Archive for the ‘Normal’ Category

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.

Who Heard a Horton!

This past weekend 7 young and 6 old backpackers attacked the Horton Springs trail with gusto.  Many thanks to those sporting parents who traveled up and back and up and back to the trailhead to give their offspring a glorious two days in the pines.  While we knew from the packed parking lot that the odds were low of our obtaining the prime teepee and stone furniture site along the creek, an eminently suitable replacement was quickly found far from the trail, right next to the creek.  Setting up in sleet turning to a sprinkle was followed by a hearty lunch, and a day hike to the dual springs in the cool of the afternoon.  Drinking cold water pouring from a rock wall was a new experience for some, as was falling asleep listening simultaneously to wind whistling through the pines as the creek babbled next to us – dueling white noise that sleep-deprived city dwellers pay good money to have on their cellphones.  Our traditional circle Sunday morning disclosed few thorns mostly temp related amidst a field of roses, as the boys again concluded a most spectacular outing on a real-life rocky mountain high.  I finish with four thoughts from the trip with a Scout Law theme.  A scout is:

Helpful â€“ A soccer team set up camp downstream from us, and the scouts made note that they had a roaring fire most of the night and Sunday morning.  After the team left, our scouts checked out their ashes which were doused above ground, but still white-hot underground.  20 minutes were spent carrying water from the creek to make sure it all was ‘dead out.’

Friendly â€“ A scout joined the troop this week, and bravely decided to go on the outing.  Not yet knowing the other boys, and with a backpack almost as big as he was, temps in the 30’s, an 8-mile hike at 6300 feet – it could have been a long weekend for an 11-year-old.  After numerous encouragements, assistance, inclusion in everything by the scouts, including letting him build and start the fire, he’s rarin’ to go on his next outing. 

Kind â€“ Another scout didn’t pack layers, and was a bit frosty Saturday night in his t-shirt.  One of our younger, but always prepared scouts saw this.  He gave the cold boy his favorite down vest, instead using his backup jacket that he brought in case it rained.  That’s incredible to me – I don’t think I’ve ever lent anyone my favorite down sweater!

Cheerful – There is more goofy laughter on one of these trips than in anything else in my life.  Laughter is indeed the ‘Best Medicine’ for me, and I think this alone would bring me back monthly for more.  I’ve been on outings where they make snow angels in a blizzard, laugh uproariously about pushing the trailer up a slick muddy road, play frisbee with frozen wash cloths left out overnight. This outing was no different with sword-fighting with hiking poles and baseball with sticks and pine cones.   It is a pleasure to watch young men get along so well.  At the end of the day, you just know they have the right attitude towards life. 

Fresh and ready to go!
Batter up!
Filling purification bottles at the main spring
Spring #2 dries up by early summer
Arrrgghhh – Talk like a pirate, and walk the plank
The luxury of living creekside!
Fires feel great in April at altitudes of 6300 with the sun setting
One last good sword fight before heading back down the hill!

Wait until it’s 50 degrees before swimming!

This weekend saw the return from the pandemic of the T648 canoeing seascouts, as a brave eleven boys twelve months removed from a trip to Canyon Lake headed west to Lake Pleasant for what they hoped would be a pleasant day at the lake.  It was far more than that – it was a five-star secluded camp on four tiers carved into a slope leading down to our own private beach at the westernmost end of the water.  The boys started Saturday morning bright and early hauling canoes down the cliff to the water’s edge, and then spent a wild morning fighting to paddle into the wind, swimming out into the chilly water, and casting for fish which were far too wily to surrender.  When they were too pooped to paddle, they headed up an inlet where a game of water football broke out – the highlight of which were punts where water shoes flew farther than the footballs.  Heading in to eat, some of our intrepid campers discovered that mini-bears had helped themselves to their buns, altering menus which had originally included hamburgers with a lid.  The real crime, however, was the devastating loss of several Oreos.   After lunch, it was back out into the water for more ice swimming, wind paddling, and swamp ball.  Your reporter had a ball listening to the commentary during the afternoon football game.  Included were such gems as “I think my feet are bleeding, but I can’t tell ‘cause they’re numb!’ and ‘Look, I’m a fish with legs!’ and ‘Vultures are circling – take Sam, he’s small!’  At the close of the weekend, the troop had completed more advancement than during any outing in two years thanks to the eight adults that came and spent time with the scouts throughout the weekend.  Additional important lessons were also learned – for example, how many scouts does it take to carry a canoe down a cliff?  But I think the most interesting thing of the whole weekend was that the youngest person on the trip cooked chicken thighs with potatoes rosemary topped off by cherry cobbler, and the oldest person on the trip ‘cooked’ a Mountain House freeze dried Italian pepper beef with an expiration date of 2048.  I think they both went home equally happy, but we all know which one had the happier tummy.  The best news of all – the ‘outing’ is back in scouting, and there will be two more outings within the next month.  If you missed this one, check out Horton Springs or our triumphant return to Canyon Lake coming right up!

