Troop 783 History
Rolling Hills United Methodist Church was founded in 1960 and moved to its
current location on Crenshaw Blvd. in 1964. As an outreach to the
community, church leaders decided to sponsor a Boy Scout Troop, and Troop
783 was chartered in 1965. Since that time, hundreds of boys have had the
opportunity to participate in outdoor and community activities. Many of
these activities outlined in the Troop history below. The Troop has had
several Scouts earn the rank of Eagle, the highest level of achievement in
1988 -- 1989: The Scoutmaster was Ray Bonesteele. The Assistant Scoutmaster was Darren Roberts. The Troop had about 10 Scouts, 7 of whom became Eagle Scouts (Lionel and Leon Rodriguez, Mark Springer, Mike Walters, David Steadham, Casey Overcamp and Brandon Long). The Troop met at the Rolling Hills United Methodist Church (RHUMC) at the corner of Palos Verdes Drive North and Crenshaw Boulevard. With so few Scouts things were handled with considerably less organization than became required just three years later. For example, on the annual (at that time) Memorial Day weekend trip to Havasu, parents drove the backpackers to Kingman, Arizona, and spent Thursday night in a motel. On Friday morning they had breakfast at Denny's in Kingman, then drove to the trailhead, parked and started the hike. On the trip home they drove back as soon as everyone made it to the parking lot. As preparation for the Havasu trip, every Scout had to prove his fitness by carrying a fully loaded backpack from Del Cerro park (near the top of Crenshaw Boulevard) south down the trail to the gate at Palos Verdes Drive South (near the site of the former Marineland) and back up to Del Cerro park. The only other event was the night the Troop came to Soleado School and built a tower using wooden staves and lashings as a demonstration of Scout skills for Cub Scout Pack 955.
1989 -- 1990: The Troop almost doubled in size when a group of about 10 boys from Pack 955 all joined in September. Ray Bonesteele and Darren Roberts remained in their leadership positions. The Troop went to Havasu again over Memorial Day weekend. In the Spring the Troop invited the Webelos from Pack 955 to a weekend camp out at Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. The Scouts stayed in tents and participated in workshops held at the Scout Center at Cabrillo Beach. It was an effective recruiting method as many of the Webelos subsequently joined the troop.
1990 -- 1991: The Troop membership swelled to nearly 30 when about 10 former Cub Scouts from Pack 955 at Soleado and a Pack that met at Vista Grande joined in September. Ray Bonesteele and Darren Roberts remained in their leadership positions. They attempted to get parents to coordinate one activity each during the year. The Troop Committee Chairman was Jim Overcamp. Parents meetings were held the first Monday of the month to review the calendar and address other items of importance. Jim Overcamp chaired these meetings and found parents to volunteer whenever extra help was needed. Activities included a camp out at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach which was an easy way to get the new Scouts acclimated to camping. In November the Troop attempted an overnight backpack to Tamarack Valley above Palm Springs. The weather turned cold and windy, and the decision was made to come home Saturday night. The group made a forced march to the tram station and got the last ride back to the parking lot. Annual events included the Scout Swim Meet at Chadwick School in September, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. Also in February the Troop participated in the Morning Prayer service at RHUMC to observe the national Scout Sunday program. Over Memorial Day weekend the troop once again went to Havasu. For summer camp the Troop went to Camp Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island (which I believe was another annual tradition of many years standing). Early in the summer, Herb Raymond (father of Dan Raymond, who later became an Eagle Scout) organized a backpack to Convict Lake in the Sierras. There was a lot of rain that year, and the rivers were much higher than normal. It was a rugged hike with at least one treacherous river crossing. People talked about the difficulty of this hike for years afterwards.
