Camp A (for Awesome!)

It was challenging for the 9 scouts and three adult leaders to get to their midway stop at Kirtland Air Force Base on the way to summer camp at Camp Alexander under Pike’s Peak. A gas stop traffic jam in Gallup, and I40 single lane backup due to culvert rebuilds didn’t help, but we managed to make the appointed time window to eat at the officers’ mess, and to locate our overnight accommodations – the Kirkland Scout Hut.  It is wisely located remotely from most of civilization on the massive air base to save the service men and women from the constant roar of scouts, which of course can generally drown out the sounds like those of the nearby airport. The hut contained unusual donated accommodations including very short church pews, a bit too tight for growing scouts to sleep on (the alternative was a red brick floor or a carpet from the early 80’s). Their indoor spiders were the friendly type, unlike the neighboring black widows on the porch outside with the adults.

Next day, arriving at Camp A, we met our staff troop guide – Hi Kyle!!! In our “Miles to go before I sleep” strategically placed Crow Camp site, we had as a camp-mate a short-eared resident bunny, a chipmunk and two deer, who were only slightly shyer than the other two.  It was absolutely gorgeous in camp, and with the animals, felt like we’d stepped into a Disney flick – we kept looking for Flower and Thumper to join Bambi and her friends. Temps overnight were perfect in the high 50s, but a Texas dad/leader in the shower that morning was complaining of getting no sleep due to the cold – not us Arizona campers! We were prepared!  Camp food was the best we’d ever had, and staff was very accommodating even at 80% with a full camp.  Adult leaders appreciated the daily 6AM coffee thermos delivery from the camp program director, but immediately thereafter out came a certain leader’s own stash of ‘Death Wish’ coffee as a chaser – world’s strongest coffee w/ 8X the caffeine.

First day of classes brought torrential rain at dinner, at 8PM, and after midnight. Our tents held up beautifully, and everything was dry. Largely the boys were too, taking rain gear everywhere after Monday afternoon. Tuesday was the day when lectures were largely behind them, and activities were underway. Lives were being saved, pots formed, bullseyes and traps hit, and orienteering, hiking, and casting performed. Qualifying scores in archery and shotgun were accomplished by first timers. Day 2 also brought another torrential downpour, ruining the scheduled outdoor carnival for the boys, but the adults bravely completed their steak dinners at the scheduled leader meeting indoors. Later at camp, hail followed by torrential rain, followed by more hail.  Troop Guide Kyle came running in his trademark hoodie and bandana through the storm to see if all the boys had gotten dinner in the midst of the hailed-out carnival, or if we had encountered tent leaks. None so far!

Midweek, another day of rainstorms, including flooded roads taking an adult leader to the Colorado Springs airport. While there is now some longing for home by the scouts, mitigating factors include showers, awesome food, great camaraderie, and new friends in staff and merit badge classes – everyone is having an absolute ball.  The boys did a great job serving and bussing Wednesday night dinner, and then, Thursday morning T648’s scouts demonstrated with absolute conviction how a flag ceremony should be performed. Practice definitely makes perfect, and they practiced on the parade grounds the day before, and got up the day of at 5:45 to practice some more. Two leaders took videos from different vantage points, and have shared them on the website under the Camp A photos.

During free time, one of our archery qualifiers took a shot at a fake bear 50 yards downrange and stuck it dead center broadside – in a bit of foreshadowing, we could have used him in camp at 4AM the next morning.  We had put care packages received from home in Igloo coolers with the lids on tight, since we couldn’t have cars or the trailer in camp.  Two of our scouts left for a sunrise hike to the top at Blue Mountain at 2:45AM, so when an adult leader heard rustling out by the picnic table, he thought it was the mountain climbers and rolled over. A bit later, hearing it again, he slipped on his hiking boots, and emerged into the moonlight to see a massive mound of furry black non-human in the dark at our picnic table, coolers on their sides with the lids pulled off, and a blanket of shiny wrappings and treats everywhere underfoot.  Trying not to wake everyone, he waved his arms wildly and stomped down the hill toward the table, as two wide eyes in the midst of all that black surrounded by cellophane gleamed back at him.  There was that crucial moment where the bear weighed options, and he wondered if he should stop his forward motion toward the bear, and then our uninvited guest turned, and lumbered down the hill.  In the ensuing assessment of the damage, he was likely full anyway, as there was very little left unconsumed of the Red-vines, fire hot Cheetos, Nerds, Cheez-its, Doritos, Pringles, Oreos and everything else that is high on the major food groups for teen boys and bears. Overheard in camp – Hah! My chicken in a biskit is bear-proof – he didn’t eat it! – Oh yeah, that’s how you know chicken in a biskit is toxic!

