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Can’t Keep Troop 79 Indoors

The year’s COVID pandemic has created disruption and tragedy for so many families. Through it all, Troop 79 has done our best to get the guys together, even when it meant switching to virtual meetings.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has also taken many families outdoors, where they can stretch their legs and relieve some of the monotony of being cooped up inside. And as long as we maintain social distance, wear face coverings when appropriate and keep hands clean, science tells us the risk of contracting the virus outside is extremely low. It was with all that in mind that T-79 resumed our outdoor activities this fall.

Unfortunately a new stay at home order due to rapidly rising case numbers squashed our plans for a final fall campout of 2020. But, you just can’t keep some troop members inside… Even here in the city.

Have a ground-level concrete or brick patio? You can setup a wood fire in a fire pit! Just watch out for sparks and keep the blaze small. Probably best to have a bucket of water handy too. Here are a few photos from T-79 families warming up the weekend with some safe flames at home.

Have a cast iron dutch oven? I know, this item might not be on everyone’s kitchen shelves. But if you can get your hands on one, and some charcoal briquettes, you can bake just about anything you’d normally do in a conventional oven. Definitely want to set this up on a fireproof surface. Again, here’s what our own T-79 families have whipped up. Iron Chef, anyone?

Have a deck that’ll fit the footprint of your tent? Why not set it up for the night? Instead of country noises you’ll be lulled to sleep with the hum of traffic. And just think, you’ll still have wifi and a real bathroom nearby!

So there you have it, folks. Another fall outdoor program wrapped up, and a very unusual one at that! We hope that you all stay healthy, and see you on the trail sometime. Just not sure when….

[PHOTOS] “Camping” at home @boylesfour @PIvancsits @ACalabrese @DKeats

Troop 79 Clears Invasive Brush at Skokie Lagoons

As Troop 79’s PLC reconvened this fall, SPL Andrew B. proposed a day of service be added to the calendar. The goal was simple – in order to advance in rank, Scouts need to perform several hours of community-oriented service work.

However, not all volunteering is treated the same. Some awards, such as the Philmont 50-miler, require Scouts to “complete a minimum of 10 hours each of group work on projects to improve the trail, springs, campsite, portage, or area.” In other words, outdoor conservation work. Thus was born Troop 79’s participation in an invasive species removal day with the Shedd Aquarium on a balmy November morning at the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Skokie Lagoons.

After a brief introduction to the ecosystem, tools and safety protocols, the T-79 guys started hacking away at the thickets of buckthorn and tossing branches in the fire.

Loppers, handsaws and flames. Is there any better way to spend a Saturday morning with your friends?

Normally, standing by a raging fire in November would be a welcome respite from the cold. Not this day, where temps soared into the unseasonable 70’s! Perfect for showing off the T-79 branded T shirts.

By the time the noon whistle blew, the volunteers had made a noticeable dent in the wall of invasive buckthorn, clearing room on the forest floor for native plants to return. Thanks to the PLC and Mr. Keats for their leadership, and to the Scouts and parents for attending! Shout out to 2019 “Eagle X” alum Edward Boyle who returned to work and capture photos.

Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.

[PHOTOS] Skokie Lagoons @boylesfour, @artsmaniac

Troop 79’s Summer 2021 High Adventure Plans

Every summer our high school age Scouts get an opportunity to stretch their physical and mental endurance at one of the BSA’s high adventure bases. We’re pleased to announce a return to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base in Ely, MN in July 2021.

Prepare to spend a full week paddling and portaging through the 1 million acre wilderness of the Boundary Waters like the French Canadian Voyageurs of old! Swim in warm water so clear you can see down 25 feet. Eat handfuls of wild blueberries as you walk the trails between lakes. See waterfalls and ancient petroglyphs left by the indigenous people. Enjoy a place where the loudest sound you’ll hear besides each others’ voices will be the calls of loons.

But this trip isn’t all easy street. We will be paddling our canoes for several hours a day, heavily laden with everything we need to survive. Where the water ends, we’ll need to carry our boats and gear across rough and rocky trails to the next lake or river. And when it gets buggy or rains, which it will, we’ll need to cheerfully shrug it off as just part of the adventure. Roll the summer video here:

The fine print:

  • All attendees must be registered with BSA
  • All attendees must be in EXCELLENT physical condition, meet BSA height & weight limits and pass the BSA swim test
  • Scouts must be 14 yrs old by July 25, 2021
  • $500 deposit due 10/2/20, final balance $600 due 3/1/21 – ALL PAYMENTS NONREFUNDABLE!
  • Personal gear, travel meals and souvenirs are the responsibility of each attendee

Contact Mr. Boyle for more information.

