Preface written by John Combs
Our 21st year of high adventure found us traveling to the backwoods mecca of Virginia and West Virginia. Rumors told of a land with spectacular rolling mountains, bone chilling streams, massive forests and world famous New River Gorge. To add to our outdoor delight would be a smattering of intense activities such as whitewater rafting, backpacking, caving, canoeing and tubing.
So, we began our trip preparations. To get our bodies in shape, we took two (or more) different weekend backpacking treks. We brushed up on our climbing, caving, swimming and canoeing skills and Ken made a check of our cave gear. We sold subs, gave the van a physical, packed our gear, revamped the troop trailer and bought groceries. We were finally ready!
The excursion itself gave us a renewed appreciation of the vastness and wonders of nature. Class V rapids, yawning gorges, solemn forests, exuberant waterfalls, flesh bruising rivers, breathtaking vistas and secretive caves provided us with eye popping scenery as well as heart pumping experiences.
In addition to having a lot of fun, we also learned many things during our trip:
Aquatics: Never exit your kayak in the middle of violently turbulent rapids. All it takes to entertain a group of Scouts for hours is water and rocks. In a river tubing match of rock versus butt, rock always wins.
Camping: If a campground is deserted, chances are you don't want to stay there either. Don't assume a door is locked just because it is closed. Sometimes the best things in life are free (Gentry's Landing campground).
Backpacking: Don't expect to stay dry when backpacking in a temperate rain forest. The only thing better than dry shoes and socks are Pizza Hut and Fazoli's.
Scoutcraft: Objects placed on railroad track rails don't seem to bother a 280-ton locomotive. Never try to win an eating contest against Andrew Smith. Where do Virginia boys go to meet women? The family reunion.
A successful trip such as this is the result of the work of the many individuals who gave of their time, talents, and resources. Many thanks to Ken Bonenberger and Rick Eppley for giving up vacation time to provide adult supervision. A special thank you goes to Alan Goss, Jared Fewlass and Terry Combs for buying the trip's groceries. Our van and trailer were in top shape due to the efforts of Don Sword and Ken Bonenberger, respectively. And finally, a well-deserved thanks goes to Chris Specht for serving as our crew chief.
Until next year...
Trip Log written by Matt Petroziello
Day One - June 24 - New River Gorge Bridge
Every one was to meet at John's house at 8:00 AM. David Diaz actually showed up on time this year, so Brian Alexander figured he ought to even things out a bit by showing up 15 minutes late. Andrew Smith and Ryan Bonenberger were sporting some well-kept, stylish haircuts. (What I mean by well-kept, stylish haircuts is that they were disgusting, badly-cut Mohawks). Everyone lined up for the troop picture and then we embarked on our grand journey. Around 1:30 PM we stopped for lunch and then got back in the scorching, hot van to continue our long road trip to West Virginia. We later stopped at a scenic spot to take in the viewof the New River Gorge Bridge. After racing down a massive flight of stairs and practically crawling back up, we headed inside a nearby museum/rest stop in search of water. We found out that a slide show was about to start and decided we should check it out. I figured the slide show would have some cool pictures of the New River or something, but instead the slide show was mostly about some guy picking blackberries for 30 years. After the exciting slideshow we went back into the van and drove to the campsite. On the way some car came amazingly close to hitting the troop van and David Diaz thought it would be appropriate to drop the F-bomb in front of a van full of adults, owing a total of six pops. Seven hours and 23 minutes after we left John Combs' house we arrived at our campsite. We set up camp and thought it would be fun to use Ryan Bonenberger's inflatable raft and go rafting in a pond south of our campsite. Someone suggested we go to the lake down the road instead, so everyone got in the troop van. We passed the pond we were going to raft in and it was disgusting as all get out. When we arrived at the lake we saw some sweet looking water park consisting of three trampolines and two slides. We decided to go play on that instead. It would have been more fun on the water-park if there wasn't a lifeguard telling us we could only have six people on the trampoline. At one point he told everyone to get off the trampolines because we were getting so out of hand. After all that we went back to camp for dinner. Somehow, Mike Burge, Brian Alexander, and Matt Petroziello got stuck cooking 36 hamburgers. We were taking a while to cook them and everyone was harping on us to start baked beans. When we finally cooked the baked beans and asked if anyone wanted any, no one did. The cooks tried to eat as much as they could and then throw the rest away. After dinner everyone went their separate ways and a couple of hours later they came back, ready for bed. All in all it was a good first day.