1991 -- 1992: Troop membership continued to expand, reaching around 40 scouts this year. Ray Bonesteele and Darren Roberts swapped leadership positions, Darren becoming the Scoutmaster and Ray becoming an assistant. The Fall Court of Honor was held at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. It involved a potluck dinner at picnic tables near the entrance and then a bonfire at the amphitheater. There appeared to be a tradition of having the senior patrol light the bonfire in some novel way. That year they attempted to send a flaming arrow on a wire from the top of the amphitheater into the pile of wood. Unfortunately the arrow kept sticking on the wire. In November the Troop went car camping at Joshua Tree National Monument over the three-day Veteran's Day weekend. The main activities were rock climbing ("bouldering"), rappelling, stargazing and telling stories around the campfire. Rob Sherwin (whose son Chris later became an Eagle Scout) brought a telescope and located various obscure astral phenomena. At that time the Park Service was not terribly concerned with safety, so we set up our own ropes for rappelling, under the guidance of Jae Kim (whose son Sul-mo later became an Eagle Scout). Jae was an experienced mountain climber, or so he told us. Annual events once again included the Scout Swim Meet at Chadwick School in September and Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February. In March, some of the scouts participated in a ceremony during which Harbor Park was renamed for Ken Malloy, who had been instrumental in its establishment. The Troop also participated in Scout Sunday in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May, cooking and serving food as well as building a tower using, what else, wooden staves and lashings. For the Memorial Day weekend backpack, the Troop decided to try canoeing on the Colorado River. Bob Hamaguchi, one of the Assistant Scoutmasters, organized the trip, which was very popular, but unfortunately it was never repeated. We drove the boys in cars and trucks to Nevada on Thursday night and tented at a sandy campsite. In the morning we picked up the canoes and finally got everyone in the canoes and on the water by about 10:30. Bob Hamaguchi trailed the paddlers in a small powerboat. The support crew of Lynnette Overcamp, Steve Sperry and Doug Kennedy spent most of the day shuttling the cars to a campsite downstream in California. Friday night a few more Scouts and parents arrived by car and truck. Saturday the expanded group continued down the river in canoes to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. This leg turned out to be quite long, and the Scouts were too exhausted to prepare dinner by the time they arrived. We ended up at Pizza Hut instead. We drove back to Los Angeles on Sunday. The Scouts were still so tired that they really didn't say much for most of the ride home. We stopped in Barstow for a picnic lunch on the way home, using a map to pick out a park somewhere in the city. I should note that Bob Hamaguchi did an abbreviated practice run of the canoe trip before Memorial Day with the Venture Scouts. At around this time the Troop leadership decided to offer extra, more challenging events for the older Scouts, in an attempt to keep them interested in Scouting. Although there is a "Ventures" program in Scouting, our program did not conform to those rules. In our program any Scout who had reached the rank of Star was invited to attend whatever activities the group agreed on. This was an excellent idea, but the older Scouts typically were too busy to put more time into Scouting. Also, most of their suggested activities (e.g., paint ball wars) were on the prohibited list per Boy Scouts of America. Summer Camp was again at Emerald Bay. Later in the summer a small group of Scouts and dads went backpacking in the Sierras. Herb Raymond organized the trip.
1992 -- 1993: More Scouts joined the troop bringing the total membership to about 45. Darren Roberts remained as Scoutmaster and Ray Bonesteele continued as his primary assistant. The Fall Court of Honor was again held at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. The potluck dinner evolved into El Pollo Loco take-out followed by a bonfire at the amphitheater. This year, the bonfire was started "magically" by use of a battery wired to some sort of flammable device in the middle of the woodpile. Annual events once again included the Scout Swim Meet at Chadwick School in September, Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. In November the Ventures Scouts went to a high ropes course near Lake Arrowhead. The day consisted of various team-building exercises and culminated in an afternoon spent walking on cables stretched between trees and jumping off a telephone pole. It was scary but not overly dangerous as we were always securely tethered. It was a thrilling experience and has since become a popular event for business teams. For the Memorial Day weekend backpack, the Troop opted to return to Havasu. It was at about this time that the policy of alternating between Havasu and somewhere else was established. For the training hike before Havasu, we chose to hike from Mt. Wilson to Spruce Grove on a Saturday, camp at the Spruce Grove campground and hike back to the top of Mt. Wilson on Sunday. The trail is only 3 miles each way, but it approaches vertical at the top of Mt. Wilson. Moreover, there is poison oak beside much of the trail. Mountain bikers use the trail in both directions, and Spruce Grove is something of a crossroads for hikers in that part of the Angeles National Forest. On the positive side, the scenery is magnificent, the trail runs through three different climate zones and the campground is beside a small running stream. The stream was dammed up in several places many years ago, but nature has rebounded sufficiently that it is a very attractive area. The main function of the dams today appears to be the provision of a dangerous place for the younger scouts to play. A short hike downstream