With temperature swings of more than 20 Celsius (30 F) in only a few hours, and close on 2,000 feet (600m) of climbing, Pine Valley can be a challenge. But the beauty more than makes up for it.
Around 3 hours South of San Jose, and inland from Carmel Valley, the Ventana Wilderness forms part of the Los Padres National Forest. For decades, Troop 260 has returned to one particular section on our ‘backpacking years’ – from China Camp into Pine Valley camp. This route offers a short way into the solitude of the wilderness, and a higher level of physical challenges that starts to prepare scouts (and adults!) for the 50-miler. There is reliable water in a small tributary of the Carmel River that runs past the camp, making for a cool refreshing draft at day’s end.
We were a group of 19 (including 11 scouts) of who for several this was their first (or second) backpacking trip with the Troop. Bravo in particular for their commitment and effort!
An extra ‘dimension’ on this trip was that a total fire ban precluded the use of even backpacking stoves. The hot-or-cold menu went reasonably well, but we aren’t sure that warming rice pouches under your arm pits is a top tip that will make the next Scouts BSA handbook 🙂
Most of us took the time to go and visit Jack English’s old cottage – it is still in good condition and appears to be maintained. Despite Jack no longer being there, Mark Cahn did share some stories with us of his conversations with Jack over the decades. Some with more info below the picture gallery link (thanks Kate).
We had over 30 adults and youth take part in our annual venture to Mt Umunhum for shooting sports and archery. Our own range-masters Ray and Nic ensured a safe and fun exposure to a range of gun types and bow types.
As is tradition, we did a service project clearing scrub for the property owner, and after our second night camping got up for a sunrise hike to the “Umunhum Box” – all very 2001: A Space Odyssey in the dawn!
Click the image below to open the full photo gallery
This past weekend, an 18 strong group (11 scouts and 7 adults) enjoyed the dappled shade and warm Bay scents of the Skyline to Sea Trail.
We arrived at the glorious new Castle Rock State Park entrance just before 0800. With 90 spaces, 6 bathrooms, a ranger station, electric car charging, WiFi and landscaped grounds with water and picnic tables, this upgrade is immense. It really opens up the Park compared to the old cramped area (which is now the overflow / secure overnight parking zone).
From the carpark we had a gentle down slope for about 5 miles until arriving at Camp Chesebrough for lunch shortly after noon. We had a number of scouts or adults that were new or returning to backpacking on the crew, or taking their first weekender with the Troop. All of them did well, settling in with their gear, adjusting straps, putting moleskin on blisters.
The campsite (Shingle Mill Point) was reasonably exposed, but there was enough shade in the trees and around the side to keep us comfortable. Scouts T and M did some orienteering / geo requirements and M also got a cracking campfire going early.
Dinner for the scouts was beans and sausages. The adults had rice and tuna/chicken. Both were enjoyed.
The return journey had a bit more uphill, but mostly just the first part from camp to the trail. We arrived back at the (fabulous) Castle Rock entrance around 11:30 for lunch.
After a successful 18-19 canoeing year, we kicked-off a new year of adventures with a backpacking weekend at Henry Coe State Park. We had some regulars, some returning old hands and some new participants (nice).
The weather was hot, but not insanely so, making our short 3-mile each way intro hike a great chance for us all to re-aquaint ourselves with our gear. Including our legs!
The scouts had time to focus on some skills and rank advancement activities in the afternoon: totin’ chip, compass reading and orienteering, bear hangs, lost-scout search and rescue, and camp cooking.
In an unplanned activity, several of our older scouts got the chance to pit their recent wilderness first aid training to use when one scout took a tumble and gashed their head. All seems well and we wish Scout B a smooth recovery.
Next month we hope to see even more if you for another intro event on the Skyline ridge walking into Camp Chesebrough.
We are back! Safely returned from the Troop 260 2019 50-miler summer expedition. Before we get into some narrative, here are a few facts and figures.