That same night, after a day of lightning and hail, a scout had wilderness survival, and somehow managed to sleep 5 hours in a shelter he built himself. In the camp Iron man competition the next day, our scouts ‘podiumed’ by coming in third in the 10 event relay, with a number of amazing individual performances.  The anchor leg scout, who had also performed the starting leg of the race collapsed at the finish line, vomited and began shaking as the camp pumper fire truck sprayed him and everyone on the flag grounds with water in celebration.  After real fire trucks and ambulances came and diagnosed him for altitude over-exertion and dehydration, an adult leader took him into town to the ER to be absolutely sure.  After a couple IVs, he was back to being himself, and on the return to camp, his actual, certified reaction was – “What a great day!”

It truly was universally unanimously declared a most awesome overall summer camp by our T648 participants.  The return to Phoenix was similar to the week before, but in reverse – long miles, Kirtland, officers’ mess, card games, church pews – but this time the black widow hung out by the boys on the porch, now with a dead lizard in her web, and this time every place we pit-stopped on Sunday had restrooms out of order.  That led to multiple scrambles, each successfully executed, but as we hit town, the scouts were happy to be back home, and looking forward to their own beds, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Trying not to make a mess of the Officers’ Mess
On my honor I will do my best to bluff my neighbor!
Remember everybody, drink plenty of sunscreen, and wear water!
How’d you sleep? Pretty good except for my fingers. Huh, your fingers didn’t sleep??
The hail hurt my knuckles. It actually hurts like ‘hail’
Practice, Practice, Practice – absolutely nails events like flag ceremonies and closing campfire skits.
And there they are – Your T648 75th Anniversary Camp A campers from 2022!

The little ‘Big Lake’ that could..

Blasting out of Heatsville on time, pausing for a roaring car fire on the Beeline, and a dining engagement at Payson Culvers, the scouts arrived at Big Lake after 10PM in the dark.  But with a new day dawning, the scouts arose to awesome beauty at 9000 feet, chilly in the shade, warm in the sun, with our campsite under a canopy of quakies, surrounded by mature pines.  The boys had planned to fish and go swimming, but quickly found this is not a desert lake. Pat, our camp host, told the boys that his campsites opened late in May this year due to multiple feet of snow on the ground and 20 inches of ice on the lake. When he mentioned that a couple capsized their boat, and had hypothermia when rescued, the boys decided that advancement and more fishing would replace swimming on the agenda.  Another adjustment we made this outing was to be very careful about locking up all food, deodorants, toothpaste and any other fragrant items overnight or while we were not in camp.  There had been two confirmed bear sightings in camp in the last few weeks, with only one of them being captured and removed to a more remote area than ours.  Although secluded, we had some friendly neighbors who came over to the boy’s campsite as they had a breakfast of eggs and bacon frying and offered them their leftover worms. Our SPL politely declined before realizing that the worms were to be used for fishes’ breakfast, not boy scouts’.  Now happily accepting the gift, the boys discovered that cutting big squirming worms in half resulted in two smaller squirming worms, and there were more than enough remaining for everybody. After a morning of learning the nuances of bobbers, weights, hooks, casting, fishing line snarls, and the capture of three fingerling rainbow trout that were returned to finish growing, the excitement of fishing began to wane, and it was back up to camp for lunch.  After a rousing compass orienteering, distance and height estimation, and GPS session all over the northeast part of the lake, and some enthusiastic requirements sign offs, it was back down to the lake to try and catch the elusive ‘big one’ of Big Lake before dinner.  After more advancement, and a brief football throwing contest, the evening meals were fantastic, and consumed in short order.  Heard from the scouts’ side of camp: ‘‘That burger is shaking in the grease, is that a good thing?’  ‘Bun me up, Scottie!’  ‘You know that movie ‘Free Willie?’ – let’s ‘Free Wormy!’  After a full day of fishing, hiking the lake, orienteering and other advancement, and filling, delicious food, folks happily crashed in their tents by 8PM ready to get an early start tearing down, and back down the hill. 