[PHOTOS] Northern Tier @Boylesfour

Troop 79’s High Adventure without Philmont

49A5E857-08D8-4523-A89E-274D33BF43A0The current pandemic has reshaped so many lives. But despite the human and economic disaster that’s been unfolding, Troop 79 met its commitment to our high school age members to get a shot at summer high adventure. As you may recall from this earlier post, we were thrilled to secure two coveted spots for Philmont in the summer of 2020. Seemed far away at the time. Nobody knew what would happen nine months later…

BSA high adventure trips are intended to be a physical and mental challenge, pushing the Scouts (and adult advisors!) to exceed their self-imposed limits of endurance and leadership. Many in the Scouting community view Philmont as the pinnacle of high adventure – hiking for dozens of miles in the rugged Sangre de Christo Mountains, living on freeze dried food and Spam, carrying everything you need on your back. It’s not a vacation.

When Philmont’s summer 2020 season was canceled on June 4, the troop’s adult advisors sprung into action to organize a suitable replacement. Truth be told, we’d been formulating backup plans for a while, suspecting that Philmont’s modified operations could be blocked by state orders. A Scout is Prepared. After some debate on alternatives, a ten day trip to Alaska rose to the top, including five days of backpacking in the wilderness of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Our secret weapon for organizing the trip was a Scout’s parent who lived near Anchorage during the summer. And with the state requiring negative covid test results upon entry, we felt the locals were taking the virus seriously, as we would create our own social pod on trek in the wilderness.


While for many 2020 is a summer of cancelled plans, Troop 79 pushed ahead with our Philmont alternative. Read below for the trip report written by one of the two Crew Leaders, Eagle Scout Andrew Bui.

My statement on Alaska High Adventure

Three years ago, I first stepped foot onto Philmont. I loved the experience and wanted to do it again, but as Crew Leader. Due to COVID, we ended up changing course to Alaska as part of a DIY High Adventure as Philmont was closed. Our final group was Mr. Boyle, Mr. Chambliss, George, Chris, Henry, Max, Craig, James and myself. 


We caught the 6.5 hour plane ride to Anchorage on 7/21/2020. After getting through COVID paperwork and entry forms, we made it to the Eagle River campground where we had hot dogs and reindeer sausage for dinner.  

The next day, we hopped into a van to go to Wrangell St. Elias for our adventure. Wrangell St. Elias is bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Switzerland combined. Our guides were Mike and Jonas, both of whom were fantastic. Since Mr. Boyle asked for the trip to be a high adventure, they were pretty much hands-off for the trip. The scouts backpacked, navigated, cooked, and cleaned.  The first night was at the riverbar and the next morning, we spotted a bald eagle and a moose with her calf. 

In Kennecott, we toured the abandoned copper production centers and learned about the history of the copper boom. Then we hiked to our first campsite. It overlooked the glacier we would cross the next day. Dinner was couscous and someone ended up having to drink the last of it to avoid leftovers. Dessert was much better, as everyone loves Oreo cheesecake. 

Hash browns were the next day’s breakfast. We walked across Root Glacier in crampons, which gave us extra traction but felt weird doing it for the first time. The glacier was only one mile wide, but it took 5 hours to get across it and get around all the crevasses, glacial streams, and moulins. We had lunch at 3 and were pretty miserable and tired. However, we still had to trek to our campsite for that night, enduring 5 hours of rain and bushwhacking. I was about to call it quits and sleep in a marsh when George pushed me to go across one last hill. There was a valley below and a much better site for sleeping. While not everyone was thrilled arriving into camp at 8:00PM cold and wet, we worked lightning speed to get food ready. That night was Kung Pao noodles and vegetables, which tasted great and was a huge morale boost. We were in Donoho Basin and were exhausted, so we all had a good night’s sleep.


On 7/26 (Day 3), the crews took a day hike on the moraine of Gates Glacier, a neighboring glacier. Nobody wanted to put on crampons again. The hike was short, and that was intentional to give ourselves a rest. Dinner was chili and mashed potatoes, and everyone enjoyed it. Despite being stuffed, dessert was two servings of pudding.

