Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Last Five Months of Troop 23 Camp Outs!

Last Five Months of Troop 23 Camp Outs!

It seems like every blog entry and email that we send lately starts with something like, “I haven’t had time to…” or “This is the condensed version because…” Maybe it’s just me, but it really feels like we’ve managed to pack something into every minute we have, for the foreseeable future. Jacob and Brie are both attending camps this week (The Art of Collage for Brie and the DBS Summer Camp for Jacob), Tammy and Gavin have scheduled play-dates with the SS&P group among other things (while still juggling appointments and drop-offs/pickups), and I’m crunching fiscal data like a machine (Or a champ? Nah, maybe like an over-achieving, under-paid state worker…). So, until the “foreseeable future” passes and we have an unscheduled minute to take a breather and gather some thoughts, I just wanted to fill everyone in on the last 5 months of Boy Scouts.

To quickly catch you up on Jacob’s standing within the troop, Jacob has earned both Tenderfoot and Second Class ranks and is currently one requirement away from his First Class rank. Jacob is the Assistant Patrol Leader for his patrol, and even willingly volunteered to be the Chaplin’s Aid tonight in the absence of the elected scout (which amazed me). After First Class, there are several ranks that are progressively demanding before Eagle, but the saying is that if a Scout can reach First Class, he’s on the track! Eagle Scout was never really the “goal” that Tammy and I had when Jacob signed up for Scouts, so it was unexpected when Jacob told us the other day that he wanted to get the Eagle rank. I think he realizes that this is a realistic goal that he can achieve. One that will make him feel good about himself, not to mention the prestige carried by the designation. So keep encouraging him! He’s a great Eagle candidate in my book!

Back to the fun stuff… Camp Outs!

March 2010- Providence Canyon, GA

15 or so Scouts, 7+ miles uphill, both ways, in the rain, 90lb packs, bears, coyotes and crumbling Georgia mountainside! Got the picture? NEXT!!!

In all seriousness, if you’ve never been to Providence Canyon and you get the chance, go. Make sure you get gas and such in Bainbridge because there’s not a damn thing on 27 all the way to Lumpkin! Providence Canyon is called the “Little Grand Canyon.” It was formed by poor farming practices, and is basically an eroded mountainside. The hiking trail starts at the visitor’s station and winds around the rim of the mountain (I call it a mountain, I’m from St. Pete. It might be a hill to some, but it’s a mountain to me!) down to the bottom of the canyon and back out. We hiked about 4.5 miles the first day, which included a hefty ascent that put everyone out of breath. A steep descent followed, into what we now know is clay swamp. 15 boys with packs in clay up to their knees wasn’t the best idea, but hey, what do I know? I guess there wasn’t a better way, so through the swamp we went. Fortunately only 2 or 3 decided to fall over. We made it through, hiked a little further and, luckily, I was in the group that took the first site. We set up camp, cooked chicken quesadillas and went to sleep.

Coyotes woke me up, and Jacob too at one point. I didn’t mind until something actually brushed the tent. Thought it was a coon, and still might have been, but there were definitely Coyotes in the camp that night. So, a HUGE Coyote tried to break in and eat Jacob… J

When we woke up it was raining. It rained off and on all morning. We had 3 miles left to hike. Doesn’t sound like much, but the first mile was a descent into the bottom of the canyon. The trail needed a “Slippery When Wet” sign. We got to the canyon bottom, took off our packs and got to explore the 5 fingers of the canyon. This was worth the trip! It was awesome to see the different layers of earth going up the canyon walls. It looked like one of those sand art jars that you made as a kid with all of the different colored sand (minus the weird colors, of course). And yes, there was a large pile of bear crap down there that had some of the scouts VERY nervous. The fingers weren’t but 15 yards wide at the widest parts, so running into a cornered bear had me and Mr. West a little cautious to say the least. Good news, though. No bear. After an hour or so of meandering, we packed up and started the extremely vertical climb out. Try it some time. You’ll understand.

All in all, a great trip. Jacob has probably outgrown his internal frame backpack. I think he’ll use mine next trip. I really love the Spring hiking trips… but not nearly as much as the Summer fishing trips!

We missed the April canoeing trip down the Blackwater River because it was Gavin’s first birthday. Wouldn’t have missed it for the world! We decided we would do a canoeing trip sometime this summer, maybe in August when we go to St. Pete. We’ll see.

May 2010- St. Andrews State Park Fishing Trip

I think there were 29 people total (scouts and adults), which is a big group for a camp out. I must say up front that the logistical efforts by a few adult leaders were outstanding. Even when we got to St. Andrews at 9pm, well past dark, and were given 3 sites that normally hold 1-2 tents that we were attempting to stuff 5 tents on (yeah, that’s 15 tents for math majors), we made it through with minimal injury. I tented with Jacob, who complained about the heat and the non-existent mosquitoes in our tent until he finally passed out. We were set to get up at 6am, but some St. Andrews wildlife member obviously had other plans. If I had a gun, or even a blowgun or something, I would’ve shot and eaten whatever bird decided he was ready to get up at 4am and party like a rock star. He eventually stopped… after everyone in camp was up. Waking up 8 boys (and some fathers) a few hours before a fishing trip was game over. No more sleep for Thomas. I got up and started taking pictures. Got a cool one of Jacob holding up the sun. Thought it would be one of the better pictures of the trip. Man, was I wrong!