Four set sail that day, for a 230 mile tour, a 230 mile tour
Mmmmm – literally dividing up the fresh worms
No fish for dinner, but three tiny rainbow were returned to the deep to grow for next time
With Mr. Benyi’s excellent help, we can now more than orient ourselves out of a wet paper bag
Scout previously planned surf and turf dinner becomes Burger Mania at Big Lake!
Add fresh cherries and chocolate chip cookies to that beautiful NY Strip surf & turf, adults ate like STARRS
Sharpening up the ax during totin’ chip advancement, so if that bear comes back…..

‘Twas very Pleasant, At the Lake, that is…

An eager-beaver gang of 5 boy scouts and a cub scout sallied forth this time, and eating before departure resulted in an arrival before the sun set, allowing us to clearly see the three wild burros giving us the once over as we drove by on the way to our campsites.  Hmmm, foreshadowing of craziness to come?  We quickly established that we actually CAN set up tents while it is still light out, and in this case, it was especially useful in constructing the newfangled double-bunker cot in one of the boy’s 4-man tent.  Once fully assembled, we enjoyed a leisurely evening chatting as the sun set and lights twinkled on the lake.  A key topic was favorite campfire skits of old – two of interest had to do with ‘Great Big Hairy Men’ pounding their chests and saying UHHH, and ‘Short-necked Buzzards’ sitting in a dead tree.  Upon retiring around midnight, the calm of a beautiful night was periodically shattered thereafter by coyotes and burros having multiple differences of opinion – loudly.

The next morning, after assembling and consuming amazing breakfasts, the scouts were at the water’s edge with the canoes shortly after 9AM for safety training. Adventures on the water at times resembled Captains Courageous, and between canoe races, pretend games of ‘canoe chicken’ and other derring-do, the boys wore themselves out to the point it was a relief to halt for lunch.  Except, at that point it was discovered that squirrel thievery of their hamburger buns had occurred, and the adults were dismayed to discover a raven had creatively absconded with the extra bacon left over from breakfast that was to grace our steaks later that evening.   The boys found it was a chore to psych themselves up to go back down to the water after lunch, but enthusiasm again soon reigned.  Between rock skipping (‘I gotta find the pot-of-gold skipping rock’, singing loudly back to the girls who sang sweetly in the water not too far away ‘When you hear this song, your ears will explode!’ and playing fetch ‘Throw a rock, and I’ll swim to it,’ the afternoon flew by.  There were birds everywhere – buzzards circled, waiting for the bacon-eating ravens to keel over, ducks came up into the EZ-Ups we had in the water, a large egret kept checking us out, and there were even seagulls dive-bombing the rock-skippers.  Mr. P observed there were no turkeys on this outing, not a single gobbler – but plenty of cobbler!  After even more remote-control car running, football throwing, rock-skipping, and boomer-shoe, it was finally time to haul the canoes back up the cliff to the parking lot for the day.  After the most amazing dinners ever, we set up a lantern campfire in the stiff breeze, and did an evening around the light (can you say ‘lampfire!?’).  The highlights were the goofy scout skits, the adults doing ‘If I weren’t a Scoutmaster’ song, a scout telling a long, spooky purple hairy gorilla story, and topping it all off with a lovely rendition of Scout Vespers.

Then to bed, to be burroed again all night. This time they didn’t have anything to say to the coyotes, they were too busy rustling our camps.  The pesky critters spent the night trying to open an ice cooler (video evidence in the middle of the night obtained, and not from a doorcam, but an indignant scout’s cellphone!) and later, even a remote controlled startup of the pickup truck was only mildly interesting but no interruption of a burro’s consuming the content of the trash can accidentally left outside of the troop trailer.  Peering out of his tent, an assistant scoutmaster got a closeup of the hind end of a burro, with its entire head and neck buried in the bottom of the can eating remnants of the garlic butter and assorted other delicacies from dinner!