1300 miles driving
100+ miles! >> 85 miles of paddling + 16 miles of walking / portaging gear
29 people and 2 dogs started… and finished
$2,200 on food
14 canoes, laden with
29 sets of personal gear
13 boxes of food
7 ice chests
5 gear boxes
2 privy tents and buckets
All carried by 7 cars and 2 trailers
3 gallons of coffee consumed
2.5 capsizes (okay, 3)
2 ferries avoided
1 car A/C unit explosion
~0 gear losses
Any trip like this takes huge amounts of planning, so before getting into the fun stuff, let’s acknowledge the leadership and efforts of Scott our ASMs and all the supporting scouts and family members that came together to make this happen 👏👏
The high adventure started early, but in an unexpected manner as it turned out we had failed to reserve our first night’s campsite (despite what the meeting minutes said). Much of the drive up on Saturday was spent arranging a place that would accommodate all of us, all our the gear, allow us to launch efficiently on Sunday morning as well as a location to safely stage two cars. Some advance scouting from the Laverys along with extensive use of the mobile internet guided us to the McCartney boat ramp and park – attending our first day by 5 miles. Not ideal, but it worked out.
Day 1: After some gear unloading, breakfast burritos, and car shuttling we launched with gusto on Sunday morning. Beachmaster Kevin (and beachmaster-in-training Harris) herded us safely into the water and we set of tentatively in a moderate flow towards our first set of rapids.
Sunday, was also the first of two birthdays on the trip: HBTU Kevin L 🎉.
Scott did warn us that if people were going to capsize it would be on day one, and sure enough, we upheld tradition. As we approached our final destination of the day, the Davis canoe turtled in an aggressive stretch of water. After having safely insured that both Kathy and Phil were back on dry land, canoes let by Dave S and Thomas, Aidan L and Richard Jr, Marion and Donald chased down our rogue vessel and recovered it about half a mile downstream. We took a short rest and used our radio to communicate back to the main team who hatched a plan: the rescue team would work on readying the tipped canoe and our SPL and ASPL (Tristan and Harris) navigated overland to the recovery point to free up some canoe space. Within the hour we were all back together, and found a better campsite than we had planned less than 100m further on. So a net win 🙂
After some warm afternoon sun drying us out, lovely food (cheeseburgers) and water, everyone was feeling good again. Erika was so taken with the apple sauce she polished off about ⅓ of a big jar that was leftover.
Day 2 started off with, well, a little bit of a smell. Taking down the privies is never anyone’s favorite job but it has to be done. The Doody Duty crew armed with Jericho’s mattock, firelighter fluid, bags and buckets got stuck in, and was kept in high spirits throughout by Kate (giving the buckets names helped a lot!).]
On our way down the river we started to experience the wildlife. A number of Osprey and Bald Eagle nest poles have been installed and we saw several of each as they circled overhead looking for their next meal. Over the coming days they would be a reasonably constant companion and we were luck to twice see them pluck fish from the river right next to us and then carry it in their talons like a torpedo to a nearby perch.
I was a long 20 mile day that left us hot and sticky. Thankfully, nature delivered a great swimming spot at our next campsite, Tripp’s Island, allowing us to cool down our core temperatures and shed any grumpiness (us, grumpy, surely not!). It was initially disconcerting to be sitting in the shallows and see your scoutmaster, go zipping by on a current, but we got used to it. Emily and Alison ticked off some more requirements for their Canoe Merit badge, which along with their strength and prowess at the stern all week places them in our “most experienced” canoers category.
A Troop requirement is that every 50 miler participant on a water trip must be able to swim. We must confess that we started the trip this way: Albus the dog was not yet a confident pup in the water. But, on day two, with great courage and a big shiny yellow ball as encouragement, we’re happy to say that he passed his Safe Swim Test. Well done Albus, 12/10 🐕
Day 3 was another big day, 18 miles finishing at Luckiamute landing. It was hard to gauge not whether the most welcome sight was the flat open camp area, the sandy beach or the well presented porta potty. In retrospect we were all just happy to make the site as it had a tricky access right before some fast water and it would have been all too easy to 200m downstream before you knew it, and camping alone on a sandbar.
It was Tuesday, so dinner was, naturally, tacos! Tasty for us, but also for the local hornets who were attracted to bits of dropped beef, and struggled to carry away their bounty. Unfortunately, we had three crew members stung, fortunately none had bad reactions, but they were all watched over safely by our Wilderness first aid trained adults and scouts, led by our on call medical specialist and registered nurse, Cheryl.
At Luckiamute we took the time to re-assess our plans, given our crew and the take-out logistics for the final day. We had originally planned a 25-mile Thursday and a 21-mile Friday, but with car shuttling and loading times to factor in we decided to shave some distance off and finish at an earlier take-out point, Wheatland. This resulted in an 18-mile Thursday and a 6-mile Friday, giving us more time to load and head to our final night leaving our drivers at less risk of exhaustion for the drive back.