We embarked on the Jubilee, a 100ft, 75-person capacity charter boat out of Treasure Island Marina in Panama City. After a fairly comical introduction by the crew, we claimed our spots (which I made sure were at the back of the boat) and were off. The captain told us we had 45 minutes of running to do before we dropped lines, so most of the kids went upstairs to explore. Jacob wanted to sit in his spot to make sure that no one muscled him for it! It paid off (for him and for me) because the next 5 minutes made my trip! We weren’t but a half mile or so past the jetties when one of the trolling lines took off. Jacob was the only person at the back of the boat, so the deck hand immediately put the rod in Jacob’s hands! He was fighting the first fish of the day, and it was a pretty decent fight! The deck hand worked with Jacob to get him comfortable with fighting and reeling (we hadn’t really talked about using the conventional at that point) and after a few minutes of the entire boat cheering Jacob on, he got the fish to the boat and the deck hand gaffed it to make sure he landed it. Jacob caught his first Kingfish, and the only king that would be caught that day! A definite keeper, it went somewhere around 38-40in. The look in his eye was the best part of the entire weekend. I could’ve not even wet a line and been perfectly happy with the charter… Oh, but we wet some line!

All in all, Troop 23 caught 207 fish, ranging from Jacob’s King to Vermillion, White and Lane Snapper, Amberjack, Triggers and even a few chicken Mahi. We caught several nice Reds, but the season didn’t open until June 1, so we were a week and half too early. We caught some short grouper too. I caught a dolphin (like, Flipper) that decided he wanted my fish. Well, I didn’t really catch him. He ate my fish and I kinda stared at him like, “Yeah, you ate it.” He came back up to the surface to see us. Nice guy. We caught several Remoras (one of which was so big, people thought it was a Cobia) and I caught a Goggle Eye, which, if you’ve never had the pleasure, actually freezes out of water like a possum (an opossum?). Crazy. Thought the lady was joking when she asked me if I wanted it posed for a picture… Here’s the picture! It’s standing on its fins like something you’d buy from a souvenir shop!

After 8 hours of fishing, it came to our attention that there was a ton of fish on our stringers. I started thinking about my filet knife. I started thinking about a way to get out of cleaning all these damn fish! It ended up like one of those MasterCard commercials:

29 people on a fishing charter: $1,450.00

207 fish@ .50/lb cleaning fee: $ 120.00 including tip

Not having to clean fish until sunrise: Priceless

Note to self: Bring fish cleaning money on any future charter boat. Well, well worth it!

We had a huge fish fry with hush puppies later that evening and everyone went to bed full. We saved the King for the next morning so Jacob could clean it, along with a stringer of fish for everyone else to clean (one of the requirements for the fishing merit badge). That was a mess, but it all worked out. Wish I could’ve gotten that bird. He was out again the second night. I had a place for him on the cleaning board.

This was one of my favorite trips with the scouts. It was Jacob’s first deep sea charter, and he did great! He caught all sorts of fish, battled the King, the conventional reel and the blisters from reeling in so much! He smiled a lot, which was awesome. I think we both did. I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

June 2010- Camp Daniel Boone

The details are fuzzy as I had to rely on a lot of, “Nothing really,” and, “I don’t remember,” but I think the verdict came back from Boone: Jacob had a blast! The scouts left at 5:30am on Saturday the 26th to drive to the Ocoee for Whitewater Rafting! After talking with Jacob, he didn’t fall out of the raft at all, but he got lit up by some kid’s T-grip a few times before he told him that if he did it again, he’d be out of the raft! Jacob said it was fun, I’d imagine it was freakin’ awesome! They camped at Mr. Snead’s cabin in Murphy, NC on Saturday night.

They arrived at Camp Daniel Boone on Sunday to set up camp and be ready for Monday. Jacob took Fly Fishing, Communications, Archaeology, Fish & Wildlife Conservation and Leatherworking. The only merit badge he didn’t come home with this time was the Fly Fishing merit badge, and that’s because he had to catch 2 fish on the fly rod and he only caught one. So, I’ll be off to Walmart this weekend to buy some flies so he can catch his second fish and get the merit badge. I know he worked hard on it, so we’re going to finish it! According to Bob, Jacob and Maks spent an afternoon teaching some disabled scouts how to clean fish. He said it was one of the highlights of the trip for him. Jacob said, “Oh yeah, I guess I helped them a little…” It’s amazing the difference in perception! We’re really proud of Jacob for giving some of his free time to help others.

Jacob said the food was wonderful and the weather was beautiful. I think it was in the low 50’s at night. Perfect. We were really glad to have him home on Saturday the 3rd though. Brie had only seen Jacob for like 2 days in 2 weeks, and that is really abnormal for them. She slept in Jacob’s bed while he was in NIH the week before, and a few nights when he was at camp too. She might have been the happiest to have him back! I was told there were pictures coming, but I haven’t even seen the pictures from last year’s trip, so I’m not holding my breath.

Going Forward

There are some beast camping trips planned for the next few months, as Jacob would say. We’re going to miss the August trip to the Ichetucknee Springs State Park on the 13th because we’ll be in St. Pete. I’m sure Jacob won’t mind missing tubing for fishing, though. I think there’s another backpacking trip, maybe to Torreya? And the JLT (Junior Leadership Training) camp out will be held at St. George Island again. That’s where they plan the trips for the next year.

Jacob’s in the process of finishing Citizenship in the World, Citizenship in the Community, Environmental Science and Cooking merit badges. We’ve started on the Disabilities Awareness merit badge at home. Hopefully his new laptop from the Division of Blind Services will motivate him to look up the few things he needs and to finish these 4 badges and get a good start on the 5th!

We’re all really proud of the accomplishments Jacob has achieved in the past few months of scouting. He’s shown a ton of effort and it’s always nice to take a child somewhere he wants to go rather than somewhere you’re making him go! Until next time, ka-kaw, ka-kaw (That’s my Eagle call. Yeah, I know that that’s not really how Eagle’s sound, but hey, you get the point!)!

Written by Thomas