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Troop 79 Returns from the North Woods

Those who’ve been longtime readers of this forum know that Troop 79 is fortunate to participate in at least one high adventure trip every summer. These treks are typically no vacation – there’s planning and preparation to be done, usually some amount of physical conditioning, and then the trip itself.

Summer of 2021’s high adventure was a return to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, starting at the BSA Northern Tier canoe base near Ely, MN. This location is a gateway into the country’s most popular wilderness area, a special place that’s carefully managed by the US Forest Service to minimize human impact on nature.

Unfortunately this year’s scenery was somewhat dulled by drought and wildfire smoke from Canada and the US West. But it didn’t stop the two crews from T-79 from going the distance.

In case you haven’t paddled with a Northern Tier crew, here’s how it goes:

  • Day 0 is all about getting there. In this case, the destination was a youth hostel in Duluth, MN. The guys settled in for the night after filling themselves with pizza.
  • Day 1 continued the journey, anticipation building as the crews made their way another couple hours north to Ely. Greeted at the base by BSA staff, they went through medical checks, gathered equipment and staged their gear for an early morning departure.
  • Days 2-7 were filled with adventure as the two crews each followed their own self-determined route of 50-75 miles, guided by a BSA staffer. They navigated, paddled, setup camp, swam, cooked, cleaned and relaxed.
  • Day 8 the crews were reunited on base. Let the embellished stories and ironic humor continue!
  • Day 9 was just a long drive back to Chicago. Honestly, we’d rather forget about the last day.

But at the end of it all, high adventure instills an ethos of humble confidence in the Scouts and adult advisors. While nobody knew exactly how the trek would unfold, as they say, luck favors the prepared. And when the headwinds pushed them back, or long muddy portages slowed their progress, the crews rallied behind their leaders and got where they needed to go.

Member of our Google Group? Check out more photos at the link here.

[PHOTOS] Northern Tier 2021 @boylessix

Troop 79 Eagle Project Update

Our Scouts have shown tremendous resilience and resourcefulness throughout the challenges of 2020, continuing right into the new year. See below for an Eagle project organized by Life Scout James B. intended to help his beneficiary prevent the spread of sickness at the school. Not even extreme cold will keep these guys from finishing their work!

“Thank you to those who came to my Eagle Project last Saturday. The sneeze guards that you assembled were delivered Tuesday to 2 classrooms. During the week, I finished trimming the letters with paint. On Friday with the help of Andrew and my parents, I installed the letters onto the fence in the warm temperature (sub zero windchill).
I appreciated all of your support on a cold wintery day before CPS finals. 
YiS, James”

[PHOTO] Eagle project @JamesB

Troop 79 Captures the Flag

Muddy Cricket Hill Snow melted to create a cold January mudder for the cooped-up Scouts of Troop 79. Neither camping nor High Adventure – just simple running amok in the muck. It wasn’t clear which patrol won Capture the Flag after two hours atop the hill in the wind and fully masked, but fun was had by all and Hot Cocoa a welcome treat. As we commence weekly Zoom meetings, it was great to all be together again outdoors!

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

[PHOTO] Cricket Hill @DKeats

Troop 79 Loses a Family Member

Normally this page hosts updates on Scout achievements and trip reports. Today we pause to remember an important person who’s no longer with us.

We knew Mr. Nitzsche as an Assistant Scoutmaster who served Troop 79 for several years. We also saw him as a dad to T-79 Scouts Jake and Kyle. Many of the troop’s adults also considered him a friend.

An Eagle Scout himself, Mr. Nitzsche had been involved in Scouting most of his life. Our fond memories include his warm smile and easy laugh as he joined us on many hiking, camping and canoeing trips. He was with us at Owasippe, on high adventure treks and monthly overnights.

Mr. Nitzsche’s death shocked all who knew him. Nobody goes to work imagining it could be their last day alive. He leaves a wife and daughter in addition to his two sons. A fund has been setup to accept donations to assist the family.

On behalf of Troop 79, we offer our condolences to the family. We consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have known Mr. Nitzsche, and are grateful for his contributions to the troop and Scouting.

[PHOTOS] Philmont, Northern Tier @BSA, Owasippe, Kettle Moraine @DKeats

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 at the Dunes, Part 2

The Stormchasers of Troop 79 were at it again leaving Friday night on the Chicago side of a squall only to drive around the lake to catch it on the Michigan side at Warren Dunes. Just in time for a 20 minute downpour while setting up our solo tents. Our second campout during Covid again called for individual tents (over 20!), masks, hand sanitizing, working in separate patrols, and using our common sense. Despite the excitement of setting up a campsite in the dark and rain – we did it no problem.

Saturday morning kicked off with patrol cooking and the adults doing their thing. Turkeys and Scouts headed out for the trails and dunes.

The afternoon was spent back at campsite for work on advancement, fire-building, tarp installation, and ensuring camp chairs worked properly.