Day Two - June 25 - White Water Rafting
We woke up at 7:00 today. Nobody was ready to get out of bed so John had to do some "creative waking." This included turning David Diaz and Ryan Bonenberger, who were sleeping on hammocks, into a giant Newton's Cradle. We ate a five star breakfast of pop-tarts and cereal. After our food we got into the van and drove up to the rafting place, ready for a day of white water rafting. We picked out our helmets, life jackets, and paddles. Ryan Bonenberger picked out a defective helmet and Matt Petroziello managed to get the rare, one-of-a-kind pink helmet. We took a nice, smooth bus ride (what I mean by nice, smooth bus ride is a horribly scary bus ride) from where we got our equipment to the shore of the river. Here, we found an antique shoe and hit it around with our paddles like a hacky sack. After listening to some safety tips we went to our rafts. Someone thought it would be a good idea to bring the shoe along on the raft ride, and so begins the wrath of the antique shoe. We had to split into two groups. One group had the guide Darrin while the other, the one I was in, had the guide John Paul. We hadn't even started going down stream when we let some of the other groups taste the all-powerful antique shoe. The first part of the trip down the river was easy going. The few rapids we had were only the tip of the iceberg. We were told the good stuff came after lunch. After some smooth rafting, Jared Fewlass picked up the antique shoe and chucked it at another boat, hitting one of the guides in that raft. We got nothing but dirty looks from them for the rest of the ride. The best part about the old shoe was that everytime we threw it, Alan Goss would always jump in after it. We stopped for lunch and had some sandwiches, among other things. When everyone finished eating, we got back in our rafts for some good rapids. The rest of the ride had a few class 5 rapids. Ryan Bonenberger showed a group of Girl Scouts what a full moon looked like. Every time our group saw the camera man, AKA the vidiot, we threw up a gang sign. Also, when we got through a good rapid, some of the other groups held their paddles up in the air and started cheering. In a mock representation we threw up our paddles and yelled even louder. At one point we were approaching some power lines and Ryan Bonenberger asked, "Is that the bridge?" We still don't know what he was talking about. At around 2:30 we got back to the docking zone. After we put up our rafts we got on the bus for another fun ride. When we got back and put away our stuff we went swimming for a bit in the water park. We played around down there for a while and then came back for a spaghetti dinner. When dinner was over we played some Ultimate Frisbee and talked to some odd people in the campsite next to us. Soon, we were all tired and went to bed.
Day Three - June 26 - Hiking to the Cascades
Today we woke up at 8:00 and had a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and bacon. Andrew and Rick got into a contest to see who could eat the most. Andrew ate one more sausage than Rick but Rick had Andrew beat in pancakes. When breakfast was over and we were packed up, we left camp. We made a few stops before getting to the parking lot where we ate lunch. Andrew and Rick continued the food contest but this time Matt Petroziello jumped in. In the beginning there was no clear winner but Matt and Andrew both ate two whole celery sticks to seal the deal. Matt won in the end because he ate four more oatmeal raisin cookies than Andrew. Once lunch was over, we headed up to the trail head for a four mile hike to the Cascades. When we reached the big waterfall at the end of the trail, many of us decided to take a swim in the luke warm water. (When I say luke warm I mean really really cold). Brian Alexander and Alan Goss were taking too long to get in, so Jared Fewlass gave them a bit of help. After we dried off, we hiked back down the trail and lied down on some rocks. When everyone came back from the trail we got in the van and drove to our campsite for the night. No one was in the office/shed at the campsite so we had to slip the check under the door. We got down to where we were to sleep and there were bugs like you've never seen before. We hadn't seen any other campers and it was becoming more and more like a Goosebumps book. To keep ourselves occupied we tried to catch a matrix mouse but even that wasn't enough to convince us to stay. We were told we couldn't leave unless we got the envelope out from under the door so we all ran up to the camp office and tried to slip our hands under the door. When that failed Mike Burge tried using the doorknob and it opened. For some reason Brian Alexander and Mike Burge grabbed an envelope that they thought was the one we had the check in. We didn't figure that out until we ran all the way back to the van and Brian looked down at his envelope and asked, "What's this?" Brian had to put it back in the office when we were leaving and we drove to our new campsite, which was the exact opposite to the one we were going to stay in. We got stuff set up and were ready for dinner. The eating contest continued between Matt, Andrew, and Rick. This time, Andrew didn't stand a chance. Rick and Matt were eating the rest of the chicken while Andrew was still picking at his salad. Rick and Matt were tied and we decided to take the contest one step further and travel to Dairy Queen for ice cream. Andrew thought his banana split would be good enough but it didn't compare to the large Blizzards Rick and Matt ate. After we messed around with a juke box (there were ten of us and we still couldn't work it) we went back to the campsite and went to bed.