No palms to speak of on the way home, but plenty of saguaros to lead the way, and the troop hit the church early, well before Palm Sunday services started, closing out another successful chapter in the book of T648 history.

It’s a looong way to lakes in a desert
Bon Voyage – We have canoe lift-off!
C’mon adult leaders, the H2O is not THAT cold!
Well, maybe it is a wee bit chilly….
The great T648 2022 boat races
The ingenious double decker cot contraption
A bit too windy, but can you say Lamp-fire?
Yet another rousing rendition of the Invisible Bench skit

An Awesome Troop Family of Campers

As the brilliant orange full moon rose over the surrounding hills, our troop family gathered Friday night in McDowell Mountain Regional Park for our annual Family Camp.  It was not a ‘bad moon on a’ rise’ as Creedence Clearwater used to sing, but a bright beacon beneath which late arrivers could set up in our youth group campsite weekend home.  After tent setup, as the chill overcame the evening, scouts coaxed and then endlessly prodded a small crackling fire for us to converse around until it was time to douse it dead out and head to bed.

After arising to a call of coyotes at 4:45, it was a balmy 50 degrees and beautiful at sunrise. Before breakfast the scouts hit the trail to the top of Eagle Mountain next to our site. After beautiful breakfast pockets built by some of the scouts (they were supposed to be burritos, but filled to overflowing, could only be slightly folded over into pockets), and other delectable creations, the day’s events began.  Advancement ensued as younger scouts practiced flag raising, folding and marching next to the parabolic shaped flag pole provided by our hosts, and other scouts did first aid.  The highlight of the day (at least for some) was a six-mile nature hike beginning along the North Trail.  One of the scouts identified 10 native plants which grow in the surrounding Sonoran Desert, and others alternated between providing a blistering pace or watching for wildlife – ‘watch out for hyenas!’ ‘You mean javelinas??’  An out-of-town cub scout participated fully in the long, brisk hike, and then later took turns leading a rousing football toss game of 500, providing great hope for the next generation of boy scouts in our fair country.

After another run to the top of Eagle Mountain, an incredible taco bar followed for dinner with fabulous desserts (can you say peach cobbler and O’Henry Bars?).  After mounds of dishes, we launched into a dusk filled with slapstick campfire skits – including Invisible Bench, The Smartest Man in the World, I keep my Worms Warm, and the Biggest Loser Game Show.  Then it was more fire – if there only were a fire-poking merit badge, we certainly had some qualifiers, and then lights out on some tired but happy campers.

Awakening at 5:00 to the mournful sound of a hoot owl, the breakfasts produced were the best us elders had seen in years on getaway day – including Dutch oven pizzas, scrambled eggs and sausage, French toast casserole and more delectable smells surrounding our camp tear-down.  A huge ‘Thorns and Roses’ ceremony closed the event – all roses except for one ‘My thorn is the 5,000-mile hike we went on yesterday.’  A brief service led by a scout gave proper thanks for our wonderful weekend.  Many thanks also to all of you who came for the whole event, came for the day, came for dessert and skits, or came 1,000 miles and spent part of their vacation with us – another awesome family event in the annals of Troop 648 history.

Breakfast of Champions – including the pockets division
Embarking on our ‘5,000 mile hike’
First aid practice, fortunately not utilized
A scout mom rides in from her home below the ridge
Old Glory still rises on a bent flagpole
Quarterbacking the boy scouts, cub scout style
The comfort of an ‘invisible bench’ campfire-side
Working on the ‘poke a fire’ merit badge

That There Canyon is Pretty Grand

Knowing this was going to be a frosty trip, the scouts were nonetheless eagerly anticipating getting to camp.  The caravan left the church parking lot ahead of time, flew through a take-out dinner, and managed to only one short pit-stop on their journey. Sights seen along the way included deer, elk, and a forest fire raging in multiple spots right next to I-40, but before we knew it, we were pulling into our forest road target adjacent to the Grand Canyon.  A blast of cold air and multiple inches of snow on the ground greeted our hardy T648 campers, who launched tents and hunkered down in record time for a cold winter’s night. But not before witnessing during the process the most amazing set-up in years – “Da da da da da da, circus circus,” Mr. Englehardt and his ‘step right up to the big top’ three ring circus tent!  Any clowns or elephants going to come out of that thing in the AM? 