Getting up and loaded any morning takes time. On a canoeing 50-miler it takes waaaay longer. We awoke at 05:30 everyday and it would take until approximately 08:00 to be on the water. One of the things that takes time is filtering water, but less so on this trip thanks to the efforts of Bryce and his gravity water filter 💦. It was great to know there was always a full blue water jug to fill from. And John was always pleased to be able to make coffee in the morning without worrying about his water supply – seconds count…
For day 4, we mixed up the crews a bit, with John continuing over as lead with Cherly, Dave L getting his first shot at the helm, and proving very able (as if we had any doubt). Richard Sr got the chance to canoe with Erika.
Wednesday was a short paddle, only 12.5 miles, finishing at the Riverside bike and boat campsite in the city of Independence, OR. What a spot; solar showers, flush toilets, running water and… … … ICE CREAM! There are advantages to urban camp spots.
You would think all this was already more of a bonus than we could expect. But, no. This was the day for the tri-tip planned by Dave S to come out of storage and into our stomachs. The BBQ pit was overseen by Owen taking on his first scout pit master role, assisted ably by some other fire+food philic scouts. They turned out a cracking roast that we chomped down with mash and beans.
It was fun being in a town, but we did have to contend with a few unsavory characters (looking at you ‘snake man’ 🐍x2)
Day 5 started with a mini-portage as we lugged canoes and gear back down to the water from the Riverside camp. Were we getting stronger already, or was all that ice cream giving us hidden power? Either way, we got things loaded in record time and pushed off for another long day – our penultimate one on the water.
It is always good to test your scoutmaster’s and assistant scoutmasters’ skills, and develop your own. After a slow, hot morning paddle we took a short stop where Richard Jr grasped the opportunity to test some ASM canoe balance skills with a challenging deep-water canoe entry. The ASM failed, and everyone took a dunk – fortunately we were just at the bank which made recovery straightforward (and we did find the water refreshing).
Despite a mostly gentle, slow moving stretch over the day, we did hit a few short but gnarly rapids, several sandbars that appeared from nowhere and a few sneaky eddies and whirlpools. One of these sections nearly took out Richard Sr, but some steadfast helming saw him through with only a lost paddle. The same section pinned Marion and Scott to a bank where they got temporarily entangled in some tree branches. It also resulted in Team Davis taking another unscheduled swim test, but they were swiftly back at their paddles after a flip and repack from supporting canoes, this time featuring Nathan in the Stenseth canoe. All a part of the high adventure scouting experience 😁
Our team continued to grow in skills and confidence on the water. Colin swapped with Dave for his first time at the helm and within no time was ruddering like a pro and yelling at his ‘engine’ to “paddle harder” whilst relaxing at the back – nice work Colin . Ethan was getting expert at powering through rapids and towing his canoe off gravel banks (Harris not wanting to get his feet wet because he forgot his water shoes).
At the end of the day we pulled in to Spong’s Landing and set up the privies for last time. Lucy the dog was everywhere keeping team morale high after a long hot day. Needless to say, the water beckoned once more for a sit, swim and play. Jericho outdid himself along with Aidan L and other scouts by accepting and executing on a Scoutmaster Challenge: “Build a fire in the river” (see the pictures). Marion helped with the relax and recuperate vibes too with her pop-up spa doing cucumber eye pads and hot rocks treatments. Lovely.
Spong’s was also accessible from the road, and sure enough around 2am some post-party locals decided to spend an hour hooning around about 50m north of our camp. Lucy and Albus both gave some alert growls, but aside from an hour or two of distrubed sleep, nothing came of it.
Before we knew it, we had slept our last sleep on the river. It was Friday morning and time to pack up the poop and pots. Even though Connor is not yet a scout he showed strong spirit (and stomach) by helping burn the used TP. Eeew – nice work Connor.
Day 6, our last leg, was 6 miles to Wheatland boat ramp. We pulled out at around 11:30 at proved to be an ideal take out location (lots of space, noone around, good roadside parking close by) and executed our swiftwest unloading yet. Thanks to Jeff McCarthy for the driver shuttle we avoided the wait and cost for a taxi to get the drivers to the cars.
We were all pleased to see the grass campsites and endless warm showers at Champoeg State Park. Nearly all scouts and adults took the chance to get clean[ish]. The final night was a food blow out: chilli dogs, mac n cheese, fruit cups, and smores over the campfire. Donald celebrated trip birthday #2 in style with a birthday cake themed protein bar (candle lit, natch’), cake, and TJ’s Scandinavian Swimmers🍰🎁. Kudos to the senior scouts led by Aiden L that did dinner from unpack to final dish put away without any ‘guidance’ from the adults.
