Archive for the ‘Normal’ Category

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 – 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 – 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 – 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


ATTENTION ALL SCOUTS – Young and Old. Stephan has created a great learning tool to teach and practice some of the common knots used in Scouting. This will be available anytime on the website and will be a great source to learn, relearn, and help teach knots. Good luck and Have fun!

Mr Blair

Troop 648 Scoutmaster

T648 Pandemic Busters

It had been six long months of wonderful Zoom meetings, but with nary a scout outing until this past weekend.   The moratorium is ended!  The troop improvised a brilliant Covid-buster program comprised of a family scout outing to Willow Springs Lake.  Twenty two hardy individuals, including eleven scouts drove up and cooked as family units, while executing an excellent socially-distanced event high in the pines on the edge of the magnificent Mogollon Rim.  At least one scout was on his first outing, and when asked how his night had been, informed that he ‘slept like heck.’ Further investigation determined that his brother had left his tent ‘accidentally unzipped, and a bunch of bugs including a wolf spider came to visit, leading to a middle of the night tent abandonment to sleep with his brother.  A mom spent her first night ever in a tent, and while hearing every single noise, and sleeping a total of two or three hours, had an absolutely wonderful weekend.  A dad invested in a tent built especially for the bed of his pickup truck, and had a ball building a cozy cave high off the ground.  Which served him well, as a night visitor surprised another of our daring adult leaders, who had decided to sleep out on the ground under the stars.  Hearing sniffing at his feet at four in the morning, he cautiously turned on his headlamp, and in the surrounding blackness saw a bright white stripe floating next to his sleeping bag.  Moving veeerrry slowly he extricated himself safely out of his bag, and into his car, as the curious skunk wandered off to find more interesting smells.  The next night marked the return of Pepe Le Pew, as a trash bag containing food scraps was left carelessly behind a scout’s tent, and was taken to task by the industrious skunk.  The highlight of the day at the lake had to revolve around crawdads. Informed that they were an invasive species, the great hunt to irradicate them from Willow Springs Lake began.  Scores of crayfish were cornered, captured, and engaged in crawdad races, crawdad wrestling matches, crawdad wars, and finally ended up in a massive crawdad mash down beyond the dam.  Back at camp, after some late afternoon advancement, there was a rousing game of hammock football, followed by hide and go seek in the pitch dark, capped off by a loud Uno game and a traditional time of laughter and s’mores around the campfire.  This reporter’s favorite moment was the following exchange between two young men with sticks thrust over the fire:  ‘Where’s the chocolate bar?’ ‘It’s hidden in this ginormous marshmallow’ ‘Wow!. We are just non-stop genius!’  But, as usual, there were a zillion others – from the last boy licking the parchment paper of the dutch oven coffee cake, to the view from my ‘kitchen counter’ set right on the edge of the rim, to the sight of Mr. Benyi’s Prius gliding safely over rocks a third the size of his entire car, to smelling the smells of multiple creative dinners in flight, to again seeing a bunch of boys in the wilderness, sans screens, and having the time of their lives just being creative and enjoying each other.  How soon ‘til we go again next month?

I slept like heck!
I slept like heck!
Crawdad WWE
Off to the Crawdad Mash
Choosing up sides for hammock football
King of all we survey!

Parent & Committee Meeting


We are going to be holding our quarterly Parent and Committee Meeting for Troop 648 this Wednesday, September 2, at 7pm. (Please note that the meeting will be on Wednesday so that we don’t conflict with the Troop Meeting on Tuesday.) Dr. Blair will send out the Zoom login information.

We have a big agenda for the meeting including presentation of the 2020-2021 calendar, review of our new Charter Organization, and looking ahead to Summer Camp 2021, among other things.

We will hope to see you there!

Thanks, Jacob R Benyi