Next morning the boys were comparing numb and pink toes stories, Mr. Cole’s contacts were frozen into two solid solution ice cubes, and the troop lighters wouldn’t work.  When it was determined that Mr. Nachtrab’s gas flame thrower starter also was frozen, we began thinking we would have to get creative and rub two scouts’ heads together to get fire.  Eventually breakfast was very good – adult mountain man breakfast right out of the Dutch oven and sooo warm in the 9-degree wind chill.  And the scouts decided that burnt eggs left in the pan lent extra flavor to the bacon fry that went into their burritos.

A five-mile hike along the rim at the most amazing canyon in the world was the day’s highlight. A new ‘Trail of Time’ identified all the rock layers laid down over the years and exposed in the canyon through erosion by the Colorado River and other contributors.  10 million years for each 13 paces made you feel like you were really getting somewhere!  This fun was followed by lunch in the parking lot, and a return to the canyon’s edge for fudge and other treasures from the El Tovar gift shop.  Heading back to camp, we discovered the sun and 37 degrees had created a bit of soup in camp, but there was still plenty of white stuff remaining for an enthusiastic snow war.

One of our scouts turned 13 the Saturday of our trip. Canyoneering, fudge, dutch oven pizza, cobbler, S’mores, a Pepsi, a gift from parents, snow ball fights, and hanging with the troop in glorious winter nature were only a few of the highlights that went into his birthday party.  Actual overnight temperatures of 7 degrees on Saturday night were the coldest yours truly had ever spent sleeping in a tent on the ground, but other than a few comments on tingling fingers and frozen toes during ‘Thorn’s and Roses,’ there was not a complaint from a scout to be heard.  General consensus in typical understated scout-speak was ‘Kinda great how big the Grand Canyon is!’

Ya’ll looking forward to family camp in McDowell Mountain Regional Park next month?

Home sweet igloo
Circus Big Tops for the Biggest Outings
Experiment: Do eggs burn at 7F degrees?
“Kinda great how big the Grand Canyon is!”
5 mile hikes can be quite tasking
Snow war before a truce for dinner
mmmm – Dutch oven pizza!
Happy Birthday Grand Canyon style!
How to handle 7 degree mornings scout-style

Meteor Crater (Death Caves Two Guns Ruins Burros) Outing

Last Friday night, two truckloads of 5 guys each heading toward that ‘other’ big hole in the ground up north stopped at 5 Guys in Payson along the way.  After bags of burgers, fries and milkshakes, they emerged as the equivalent of two truckloads of 6 guys each.  Completing a cold first night at Homolovi above Winslow, our exploration of the intersection of outer space, the time of the Anasazi, and the wild, wild west began.  Meteor Crater was an absolute hit, as we explored the massive hole created by the iron-nickel meteor weighing thousands of tons and traveling 26,000 miles per hour impacted what is now northern Arizona with the force equivalent to 150 atomic bombs.  A tour led by a humorous and knowledgeable guide and exploration on our own of the history of both fruitless mining of the hole and subsequent use of the crater for astronaut practice for moon landings was an incredible morning.  But then it just kept getting better.  We headed to Two Guns, a completely deserted ghost town at the mouth of Canyon Diablo, crossing over the old cement bridge from the early years of Route 66, and climbing through remains of the old town’s dilapidated rock buildings.  The scouts had read about some Apache ‘death caves’ further east along the canyon, and after a short search, we also discovered a rickety wooden ladder leading down to a cave opening from which came a blast of cold air reminding one of Lava River Caves farther west.  With periodic openings venting all the way to the surface, and with cellphone flashlights, the boys spent an hour exploring the caves where apocryphal stories describe instances of Native Americans and fugitives from the law hiding out in the 1800s.  Once back on top of the canyon again, it was time to first explore an ancient Mobile gas station ruin, followed by the ruins which bore the name of our state park home for the weekend – the Homolovi, ancestors to the Hopi.  Exhausted, it was back to the tents for an evening of hamburgers, rotisserie chicken stew, and cherry cobbler around a warm fire before bed, only to arise to a herd of wild burros looking for breakfast – burritos, anyone?  On the way out of Winslow, we got a kick out of the creativity that business people in that part of the world employ to stay employed.  As we exited the state park, there was a combination trading post, auto dealer, dollar store all rolled into one, right down the street from the Indian Arts shop where they advertise you can PP by the TP.  Passing by the Eagles’ ‘standing’ corner in Winslow, Arizona, I couldn’t help but think that as usual, this outing was exceptionally conceived, led, and executed by the scouts, and we adults were once again grateful simply to be along for the ride.  Can’t wait to see what comes next month!  