For three of our crew, this was the end of their last 50-miler as Scouts – Tristan, Jericho and Aidan L turn 18 shortly. A bitter-sweet moment, but if goes without saying that the roster is always open to them in future years
At 05:30 on Saturday we were up again, enjoying a rag-tag breakfast of oatmeal, oranges,pastries and Oreos. Classy. Our convoy was on the road by 07:00 making the 14 hr journey back home, which was uneventful apart from Harold’s AC unit blowing up not long after we crossed into California (Harold is the Calzia Suburban)
All of us have returned richer in skills, experiences, stories, and mosquito bites than when we left. And we only lost one radio. Not bad.
A hardy bunch of 14 scouts and adults spent the last weekend (and I mean all weekend) doing their CPR and Wilderness First Aid. Scouting guidelines require WFA trained adults on high adventure activities – and that sounds like Troop 260.
These certifications have to be renewed every two years. We refreshed our skills to assess, triage, and decide whether to evac. We are up to date on our RICE, SAMPLE, BACDE, AVPU. Bring on the adventures.
17 Scouts, 9 adults, 6 nights, 4 black beads, 3 extra drivers and 1 award! What a great year at Camp Hi-Sierra (CHS) for the Troop.
2019 marked some special dates for CHS: it is the 70th anniversary of them operating as a Scout camp, the first year of the new multi-million dollar dining hall block, and the first year that female scouts are attending (not as Staff). Troop 260 had 5 of our Serpents patrol (inc one staff member) there and go down in history as the first female scouts attending CHS. Noice.
The weather was on the cooler side this year, and caught many of us off-guard, even some of the Old Goats. A great reminder that at altitude, and when sleeping without much cover (those platform tents are VERY draughty) a cool night can follow a warm day. The late snow melt this year also contributed to a swim lake that was in the low 40s F – this is VERY cold. Kudos to all the scouts and adults that did their swim test – and special mention to Niko T for doing his aquatics work in this temperature. Brrrrrr.
The Trading Post store witnessed good custom thanks to T260: regular ice creams were a staple, but also an extensive range of knife purchases from both new Scouts that got their Totin’ Chip and old scouts that telt that their three current knives just weren’t enough…
At the end of the week, the Scouts (with a box-man mascot) did well at the camp-wide games getting 3rd place overall. And then continued the tradition of wow-ing the scouts and bamboozling the staff with a campfire skit consisting of YouTube parodies.
A huge thanks to those involved in the planning and organizing and supporting: especially Donna Johns for being our Acting SM the entire week, and Carolyn Calzia for getting all the Scouts signed up for badges. We will have a very busy September Court of Honor.
So, another shameless plug for the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council (MSC). However, I hope you’ll forgive me as they offer a fabulous library of short (~ 2 minute) videos covering over 30 aspects of getting outdoors across planning; expedition; and campcraft.
Whilst some bits of the advice is country-specific, the vast majority is applicable here. There are a great way for scouts and adults alike to check / update their knowledge.
The Troop returned to Lake Sonoma this weekend and instead of a full 8-mile day, we focused on a shorter paddle and then an afternoon of skills practice. This went down well: we had a few new / less experienced scouts with us along with a few scouts wanting to progress their Canoeing Merit Badge.
Kudos to John L. for his first actual capsize after around 8 years with the Troop! We all joined him later as part of practicing deep water rescue techniques.
Our scoutmaster challenge this weekend was an Iron Chef breakfast cook-off: rice as the base, with the scouts able to bring some add-ons, and the scoutmaster’s secret ingredient – “Oranges”. The resulting dishes were an impressive display of culinary innovation
Cheesy crunchy japeno rice with orange (the winner!)
Coconut, orange zest and egg rice
On the way back we stopped for lunch at Olompali State Park that turned out to be a gem, with shady oak trees to lunch under and an heritage that included being used by the Grateful Dead!
Not all of us have caught Mr Nic’s 10 Essentials briefing (with associated stories!) But the scouts did cover 10 essentials a few months ago on a Troop night.
Generally, in Troop 260, your “10 essentials” means a compact kit focused on personal well being and survival that you can keep in a big pocket or stick in a day pack without it taking up too much room.
Of course, the most important thing about your ten essentials is… having it with you! (cough cough senior scouts on the Pinnacles NP 10-miler)
There are lots of resources out there, here are a couple: