Troop 853: A week-long expedition on Lake Ozette

Monday, August 27, 2012

Swimming in Lake Ozette
Photo by Kurt Herzog
By Scoutmaster Kurt Herzog

Just like any group of boys today, these boys played their games of search, capture and defend all day long. The only difference is these boys weren't just moving their thumbs on a video game controller -- they spent sunrise to sundown running, hiding and crawling through the wilderness playing Capture the Flag, swimming, paddling and sailing.

Map of Lake Ozette
In July, Shoreline Boy Scout Troop 853 went on a week-long canoeing expedition on Lake Ozette in the northwest corner of Washington. Ozette is the largest natural lake in the state, eight miles long, three miles across and 330 feet deep.

Ready to ship out
Photo by Paul Stoebe
The scouts had trained for months for this trip, practicing getting back into swamped canoes, perfecting their paddling skills on several shorter trips and learning how to survive (and even have fun) on a week-long wilderness expedition -- something most people never get the chance to experience. The scouts even made their own dehydrated chili for camping food.

The first day alone, scouts saw 5 bald eagles and by the end of the trip had seen several more. They also heard a trio of owls meet up in the middle of the night and coyotes calling to each other.

Lashing canoes together to try sailing
Photo by Paul Stoebe
But the big event for the boys was an extended version of the age-old Capture the Flag. One day we awoke to strong winds that kept us in camp for the day. After a service project to rebuild fire pits, the scouts decided to explore the surrounding forested hills and found that it was the perfect area for hiding, running and searching for the opposing team's flag. Left alone from adult interference, the troop eventually created elaborate camouflage suits and strategies and practiced stalking and stealth.

Since the lake is close to the Pacific Ocean in the Olympic National Park, we spent one day hiking to the coast. Scouts were fascinated by the refuse from the Japanese tsunami that is already piling up here.

On Lake Ozeette
Photo by Kurt Herzog
The next day we paddled six miles to Tivoli Island, one of three islands on the lake, stopping on the way to explore an old graveyard that was part of several settlements that have since disappeared.

Always time to lie in the sun
Photo by Paul Stoebe
Tivoli turned out to be one of the most beautiful campsites most of us have ever been to… sandy beaches, relatively warm water, plenty of wood for campfires and huckleberries.

Though not as ideal for Capture the Flag, scouts always need to keep themselves busy so they soon came up with other schemes, including building sails on lashed-together canoes.

Joe cooking breakfast for the troop
Photo by Kurt Herzog
Apparently others had also found Tivoli to be the paradise we did. A local outdoorsman arrived and wanted to get set up on the island for his honeymoon which was to be in a couple days. Joe was one of the friendliest fellow explorers we have met.

He explained that he and his fiancé had fallen in love on the island and he planned to surprise her with a luxury campsite including an elaborate tent, wood stove and camp kitchen he would use to pamper her with. Fortunately, we had planned to be gone by then and the bride and groom didn't have to share their romantic paradise with a troop of loud boy scouts.

Joe even volunteered to return early the next morning and made the troop bacon and eggs… a welcome treat after a week of oatmeal and cold cereal for breakfast.

Cheeseburgers in paradise
Photo by Kurt Herzog
With the wind at our backs, we paddled the eight miles back to our vehicles and had a celebratory cheeseburger dinner that the scouts shopped for and cooked themselves. Nothing will probably ever taste so good to them again.

For more information, visit the Troop 853 website.

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