3 Guys digging into 5 Guys
Exploring 20 Megatons of blasted hole
Future astronaut explores moon-like crater on earth
Crawling through the ruins of Two Guns, AZ
Hesitation before exploring the Apache ‘death cave’
Serving window at the Diablo Canyon Anasazi gas station
Did you say burritos or burros for breakfast?
Yes, Eagles, there’s a flat-bed Ford on a corner in Winslow, AZ!


Gettin’ Wet at Lake Mead

The adults were for once not outnumbered on a T648 outing, as 3 scouts and an equivalent number of adult leaders left SWC church right on schedule for their run to the border – the Nevada border.  In a sign of the times, the Subway where we planned to stop and eat in Wickenburg was closed due to staffing issues. Alternative? Chubby’s Cheesesteaks. After consuming the nuclear submarine sized sandwiches, we said so long to Chubby from Philly, and rolled ourselves out the door, back on our way.

Upon arrival after 10PM, Mr Benyi declared ‘that’s the farthest I’ve ever driven to sleep in 87-degree temps’ but light sprinkles as we set up proceeded to mitigate it a bit.  Boulder City receives 5 inches of rain per year, and we received more than our fair share of it this weekend, with a second glorious 10-minute thundershower before breakfast. The bikes momentarily removed from the trailer were tossed back in and a hastily erected ezup was our port in the brief storm. A Black Jack game broke out under the cover, we were but a stone’s throw from Vegas after all. After a third 2-minute shower after noon, it then appeared to be done for the day – and maybe the rest of the year!

As on most outings, there were useful scout skills developed – this one introduced the aforementioned speed ezup construction. There was also the delicate art of starting a Coleman stove with a blowtorch, as well as protecting camp from roadrunners in search of Dutch oven breakfast leftovers. We finished up scout school later in the day with first aid requirements for road rash from a bike mishap, followed up by the knowledge that Terrible Herbst 76 stores can get you just about anything you need that is missing from your first aid kit, short of a bone saw (those likely are special order).

We started Saturday morning post shower with a bike ride of 14 miles round trip from our Boulder Beach campsite to Hoover Dam. The trail was along the historical railroad route wending its way through mountain tunnels from Boulder City to the site of the dam. Amazing amounts of materials were needed in Black Canyon, and the railroad was constantly used to haul such things as the 4.4 million cubic yards of concrete needed for the dam and power plant. That amount would be enough to pave a 3,000-mile road – one that would stretch completely across the US.

Saturday afternoon was spent in the water and under a partially submerged ezup on Boulder Beach. Can you say dozin’ in the bay? With the three short sprinkles, the temps generally stayed south of 90 degrees, and with spectacular dinners, a glorious sunset and a crackling fire, it was agreed that a fine time was had by all.

69!! Degrees (yeah baby!) greeted us Sunday morning, and some home-bound motivated scouts had us again out on the highway by 7:30AM for a pre-noon arrival back at the church.

Slip Sliding Away in Oak Creek

Once again, the strategy of sending out a Friday afternoon advance scout resulted in a prime rim-side camp along forest road 237 for our trip to Slide Rock. This resulted in most excellent consumption by T648’s 11 participating members of your National Forest government dollars at work, and upon not a better section of dirt in the state! Arising early Saturday morning, your intrepid reporter gathered a few snippets of conversations around the breakfast huddles:

“I brought my thin sleeping bag – I didn’t think it would be this cold (insert editorial comment – a mere 50 degrees). I put on some sweatshirts at 3am.”

“I was cold, too. I was using my jacket as a pillow until I had to put it on, then I used my pants as a pillow until I put THEM on. Then I had to use my toiletries case.”

