D is for Death Marsh, A is for PartAY

By Bob Geier - Posted on 27 July 2011

For new families, it's worth pausing briefly here to mention that Patrol D has something of a reputation. The very first summer camp of their existence, their patrol out trip along Slippery Rock Creek in Pennsylvania turned into what we call an "epic". A late start , some lollygagging on the trail, coupled with an incoming storm front and non-stop rain, muddy trails turning into slippery obstacle courses, no place to stop, a midnight arrival with external support. A true bonding experience that was the stuff of legend and kept those members as friends for life!

So, naturally, the following summer they repeated it. Late start, missed the trail junction turn, hiked off the edge of their map, eventually ended in a different town and called for pickup support, meeting all kinds of people along the way. Adults started hiding from the SM every time we were looking for someone to accompany Patrol D, but the youth leadership now had the system down. So the next year, hiking in the dark and in the rain, they choose to ignore their designated overnight spot ("it might have snakes") and complete nearly 20 mountainous miles in a single day so as to improve Scouter Bob's circulation by calling in on the emergency line. "We need a pickup" "Oh dear. What's your status and location?" "We're in town having ice cream in the pub."

All this is by way of explaining Patrol D's decision to be the first Troop 8 patrol to do a canoe out trip from camp this year. So they filled their day program with snorkeling and archery, then packed like mad so they could get a late start heading off like true French fur trappers across the very country that defined the word "portage". Paddling intrepidly to the edge of the lake and towing scouters David and Luke (who slept too late one morning so Scouter Steve ambushed them), they pulled their canoes from the water and started marching them across country past an incredulous Scouts Canada troop and into the wild.

The initial portage headed up and over a short saddle to drop into a drainage on the map that Scouter David reported as "dubious, ending in a murky swamp-thing". It might be navigable. Zach Brustman was the standout gear hauler on the portage, helping first with canoes and then going back to haul vast quantities of gear. Jack meanwhile helped Scouter Luke with a canoe, and ended up being strong enough to virtually be able to solo portage without help. Meanwhile, adventurer Drew took point on navigation, and the crew started down a creek marked on the map that should link them up with a new system of lakes.

Now maps and reality sometimes don't correspond, and the channel proved harder going, with a meandering stream crisscrossed by fallen logs that had to be mini-portaged. Annoying and slow, but good labor. Then there were the beavers. Beavers change things. Dam! The first beaver dam was a 4 foot drop into a mud pit. Yum. That led to a nice little lake, which unfortunately was infested with leeches and beavers. This is where they met Justin Beaver, who like his singing namesake was both ubiquitous and annoying to the point of distraction. Beaver dam followed beaver dam, with 6+ feet of drop between dams. Young Bean, being the lightest but "extremely competent" in the words of Scouter Luke, helped lead the exploration over the dams. The dams of course also contained the water, so that below the dam instead of a nice, navigable creek they got a mud swamp. Completely impassable.

With the sun sinking lower into the sky and time clicking along, the group scouted out an ATV trail for another long portage around the mud swamp. Nima was the master of morale and sweeping the tail end of the group as PL Sam stepped forward with might and gusto and his own unique form of teeth gnashing. Eventually they made it to Yankton lake as twilight set in, with one more portage to go before their final destination. With PFD strobes blinking in the twilight they paddled across the lake in a beautiful evening, arriving at their portage site to find ... Another Justin Beaver swamp. Discretion being the better part of valor, PL Sam Taylor opted to stop the trek there, pulling up and setting camp on the land of a friendly (and somewhat amused) local.

Tired and happy, having completed an epic adventure that included overcoming hardship and showing good judgment on when to stop, the group got picked up by Scouter Steve car shuttle the following morning.

Car shuttle complete, Patrol D collapsed briefly, ate lunch, and then went off to shoot things at the rifle range. Nothing seems to slow this crew down.

With Patrol D returned from their epic and Patrol A back from their trip, it was time for a party. Our neighboring troop on the island is a Scouts Canada (i.e. Coed!) group from near Peterborough. Perfect! So SPL Tim and his life coach Scouter Conner dressed up and went over to invite the group to a Troop 8 evening campfire.

Campfire of course has to be put into a Troop 8 context, of course. Imagine the adult area with strings of generator-powered Christmas lights and the full iPad driven DJ sound system along with local watermelon, imported Milky Way bars (don't exist in Canada), and a traditional campfire all out under the stars. We had anticipated all of the awkwardness of a typical Middle School dance, but the Milky Way bars proved to be the necessary icebreaker. Either that or it was Sam Sauer and the Patrol A cassanovas who immediately became the center of attention for a whole parcel of Scouts Canada kids. With young Sam's help, Patrol Leader Chris Kuzel overcame his awkward stage and became the cool guy that all the older girls wanted to hang out with (Matt and Pam, you are so doomed now that he's in high school).

The party then heated up with Jason Dean popping on the Justin Bieber tunes, dancing commencing, and a range of tunes from O Canada to Bon Jovi. Even a temporary generator failure did not stop the fun. It's really hard to describe the mix of scouting conversations, a star-spangled night, just plain fun and scoutly friendship. Truly special. Finally the press of the morning obligations led the Canadian Chief Scouts to wrangle their folks, and we all said goodbye for the night. Said Cassanova Sam, "they were really friendly and really hot. We should have girls in scouts in the U.S.".