Day Four - June 27 - White Water Canoeing
We started our day at 6:00 AM. After packing up our gear and eating breakfast, someone told us we didn't have to be at the canoe/kayak place until 9:30. We had to kill a bunch of time, so we went down to a beach/dock and messed around or sat in the van and slept. When the clock approached 9:30 we left to pick up our equipment. There was a scary old man there who spoke in a way that made it difficult to tell if he was serious or just joking. We listened to a long speech about kayaks and the route we were to take and then we paddled into the water. Everyone enjoyed ramming and splashing people in kayaks that were of a different color than their own. Jared Fewlass was the first to fall out but definitely not the only one. After a couple good rapids we stopped for lunch. David and Ryan had a celery-eating contest, which ended in a tie. Both had fourteen celery sticks. When we were done with lunch we got back in our canoes and kayaks and traveled further downstream. The rapids thus far were fairly wimpy but the ones after lunch were a bit larger. I recall one rapid where I looked over and saw Andrew Smith fly straight into a massive rapid and take in a bunch of water. I would have laughed at him but I was going over the same rapid and would have shared the same fate if I didn't pay attention. Every kayak except four or five tipped over on that set of rapids. Matt Petroziello and Mike Burge had to save Chris Specht when he tipped over on the calm waters after making it through the beastly rapids. After regrouping we paddled onward through some more rapids until we reached the final rapid of death. Chris Specht tipped over and nearly lost his boat downstream. Some of us liked it so much we decided to do it another time. Andrew Smith, Ryan Bonenberger, Matt Petroziello and Little John paddled upstream to get another stab at the gargantuan rapid. First Ryan went, then Little John, Matt and Andrew. I remember seeing Little John going into the rapid sideways, raising his arms and cheering, and then tipping out on the rapid. Luckily, Ryan, Matt and Andrew were expert lifesavers and got John and his Kayak safely ashore. Ryan, Matt and Andrew went back for two more tries. When everybody was done playing in the water and throwing rocks around, the vehicles came to pick us and our equipment up. We drove back to camp and got everything set up. Another eating contest ensued at dinner between Ryan Bonenberger, David Diaz, Andrew Smith, Matt Petroziello, and Rick. Andrew was too slow to keep up, David was full enough to puke, and Rick didn't eat any corn, which left Ryan and Matt tied for first. Later that night we got our caving equipment ready and played a bit of chess. When the time was right, we went to bed.
Day Five - June 28 - Caving
Today we woke up at 7:00. We were to split into two groups for caving. The adults were going caving during the first part of the day, while the Scouts were going in the afternoon. When the adults were ready they left for caving. The remaining five Scouts had to keep themselves preoccupied with railroad tracks, fire, and basketball. We found a large cylinder of coal and burned it. The morning went by fairly slowly and finally the adults arrived from the cave. We had a lunch of sandwiches and chips. Soon after the Scouts boarded the van, ready to cave. We got in the cave and just explored the many passages. Every time we came upon a pond or river in the cave, Chris Specht would jump in. The cave was probably the muddiest cave east of the Mississippi. The best part was near the end when there was a slick muddy part and Brad Hock needed a push from Chris Specht. Chris was keeping Brad from falling while Brad was scrambling like a wild animal in danger just to get up. He finally did get up and Ken Bonenberger found an easier way to get up and everyone else took that path. We got out of the cave and stripped our muddy clothes, which were composed of more mud than cloth. After a half-hour drive, we arrived at camp and ate dinner. We couldn't have an eating contest because we didn't have enough food. Tacos and grapes were on the menu and I think I speak for everyone when I say it was quite tasty. We all finished dinner and helped bring trash to some trailer/dumpster. By that time it was pretty late and we were ready for bed.