For breakfast the next morning, it was oatmeal combined with some hot cocoa mix, something I learned at Philmont. We dumped an entire gallon bag of oatmeal in, which was apparently twice the amount we were supposed to eat. We still finished all the food. Then, I naviguessed us back across Root Glacier. We hiked back to our first night’s campsite because of ice climbing the next day.  The return trip was completed in two less hours, as we recognized the path.  Dinner was fried rice and dehydrated vegetables, which was the perfect consistency. 


On 7/27 (Day 4), we all ice climbed. Breakfast was ramen, and lunch was granola and Cheerios. We were joined by two other guides, Jeremy and Eli who helped us with ice climbing. There were three walls to climb:  the beginner’s wall, the endurance wall because it was the tallest, and the technical wall.  It’s technical because of the overhangs. Everybody climbed at least once and some of us climbed two or even three walls. At the top of the center wall, I was feeling adventurous and took a selfie at the top. You can even see the rest of the guys down below. 


The last climb was into a moulin. A moulin is where glacial streams all converge. Those who were feeling up to it were lowered down, and we climbed back out. The inside of a moulin is full of pretty blue ice, although that ice is very hard to stick crampons in. It was the biggest test of our technique and our will to continue. Nobody needed to be rescued, and that was the best part of the climbs. 


Once we were done with climbs, we headed back to the riverbar in McCarthy. Dinner was beef stroganoff with peas and bell peppers. Dessert was Reese’s pudding. In the food storage area, they have a full map of Wrangell St. Elias. If you thought what I mentioned was huge, that small area between Mr. Boyle’s fingers is where our trek went. Wrangell St. Elias is huge. 


Unfortunately, Nothing Gold Can Stay and on 7/28, we left St. Elias, Mike, and Jonas. At the Schechter’s cabin, we took showers for the first time in a week. We also slept in a climate controlled place, which was a nice change from the tents in 50F overnight temp.

On the morning of 7/29, half of us hiked up Mt. Aleyaska. The view was great, although we didn’t see any bears (which we were all hoping for). The wildlife cruise was five hours long, and we all were able to see sea lions and sea otters in the wild.  One of the glaciers we passed was calving, so everyone saw a hunk of it fall off and then heard a low rumble from hundreds of tons of ice falling into the sea. After the cruise, we headed to Anchorage airport. Our trip was 10 days/ 9 nights long and while it wasn’t Philmont, it is something I will remember for a long while. 

– Andrew Bui

Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.

[PHOTOS] Alaska high adventure @P Chambliss, A Bui


Taking all the necessary precautions, a mini-Philmont prep hike was salvaged from the Troop’s scrubbed plans to camp overnight at Bullfrog Lake in the southwest burbs.

The hikers did their best to maintain their social distance in the hilly woods of the forest preserve. Getting outside for a vigorous and muddy walk seemed like the best prescription for an afternoon that would otherwise be spent indoors at home.

And despite the light snow falling, they made it to the remains of the atomic testing that had been done at the site. Perfectly safe now, of course.

[PHOTOS] Cook County Forest Preserve @boylesfour

Two Scooter Riders and One Prepared Scouter

My favorite section in Boys Life magazine as a teen was “Scouts in Action”. Sure, the corny jokes are great, but the idea that with a little training and a cool head you could save someone’s life? Well, that was pretty impressive.

Fast forward a few decades. Last week I was traveling with Mrs. Boyle to the west coast for some sightseeing. We had pointed our rental car up the steep drive to LA’s Griffith Observatory to catch the sunset over Tinseltown.

About halfway up, two young men on rental scooters came zipping around a corner. The first guy hit a pothole and fell. The second tried to avoid his buddy but also wrecked. So here are two people lying in the road, clearly hurt. What does one do?

If you’re prepared, you safely pull your vehicle out of traffic, grab your first aid kit and go help! As the two dazed riders stood up, I walked over and introduced myself, letting them know I was trained in first aid. Making sure we were all out of harm’s way, I did a quick triage and was relieved that neither one was badly injured.

I kept up a constant stream of chatter as I cleaned and bandaged abrasions, wrapped a sprained wrist and kept watch for signs of shock. A few minutes later they were on their way (walking!) to return the scooters.

Thankfully this wasn’t a case of life or death. But I can assure you these two guys were super appreciative to have someone show up with the right supplies and the knowledge to use them.