Evening dinner pitted patrols against each other to create the best dinner in categories mostly just known to the SPL judge. In the end, the burrito dinner patrol won and were awarded the coveted Oreo prize. Adults were treated to gramma’s famous Hungarian Goulash recipe, salad, and pan-baked brownies for desert.

Saturday night campfire illuminated the darkness and entertainment programmed and MC’d by two Communications Merit Badge hopefuls.

Sunday morning forecasted rain provided enough motivation to rise early, eat breakfast, and head-out in time for rain in Chicago. Great to be out of our city cocoons and into the woods again!

Thanks to our PLC for organizing the events and the adults who made the trip. Hoping for one more overnight in Nov before we put the wraps on an abbreviated 2020 outdoor program.

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

[PHOTOS] Warren Dunes @DKeats, @ABui

Troop 79’s Fall 2020 Socially Distant Court of Honor

It’s a long standing tradition at Troop 79 to hold a Court of Honor shortly after the start of the school year. The meeting fills several important missions, including recognizing individual Scouts’ advancement and new leadership positions in front of parents and siblings. It’s also been a terrific opportunity to share photos and stories from the past summer’s camp and high adventure.

It goes without saying by now that pretty much everything about 2020 has had to be adapted to COVID restrictions, including celebrating as a group. How can we safely host several dozen Scouts, adult advisors and their families? And with indoor gathering not recommended, where do we hold such an event?

The answer, it turned out, was a forest preserve shelter, thanks to Cook County. Unfortunately our usual multi-media show was a no-show, but with the help of a battery powered mic and amp, mask-muffled voices could be heard. Emcees and Communications Merit Badge candidates Davu S. and James B. kicked off the meeting, with awards and advancement presented by Mr. Barich and Mr. Keats, assisted by SPL Andrew B. and ASPL Geoffrey B. Elbow bumps replaced the traditional Scout handshake, but otherwise the pomp and circumstance proceeded as usual.

Despite no summer camp at Owasippe, the troop held two high adventure trips for older Scouts. Stories of both the Summit and Alaska adventures were shared, hopefully whetting the outdoor appetites for next year’s trek to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.

In closing, the adult leadership of Troop 79 is grateful for the families that support our activities. The annual Court of Honor is way to share that gratitude in person, and demonstrate just how much our Scouts accomplish in the few short months in between. And considering how disruptive the COVID pandemic has been to so many facets of daily life, it’s impressive how adaptable and resilient our Scouts have been. Hike on!

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

[PHOTOS] Fall CoH @KBui

Troop 79 at the Dunes

Hey COVID, can we camp already? Yes, but with precautions please. After a several-month long hiatus, Troop 79 finally got back to camping via Southshore Train for an overnight near the nation’s newest National Park in nearby Indiana. Had a train car to ourselves.

We pulled our packs from the luggage racks for the hike from rail to trail. Needed to keep up the pace in a race against the Doppler Radar blob on our tail. Motivated by an ever increasing misty drizzle, Scouts quickly set up their individual tents (solo for COVID) and site rain tarp.

Off for a vigorous scout-led hike up up up and over sandy forested hills…chatted with time traveling Voyageurs… summited all highest peaks completing the famous “Three Dune Challenge” thanks to the leadership of our SPL Andrew B, the committed Scouts, and over committed adults.

Another COVID precaution had us skipping close knit patrol cooking and instead enjoying a local delicacy after thorough hand sanitizing. The night was topped off by a drying campfire program lead by George H. complete with Scout skits, songs, and a traditional Owasippe roast.

Sunday morning glorious sunshine after a night of silly woodland noises, squawks, and always that mysterious rustling right outside your tent. Classic tent camping in a low marshy area of The Dunes.

After simple breakfast and campsite sweep for “itsy bitsies” it was packs on, group pose AGAIN, and back to the train, gang! Congrats to Oscar and Carter success on first campout as new T-79 Scouts!

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

[PHOTOS] Fall camping @DKeats

Troop 79 is Back!

For the start of the school year, that is. Considering what an unusual spring and summer 2020 has brought, it was refreshing to get together again in person for our first “regular” meeting. Typical except for meeting outdoors and everyone wearing masks…

Newly elected SPL Andrew B. and ASPL Geoffrey B. welcomed the Scouts and led a traditional opening flag ceremony. Mr. Keats then held his Scoutmaster minute, introducing Oscar and Carter who joined from Cub Scout Pack 3822, and filling everyone in on the upcoming weekend campout to the Indiana Dunes.

Next it was time to hold the annual Scout-led elections, where positions like Patrol Leader, Quartermaster, Trainer and more were up for grabs. So many qualified and interested candidates! Congratulations to the winners – they’re all now official members of the Patrol Leader’s Council.

Finally, the meeting wrapped up with a game of Sleeping Pirate, a Troop 79 tradition. In case you’re unfamiliar, the object is to silently sneak off with a set of keys laying under the chair of a Scout who’s “sleeping”. And that’s it – until we meet again in the dunes of Indiana!

[PHOTO] Troop meeting @boylesfour

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