Group Two: Adult Morning Caving Trip
Written By: Brian Alexander
We woke up one chilling morning at a very early hour. Before the roosters, even before the infamous Combs; we woke to go caving! We all piled in the van for a long drive to the cave. Ken was unsure of where the cave was. We had to turn around once to head for another hillside and we found the entrance. Inside the cave there were a few tight crawls and some mud to go with them. There was a huge mudslide that we all enjoyed riding down on, but it was really hard to come back up. There was one area, called the Mud Bridge, which was very dangerous. It was a bridge of slick boulders with a 80 foot pit on each side. Only a few of us crossed before we turned around and went back to the entrance. We all began our long ascent to the top and it began to rain. David Diaz, instead of carefully lowering, he dropped the bag of equipment 120 feet and almost killed us all. After an hour, maybe longer, Brian Alexander and Ken were the last to make it to the top. It wasn't too fun for the two of us to pull up our rope, pull the rope out of the cave and walk to the van with our equipment on in the rain. We finally got to the van, threw our gear in, changed clothes and went back to camp to find the next group ready to go to another cave. We quickly had a lunch of peanut butter and jelly and bologna sandwiches. No one wanted any bologna. Ryan Bonenberger decided to have a peanut butter, jelly, mustard, cookies, chips, bologna and a one cheese curl sandwich. He surprisingly finished it and obviously didn't enjoy it. The Combs family left to drop off Laura and the next cave group left so David D, Ryan B, Mike B, Andrew S, and Brian A were all left alone in camp. Some of us went fishing while the others read, listened to music, or built a fire. All five of us eventually took a nice long nap. We began to wake up at about 7-7:30 to find that the other group returned and we had dinner.
Day Six - June 29 - Tubing
We woke up at nine-ish and had a breakfast of french toast. Some Scouts went climbing and rappelling. The other Scouts stuck around camp and played chess. Adults that were caving and rappelling the previous day had to clean the ropes and equipment. Come lunch time we were all ready for some food. We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and bologna with a side dish of chips. Those daring tried some exquisite pork rinds. When lunch was finish, Terry brought out some water guns, which proved to be a bad idea. It was a battle between the younger Scouts' weak water guns and Ken, Rick and John's powerful guns. Matt P and Andrew S created a plan to steal John's water guns. The plan was abandoned when John tackled Matt over the fire pit and gave him a nasty pain in his ribs. John, however, came out fairly bruised also. The best part was when Brad Hock dumped a tub of water on John and John tackled Brad fiercely. Brad screamed as John shoveled dirt into his face. When the fight was over, we left for the river to go tubing. The first part of the river was calm, but the end was where the good rapids were. At the end, a few of us waded out into the strong current, trying to make it to the rocks in the river. When all were done, we rode the bus back and dropped off our equipment. We got back to camp and started dinner. Dinner consisted of hot dogs, baked beans, and mac n' cheese. We finished our dinner and got our packs ready for a day on the trail. Some went to play basketball before going to bed.
Day Seven - June 30 - Backpacking Appalachian Trail
We started our day at 6:00 or 7:00. After packing our stuff into the van, we drove to the trailhead. We began our hike at approximately 8:30. This day was only a four-mile hike but it was all uphill. The only people we saw were a couple of trail construction workers and a large group of hikers with a leader who looked exactly like the Northmont German teacher Herr Roe. Instead of stopping to check out the view at McAfee's Knob, we kept hiking to camp so we could beat the large group and get a shelter to sleep in. We got to camp and set up our gear. A couple of hikers came by and introduced themselves as "Tic-Tac" and "Rodent." They told us to watch out for a guy with an orange pack and a fly rod named "Trout-man." Tic-Tac and Rodent left, hoping to get a chance to stop in town and eat at Waffle House. Another hiker stopped by after Tic-Tac and Rodent, but never told us his name. I don't think he was too happy about us taking up the shelter like we did. He had to sleep in a tent in a camp area nearby. Ryan Bonenberger and Matt Petroziello made a chess board on a piece of paper and used trail mix as pieces. Whenever we took an opposing piece we got to eat it. As time progressed, many of us slept while some went up to check out the view at McAfee's Knob. The view was amazing and we saw that large group eating lunch up there. When we came back down it was close to dinnertime. We purified our water and got our things ready for cooking. Rick, Ryan, and Matt had a fire building contest and we discovered Ryan is horrible at building fires. Jared cooked some teriyaki noodles. He asked Andrew to watch his pot when it was cooking on the fire. While Jared was purifying water, Ryan built up the fire all around his pot and burned it pretty bad. Andrew didn't do a very good job. Alan Goss dropped his clean drinking tube in the stream water two or three times and had to boil water to sanitize it. He kept wondering why it was taking so long for the water to boil and there was hardly a fire. When dinner was over, a second group hiked up to McAfee's Knob while the rest of us reeked havoc on the campsite. When the second group came back, we got our stuff ready for bed and went to sleep.