[PHOTO] First aid in Griffith Park @amyboylephoto

Troop 79 Opts Outside on Black Friday

If getting some exercise and doing good with your friends on the day after Thanksgiving sounds like a great idea, read on. Inspired by REI’s #OptOutside initiative and led by 2018 Eagle Scout Edward Boyle, over 25 Scouts and family members spent the morning doing litter cleanup at a Chicago park. Also joining the work crew were six of the spring 2019 “Eagle X” who were home on break from college.

The cleanup benefited the environment and people who enjoy Horner Park, a location several of the Scouts experienced as cross country runners in high school. The teams fanned out across the 58 acre grounds, gathering many buckets full of carelessly discarded debris – including food packaging, plastic bags, plastic straws, bottle caps, cigarette butts, along with recyclable items such as plastic bottles, aluminum cans and glass containers.

Thanks to the Scouts, parents and siblings who came out to support the cleanup, to the Chicago Park District for the opportunity, and to Friends of the Chicago River for their generous contribution of cleanup equipment and refreshments!

  • Interested in serving your local Chicago park? Contact the volunteer office at (312) 742-4764.
  • Check out this excellent guide from the Friends of the Chicago River to learn more about the mission to keep improving our city’s “blue green corridor”.
  • Recycling can seem mysterious.  What goes in the blue carts?  What happens to it?  See the City’s guide to what’s recyclable. Test yourself with a quiz!

Now don’t you feel better?

Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.

[PHOTOS] Park cleanup @boylesfour

Troop 79 Does a “Freeze-out” in the Kettle Moraine

A little snow and cold didn’t stop Troop 79 from enjoying a late fall weekend north of the “cheese curtain” in Wisconsin. Thanks to no school on Friday, several members of our Philmont 2020 crew (and one future Philmonter) hiked out into the woods and fields of the famous Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Arriving at backpack Shelter #3 several hours later, the crew members made a trail dinner, setup their tents, and promptly settled into their sleeping bags as the temps sank into the mid-20’s overnight.

Saturday morning dawned slightly warmer, as the Scouts shouldered their packs for the remainder of their 15 mile hike. The trail crossed fields and woods, and included a visit to a dolomite outcropping called Brady’s Rocks.

A satisfying trail lunch was the Philmont crew’s reward before continuing on to Pinewoods Group Camp where the rest of the Troop would be waiting. A happy reunion followed! A two mile hike was enjoyed by the future Philmonters while the 15-milers rested their boots.

Dinner was started early as darkness fell around 5PM, which prompted a hot campfire of locally sourced oak until “hiker midnight” around 9PM. Thankfully not so cold as Friday.

Thanks to our Patrol Leaders and adults Mr. Keats, Carter, Chambliss, Martin, and Boyle for making the weekend possible! Last campout until 2020.

Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.

[PHOTOS] Kettle Moraine camping @boylesfour

Troop 79 hosts two Cub Scout Packs at Council Camporee

What a beautiful fall weekend to join thousands of Chicago area Scouts and their families for the Pathway to Adventure Council Camporee! Troop 79 played host to two Chicago Packs, sharing a camp dinner and tent space. Great time was had by all.

Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.

[PHOTO] Busse Woods camping @DKeats

Troop 79 Hikes at Starved Rock

It was a dark and stormy night. Wait, that was Saturday…. Friday was a beautiful night – to be stuck in rush hour traffic leaving Chicago for Starved Rock State Park about two hours away. Three years ago the troop camped in the same field. Hard to tell when we arrived that night, but by daybreak on Saturday the place looked very familiar.

Our acting camp SPL, Oscar, gave the Scouts a demo on how to properly pack a backpack. This training will come in handy for several of our guys heading to Philmont next summer. Then it was time to hit the trail to St. Louis canyon.

The canyon and its caves made a great lunch stop. Most of the troop headed back to camp after a stop in the visitor center, but not the hardy Philmonters. They put another couple miles under their boots, including a lot of stairs. They seem to be off to a good start, but wait until they add four days worth of food to their packs in the high mountains of New Mexico next July!

As the sun settled into the trees, out came the matches and fire for dinner, as demonstrated by our new SPL, Colin. Fruit cobbler and a game of commando on the moonlit field capped off the evening. At least things were mostly dry when we finally called it a night.

Here’s where the stormy night comes in. Sometime around 3AM, distant flashes of lightning became more frequent and insistent, followed by rain. Lots of rain. And wind too. Thankfully by morning the heaviest stuff had let up, leaving a brief break in the precip to make breakfast, pack up and head home to Chicago.

Member of our Google group? Click here for more photos.

[PHOTOS] Starved Rock camping @boylesfour

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