“My gourmet oatmeal is vegan gluten-free made in Alaska, and tastes like cardboard!”

“Do I need sunscreen if I can get free skin removal?”

We then learned that at least one scout knows every word of the song ‘Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee’ as we dressed out and made lunch before heading for Oak Creek Canyon and Slide Rock. This time we were prepared to avoid the problem from 2 years ago of arriving a little after 9AM and finding the parking lot already full and the rangers turning cars away – we headed down after 7AM and were 7th in line at the park gate to begin our water adventure.

In typical Boy Scouts fashion, our young men did an amazing job of work before play by restoring the main wooden plank bridge to its moorings. The bridge had been carried downstream by recent rains, and after our repairs, was well used by hundreds of people the rest of the day. The boys then began the play portion of the day by reprising the famed ‘Arjun Course’ down canyon, including the creek, the rapids, jumping area, and the wide pools at the end. Those of us with time to observe were entranced with the Olympic-like agony of defeat of all ages during the constant sport of red rock sandstone slipping and falling. Other than a number of older folks rubbing wrists or other sensitive parts of the body, luckily no scout first aid was required.

Midday there was an excellent rendition of Jacob’s Folly, as Mr Benyi and Mr Nachtrab executed an east to west land grab to maintain our tenuous hold on shady real estate for our bags and blankets. Periodic slathering helped stem sunburns, but at least one pair of swim trunks and one water shoe did not survive the strenuous activities of the day. After 6 hours of splashing, sliding, swimming, jumping, and otherwise experiencing all Oak Creek Canyon had to offer, a happy bunch of Boy Scouts headed back to camp. While the scouts took the edge off a powerful hunger by devouring a massive cheese and cracker platter before dinner while playing cards, noise from Fort Tuthilll’s gun show spilled into the neighborhood as enthusiastic participants were apparently trying out new toys. But as evening fell, quiet returned as menus turned into masterpieces. There were hot dogs with Mac and cheese, Buffalo chicken, Thursday surprise (reprised for Saturday night), Mini cornbread muffins, bacon BBQ chicken, honey ginger shrimp, and the Nachtrabs’ knockout cherry cobbler. After staring into a crackling fire with heavy eyelids, it was soon time to pack in a most excellent day, and enjoy one more cool night sleeping on the ground before heading back to triple digits.

Look out canyon, here comes T648!
Slathering beforehand beats skin removal after!
‘Mother Hen’ Benyi takes a quiet moment for Tilly’s hat repair
Beginning the famed Arjun Course
Let ‘er rip!
Gliding in for a wet landing!
That poor cheese tray didn’t stand a chance!

All ‘Fired up’ to go Tubing!

Neither Slate fire, nor Sunset Point accident, nor Flagstaff bridge detour, nor neighboring cows, nor dark of night could keep the scouts from their appointed base camp this weekend at the base of Antelope Hill, just north of Lava River Cave.

Advance scouts sent up early on Friday afternoon to reserve a spot survived all of the above (except the dark of night part – that was left to the bulk of the attendees), and turned left at the two motionless mule deer eyeing us five miles from the SR 180 road closure for the Slate Fire, which by now was thankfully heading in the opposite direction from Lava Tubes. Possibly because of the presence of the fire, we unexpectedly had our choice of all our favorite prime spots along the forest roads surrounding the cave.  Discussions regarding the herd of cattle sharing our camping area ensued – ‘No, you cannot pet a cow, yes they sometimes do sleep standing up, no we cannot go cow tipping like Tow Mater did in the movie ‘Cars.’’  The next morning, after an assessment of everyone’s sleep – (‘Ow, I slept with my head on a rock,’ ‘Cow conversations at 3AM are really annoying’, ‘Can 38 degrees give you frostbite? – my toes are tingling’) we headed for the tubes.  While the walk from our camp to the Tubes was only about the same distance as the length of the cave itself, there was some discussion of wishing we could have saddled cows for the trip.  But the ¾ mile length of the caves was as invigorating as ever, with chunks of ice being found, opportunities for bouldering, scary face making, narrow areas where one almost had to crawl (‘I wish I had gone left, this hard way is way janky!’), and good use was made of the mandatory helmets, as many a head met the low overhangs in between soaring caverns.  After the walk back, lunch (‘Is it still called cooking if I make a Dorito sandwich?’) and card games, football, hammock swinging, and more games took care of the heat of the afternoon.  The day finished with orienting maps and triangulation in the meadow with the cows looking over our shoulders, a hike to the top of Antelope hill with a super-fast return back down, advancement (what does EDGE stand for??), dinner, and more relating as laughter in camp chairs around a hammock (fire restrictions) and s’mores with fudge-striped cookies and marshmallows took us up until lights out.  The 9 scouts and 5-ish adults (I’m still not sure where the ‘ish’ came from) agreed that it was another most incredible T648 event, especially considering that in 6 hours today, we went from 36 degrees at awakening to 108 degrees at noon back in the church parking lot.  When can we head out again?