Day Eight - July 1 - Backpacking Appalachian Trail
We woke up at 5:00 today and we were all tired. Alan Goss asked, "Who's idea was it to wake up at 5:00?" We reminded him it was his idea and we started packing our gear. After we ate breakfast, with the exception of Chris because someone knocked his water pot over, we set off for a fun day of hiking. Today was fairly easy. It was six miles and there wasn't too much extreme uphill. We arrived at our campsite at almost exactly 10:00. We found a snake in the shelter and a cat, which was named "Cracker" by Andrew. We got our things set up in the shelter and some of us ate lunch. An old man approached our shelter and Ken Bonenberger asked him his name. He told Ken his name and Ken thought he said it was "Fancy Feat," but it wasn't. The old man told Ken his name again and Ken, once again, thought he said "Fancy Feat." The next time the guy got really loud and yelled "FANTASY!!!" We all tried to stifle our laughter in our sleeping bags but I could still hear Brian Alexander. The guy left shortly after and we slept or ate some more to pass the time. Two guys came later and one of them had an orange pack and a fly rod and we all exclaimed, "Troutman!" We relayed Tic-Tac and Rodent's message for him to hurry up. The other guy that was traveling with him was named "Q-tip." They stayed for a little while and left when the rain had began. Dinnertime came and went and the rain still hadn't stopped. We went to bed fairly early and everyone seemed to sleep well despite the rain.
Day Nine - July 2 - Backpacking
We woke up about as early as the night before and the rain was still coming down. It was still pretty dark and we waited for some more light before hiking. When we could see better we departed to hike nine miles in the stinking rain. Today was both miserable and fun. Ponchos didn't help a bit. We didn't take too many breaks and when we did they were short because no one wanted to wait in the rain. When we knew we were getting close to the van, we would joke to each other and yell, "I see the van!" It is fun when you're in the front because you know it's a joke, but when you're in the back, you think the van is actually up ahead and you get your hopes up only to have them smashed back down. When we finally did see the van we raced to see who would get there first. Mike Burge took first place. We got in the van and everyone smelled disgusting. We waited for John and Andrew's dad to show up. When Andrew's dad showed up, Andrew and Ryan left for some other trip and left more room to breathe in the van. When John showed up we asked if we could eat at Fazoli's and John agreed. After three days of tuna and noodles, free breadsticks never tasted so good. When we were done eating at Fazoli's we got in the van and began our drive to the KOA campground we were to be sleeping at tonight. It was a long drive but when we got there we were happy to know there was a game room and showers. Some of us went to check out the game room where we were yelled at for trying to shake quarters out of one of the games. After playing Tuti Fruity four or five times we went back to camp. We were told it would be a while before dinner, which would be steak and potatoes, so we went up to another building to watch TV. After a couple of bad Nickelodeon shows, Sponge Bob Square Pants finally came on and we found ourselves singing the theme song along with a couple other little kids there. When it was time for dinner we went back to camp. Dinner was excellent, partly because I didn't have to clean anything up. We went back to watch some TV and found that Terminater 2 was on. The TV room eventually closed and we went back to camp and went to bed.
Day Ten - July 3 - Drive Home
We woke up around 7:30 today and got our things packed. We had a breakfast of pop tarts and cereal. Once we were ready we got into the van and left. We made a stop at a tourist area to get souvenirs and coffee to keep us awake. We stopped at a few more gas stations on the way home and most everyone slept. We ate lunch at Pizza Hut and got the buffet. Everyone definitely got their money's worth. When we were full we left Pizza Hut for home. It took 8 hours and 48 minutes to get home and when we finally did we had to clean the van and trailer, inside and out. We all left one by one when our parents picked us up. All in all it was an excellent trip.
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