Monday, May 2, 2016

Summertime fun

Summer is fast approaching. The kids haven’t gotten out of school yet, but before long it will be in full swing and the start of a new academic year will be looming. For me summer has become synonymous with two things; the beach and scout camp!
Relaxing in the OBX.
My wife and I were lucky enough to tie the knot at the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, NC while vacationing in the Outer Banks. Since then we have been vacationing at the same place, during the same week, going on 12 years. It has become somewhat of a tradition for us and I hope it lasts well into our twilight years.
Troop 270 on their way to summer camp in Maine 2010.
For almost as long though, going on 8 years, I have been spending one week (or a little more) each summer attending Boy Scout (or Cub Scout) summer camp with one or more of my boys. It has become a special bonding time with them, away from electronics and distractions, having fun in the outdoors.
Patrick, Ben and Jacob about to eat lobsta in Maine.
Our summers of scout camp have taken us from Maine to North Carolina and many points in between. Along the way we have visited National Parks, eaten lobsta(er), zip lined, waterskied, canoed, fished and even climbed rock walls just to name a few.
Ben on top of Mt Baldy in Cimarron, NM.
As my kids have gotten older it has also become a time to watch them mature and blossom into young men. A few years ago my oldest son, Ben, took the trip of a lifetime (without me) out West on a month’s long journey that culminated in a 10 day backpacking trek at Philmont Scout Ranch.

But over the last few years I have been sticking to Cub Scout summer camp with Ryley. We have been a few different places but last year stands out as one of the best times I’ve had going to summer camp.