Mommy, I shrunk the tent!
Spelunkers ready, set, GO
Psyching up to go under
The Green Lantern (and Orange…. and Blue….)
Ahhhh, the end of the tubes
Rocking it!!
Head’s up, Mr. Carson!
Orienting Antelope Hill before conquering it
This outing? Almost all roses!

R-C II, The Sequel

This weekend a lean, mean, scouting machine of 5 scouts and 5 adults once again braved, with trepidation, the site of the R-Brrr-C rain, mud and snow bath from early this year.  This sequel turned into a spectacular adventure of crawdad fishing, cold water splashing, 5-Star dessert eating, campfire story-telling, singing, fun in the sun.  Friday night they first had to endure a large community of cub scout fathers and sons camping next door, who somehow after 11PM couldn’t figure out how to turn off & lock their fleet of trucks quietly, or softly close the metal doors of the kaibos. Saturday morning, however, dawned bright and beautiful.  Eager scouts went scrambling after crawdad immediately after breakfast, but had to settle for a great morning of hunting rather than catching, as the cold-blooded crustaceans were not yet out and about in the freezing water.  There also was no sign of Dershnelda, the Russian radioactive snapping turtle, purported to live in the R-C pond.  After lunch, included in a hike to Box Canyon, the boys attempted to store up ‘chill’ to last them a summer in Phoenix by splashing around in Christopher Creek’s pools, and sticking their heads under waterfalls in a headache-inducing act of derring-do.  But by now the sun had been out for hours, so it was back to the crawdad holes under the mega-sycamore tree for more hunting.  This time, victory!  The ant-flavored hot-dogs appeared to be a hit for bait, as did teriyaki slim jims, and before you knew it, we had a pot-full of this invasive species that the R-C ranger literally begged us to take off his hands.  The adults had as much fun (and success!) at ‘bagging the big ones’, and multiple 4-5 inch mini-lobsters were removed from the creek.  An excellent dinner did not, however, consist of shell-fish, and the evening again consisted of great conversation, but also a most-excellent cherry cobbler and s’mores around the fire. Heard from the scouts this trip: discussions of the stars overhead and the Zodiac: ‘Cancer, why name a constellation after a disease?’ I’m a Capricorn.’ What’s a Capricorn?’ I don’t know, I just am one.’ ‘What’s a ‘pisscuss? ‘Haa Haa – that’s Pisces, dude!’  ‘We went on a hike to Box Canyon last year and saw hyenas….or was it deer?’ ‘I’m just going to chug a granola bar, and then I’m ready.’ ‘Do you think they will all be crawdads, or will there be crawmoms?’ ‘What if the sun fell into the Bermuda Triangle and just disappeared?’  And best of all – the confounding mystery Friday night of the missing tent stakes was ultimately solved.  During camp tear down, the bag was found under the tent, prompting one scout to say: ‘I thought that lump under my pad was a really big rock!’  This weekend will be hard to top, but we will give it a shot next month at the Lava Tubes outing!

This is bacon, but I’ve already had my coffee and Doritos!
The fabled ‘Box Canyon’ – of the hyenas?
Cold shower time!
Are these crawdads, or crawmoms?
Members of the SSSS – ‘super secret stick society’
They’re biting! A pot full of invasive species
Deep splinter surgery – probably could have used Mr. Benyi’s ‘bone saw’
40 degree morning? A scout is always prepared.