along the 12-mile hike was the Big Schloss which is a large rock formation at a height of 1,000 vertical feet. Named by German immigrants, Big Schloss provides a wonderful view of the surrounding valleys into both Virginia and West Virginia.
The older scouts coached and mentored the younger scouts on how to pitch tents, prepare food in the field, and proper methods of field sanitation. With determination, all the new scouts pushed and pulled to make it to the destinations together. At the end, there was a well-deserved lunch in the parking lot and the trip home with many stories of conquering the mountain and camping out to tell friends and family.