We decided to head back up to Heritage Scout Reservation in Farmington, PA. Cub Scout camp is usually shorter than Boy Scout camp (Boy Scouts stay for a week and Cub Scouts stay between two to four days). So we decided as a group to stay at Ohiopyle State Park for the beginning of the week and attend summer camp for the last part of the week. It was the best decision we made.
Pack 270. I think the sign says it all.
Staying at Ohiopyle allowed us the ability to just camp and explore the surrounding area. We took the kids fishing at Laurel Hill Trout Farm, visited Fort Necessity National Battlefield, explored Laurel Caverns, and zip-lined and rode the natural water slide at Ohiopyle. Out of everything we did before summer camp I think the kids had the most fun fishing, zip-lining and riding the water slide.
Ryley's friend Tanner with his big brown trout.
It’s funny the things you take for granted in life. For me it’s doing things like hunting and fishing. When we arrived at Laurel Hill Trout Farm I hadn’t even expected that some of these kids had never caught a fish before. Well they were in for a surprise! I generally don’t like going to trout farms, trout ponds or any place that doesn’t offer some kind of skillful challenge. But this wasn’t about me, it was about our scouts and making sure they had a great time. And boy did they ever.
Ryley with his 16 trout and me without my $80.
It was pouring down rain and thus the necessity to find something fun for the kids to do. The tiny pond was stocked with hundreds of trout and at times you could cast in an empty hook and have a hit or two. We didn’t fish for long before the kids had their fill of catching fish. Well, let me be honest, most kids had their fill, others ran out of money and still others (my son) could have fished all day if I would have paid for it. It’s at this point that I must confess that I have created a monster. Ever since Ryley was in Field & Stream he has become super competitive when it comes to fishing. Add to that competitiveness that he has landed trophy sized striped bass and muskie at the age of nine and you can begin to understand why I have my hands full. One of his best friends ended up catching the biggest fish of the day, a nice brown trout. But instead of getting mad Ryley just decided that it was cool for his friend to have the biggest fish of the day, it just meant he had to catch the most. So sixteen fish later, and $80 less in my wallet, I had a happy son. The owners there are very nice and they let us take a tour of their small hatchery. I was impressed with their set up and the size of the fish we caught. Not wildies, but they had lots of fight in them! Success!
Yeah, that's a water slide. I promise.
Ryley getting ready to brave the water with the GoPro.
With the added rain we had all week long it was a bit difficult to let the kids go down the water slide. The stream that supplies the water slide was elevated and had a swift current. But the kids wouldn’t relent so we packed them up for the short trip to the bottom of the hill and let them play in the water. It is at this juncture I need to explain that up until we went to summer camp we weren’t technically on a scouting adventure. We were more or less just a bunch of friends camping and having a good time because some of the things we did while camping were definitely “non-scouting” type activities. Which leads me back to the waterslide. So we had a few adults do down the run and stage themselves at the lower half to catch the kids before they flushed out into the river (Yeah real safe isn’t it? Like I said we weren’t technically scouting at this point). The kids had a blast, turned into prunes and had to be drug away kicking and screaming. I considered that success number two!
Ryley, Matt and George about to test their boundaries.
On our last day in Ohiopyle we had a treat for the kids. We took them to the zip-line adventure park which had a zip-line and ropes course. When we arrived it was gorgeous; sunny and warm. We purchased our tickets but had to wait for our turn and let the kids walk around and explore town. Next thing we knew it was time for some zip-line fun and the kids got suited up in their helmets and harnesses and got on the course. Within minutes it started to drizzle. A few minutes after that it started to pour. Nothing fazed those kids. In fact I think they had more fun because of the rain. By the time they were done the rain had lessened and we had lunch in the local park. Looking back I think the rain was the best thing that could have happened to us. Not only did the kids seem to thrive in it, it soaked them to the bone and cleaned them up a whole lot! I don’t know about you but it’s definitely a difficult task to get nine and ten year olds to take a shower while camping. Success number three and we were only half way through the week!
Ryley doing what boys do at camp. Playing with knives and sticks to make then sharp.
Now, my love for scouting runs deep. I have been to some awesome summer camps, and Heritage has one of them, but while we were plagued with chilly rainy weather while at Ohiopyle we were not as lucky at scout camp. Oh it rained but it was the hot, sticky humid kind of rain. Nevertheless the kids still had an outstanding time at camp. I’m not much on going to summer camp to complete requirements for scout advancement.  I’m much of the opinion that summer camp is time for the boys to be, well, boys and to have fun and make memories and keep them wanting to come back every year (thus keeping them in scouts). If they can learn a thing of two at the same time, great, if not that's okay too.
Ryley pushing himself to new heights.
While at camp most of the kids cut “class” in order to run around and have fun or to head down to the lake to go fishing or swimming. The only “class” they went to on a regular basis was rock climbing. Heritage has a pretty cool rock wall for the kids to climb up. And it was with great pride that I saw out scouts push themselves past their comfort zone and go hired then they had ever gone before. Some didn’t make it to the top, but that’s okay. They gave it their all, overcame their fears, and made it as far as they could. Others struggled but pushed themselves past the point of exhaustion and managed to finally make it to the top. Ryley was in that category and I must say I was extremely impressed. Not only was I impressed with the physical achievement but with the mental achievement as well. He isn’t afraid of heights but is on the small side, stature wise, so his legs aren’t that long. The spaces on the rock wall, at times, were just too far apart. But he had the desire, drive and determination to get to the top and by the second day that’s exactly where he ended up.  Success number four.
Ryley showing off his archery skills.
A little sling shot never hurt anyone.

Granted that wasn’t all the fun they had. Like many other scouts they love to shoot things, from BB guns, to bows to sling shots. Heritage Scout Reservation had all three and in the evenings we couldn’t keep the kids away from shooting at something. But shooting sports aren’t really a “class” in my book. That’s just considered good old fun!
Ryley with Cubmaster Seiss and his 15 inch largemouth.
This year we will not be returning back to Heritage scout reservation. As much as I am looking forward to our week long camp, at Broad Creek Scout Reservation in Whiteford, MD, I am somewhat concerned that we just won’t be able to top last year. For one thing, we will be staying all week in camp, so we won’t get to do all those fun, non-scouting activities.  But also because this year it will just be Ryley and Matt since the older boys have moved on to Boy Scouts. I am sure we will have fun and make the most of the time we have there but there’s nothing like watching your son, literally, grow up right before your eyes. Until then keep taking your kids outdoors…

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