Council Sponsored Merit Badge Opportunities

The Grand Canyon Council has added additional merit badge classes (both in person and virtual.) Click here to see them.

Mr Blair

R burr C, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rain and Mud.

Last weekend, 4 adults and 4 scouts decided to brave the great outdoors during the cold. We knew that rain was in the forecast with snow predicted for Sunday morning but the start from the church had no indication of that weather. In fact, not until we got near R-C was there a hint of rain.

We made it in darkness to our site after I overshot it and the scouts picked their spots with the knowledge that they didn’t want to be anywhere that the rain might gather. Tents were put up with minor sprinkles at worst and we were able to get to our tents relatively dry. Once in the tents, though, the weather had enough of waiting and decided to dump on us all night. A good bit of the weather was small hail/grauple in addition to rain which made for a nice drumming on the tents.

Saturday morning had a bit of a respite so that the pop-up tents could be put up. One picnic table was able to be covered so that it could be used in the rain. Our scouts learned how to play a fun variant of liar’s dice as well as playing Uno and some Chess. This reporter noticed that the scouts didn’t seem to like calling each other liar and instead said “cap” when they thought someone was bluffing. Chants of cap, cap, cap could be heard now and again from the picnic table.

Hiding their dice from one another. Check out the mud puddles near the fire ring.

That was the good news. The bad news was that the constant rain/grauple overnight seemed to saturate the ground and it didn’t take much walking to have mud puddles everywhere. The ground was pretty sticky and we were lucky someone didn’t lose a boot!

In the afternoon the weather let up enough for us to hike to the box canyon area of Christopher Creek.

The pools of the box canyon area from above.

We also traveled to the springs of the creek and passed the big Sycamore that in warmer months marks crawdad fishing country.

When the moon hits your knees and you mispronounce trees, Sycamore!

Saturday evening, discussions of potential snow were had before bed. Sunday morning, we woke to some scouts wishes being granted.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t cold enough overnight to freeze the mud puddles, so packing up was a bit tough and many trash bags were used to avoid tracking mud into vehicles.

The snow came down heavy as we gathered to wrap up the outing. A nice ending to a tough but fun outing.

The Springs are Still Great, We’re not Bluffing

Ten winter backpackers extraordinaire met in the still dark of the church parking lot Saturday morning for their latest most excellent adventure. One scout was returning to the scene of his very first scout outing a number of years ago, and for another, it WAS is very first outing, choosing to celebrate it with his T648 comrades on his birthday weekend. For one adult, it was probably his sixth time camping at the spring – and the next bad trip to Bluff Springs will be his first. As usual, some of the comments were keepers – heard as we gathered in the trailhead parking lot – ‘Who’s going to carry the map and be our guesstimator?’ Heard along the trail – ‘Why does my back hurt so much?’ ‘I guess that’s why they don’t call it frontpacking!’ As we slowly wound our way up the switchbacks, through balancing rocks and hoo doos galore, there were the obligatory magnificent views of Weavers Needle in the brilliant morning light. Many of the drainage canyons, hillsides and ridgelines were devastated by the convergence of three major fires in the Superstitions in less than four years, so there was some dread that we would find our beautiful Bluff Springs burnt to a crisp. After the first 6-1/2 hour hike to the springs from the Peralta trailhead in troop history, we rounded the corner and there to our unspeakable joy was the largest sugar sumac tree in North America still standing proudly, singed a bit, surrounded by charred remains of desert plants, but very likely to continue to thrive. Troop 648 is ecstatic, and once again set up under her sheltering branches. Except for one adult leader who decided the flat ground amidst the charred remains looked most appealing. He called it the ‘post-apocalyptic section.’
After a marvelous night’s rest, the hikers awoke to a beautiful, moonlit 39 degrees Sunday morning, serenaded by Showtimes regalia coming from Mr. Benyi’s general direction all during tent tear down. Things went well enough that the SPL was not entitled to implement the troop tradition of patrol leaders taking down tents with scouts still in them to get things moving. After a rousing ‘Thorns and Roses,’ we exited Bluff Springs pretty much on schedule, and more than doubled the pace coming out in a classic ‘horse to the barn’ syndrome. All in all, another trip that can’t be beat has been added to the T648 record books.

Masked up and ready to go!
Social distancing in the great outdoors
Reconnoitering under the hoo doos!
The tallest sugar sumac in North America still stands!
The ‘post-apocalyptic section’ shaded by the sumac
A rousing round of cut-throat Uno
Mr. Brotherton receives the ‘first tent down’ award Sunday AM