leads to Sturtevant Falls, a 50-foot waterfall that attracts a fair number of visitors who hike up from the road below. As far as I know, Steve Sperry is the only one from the Troop who has ever hiked this extra distance from Spruce Grove. The Havasu trip became so popular that we chartered a bus to avoid the long drive by the parents. Overall the cost increase was quite small as much of the bus rental was offset by deleting the night in the motel. The bus ride was a huge hit due to the continuous movies played on the VCR. We left on Thursday evening, stopped in Barstow at In-N-Out Burger for a late night snack, and arrived at Denny's in Kingman at about 3 AM for breakfast. Another 2 hours in the bus got us to the trailhead just after dawn on Friday for our hike. The hike starts in a parking lot at the top of a cliff overlooking a canyon. The trail winds down the canyon wall through a series of switchbacks. After the first mile the trail flattens out and proceeds slowly down another 7 miles to the Havasupai Indian village. When things are going well it is possible to purchase iced beverages in the village. Another couple of miles took us by Navajo Falls and Havasu Falls and finally to the campsite. About a mile further down stream is the amazing Mooney Falls, accessible by a series of steps and tunnels cut into the cliff wall. Saturday was supposed to be a rest day, but Rob Sherwin, Craig Weston (a friend of Jim Armor -- more about Jim later -- who joined us for the trip) and I hiked down to the Colorado River, just to see it. We grossly underestimated the length of the hike (maybe 8 miles each way), the time required to hike it (about nine hours, including a 45 minute stay at the river) and the amount of water we would need (at least 2 quarts each). Advice to future hikers is to bring a water purifier, since the whole hike is along the Havasu River. Sunday we hiked out of the canyon, jumped on the bus and headed for Los Angeles. Unfortunately the toilet malfunctioned, necessitating our keeping the windows open, and the bus overheated, requiring us to use our precious ice water to refill the radiator. Worst was the continuous blare of the television monitors, leading to a new Troop policy mandating a minimum ten-minute break between movies. Later that summer a group of 5 Scouts and their dads backpacked to Paradise Valley, along the Kings River. Paradise Valley is a stunningly beautiful place in the Western Sierras. The hike was arduous and exposed in places, but well worth it. The trail is a larger loop that would be ideal for a long-term backpack. On the drive home we visited Sequoia National Park, although I am sad to say we had to pry the Scouts away from the VCR in Doug Mittlestaedt's van or they would have skipped viewing the trees. Summer camp was at Emerald Bay on Santa Catalina Island. That summer, as part of an Eagle Scout project, we conducted a summer scouting program. The troop met on Tuesday's as usual, but principally the scouts worked on merit badges. I thought it was a remarkably effective program, but it pretty much used up the last remaining reserves of energy held by Ray Bonesteele and Darren Roberts, both of whom stepped down in August. They recommended we never do such a thing again.
1993 -- 1994: The first order of business was the selection of a new Scoutmaster. Jim Armor (whose son Jimmy became an Eagle Scout) volunteered and Steve Sperry (whose son Andrew became an Eagle Scout) agreed to be the primary Assistant Scoutmaster. It was at about this same time that Herb Raymond became the new Troop Committee Chairman. Herb started another "tradition" when he invited several of the more active parents to a meeting in August where we planned out the basic calendar. Once the essential framework was in place, the fine-tuning was done at the monthly parents meetings. Troop membership remained at the 40 to 45 Scout level. As usual we started the year with the Scout swim meet in September at Chadwick school. The Fall Court of Honor was again held at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, with a potluck dinner and a bonfire at the amphitheater. Other annual events included Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. In early November the Troop went to Tamarack Valley (above Palm Springs) for an overnight. We drove to Palm Springs and rode the tram to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. We hiked about three miles, mostly up, to the campsite. Around noon on Saturday, thinking we were near the intended campsite, I sent two Scouts ahead to locate the site. After ten minutes they had not returned, but we could hear noises of human origin (rocks and large sticks being thrown) from their direction. It turns out they had found the campsite but didn't bother to come back to tell us. They explained that they knew we wouldn't wait forever, so they just set about amusing themselves. Otherwise the campout was notable for three things. First, there was a beehive in a decaying log near our camp. The Scouts felt compelled to throw rocks at the hive to see the bees swarm around looking for predators. The only Scout to suffer a bee sting was Nick Stahl � perhaps the first time, but by no means the last, that Nick took the fall for someone else's mischief. Second, that night coyotes surrounded our campsite and howled repeatedly. It was a Jack London sort of moment. Finally, it got so cold overnight that on Sunday morning the adults were falling over each other to get some instant oatmeal � an item that Saturday afternoon no one could understand why we had brought at all. It was still chilly at the tram stop when we arrived there a bit before noon on Sunday. But down in Palm Springs it was in the eighties. Being a non-Havasu year, we originally planned to do the canoe trip again. When no one volunteered to organize the trip, we decided to take a bus trip to Zion National Park in Utah. We left on Thursday evening, drove all night and arrived outside the southern entrance to Zion about dawn Friday. We ate breakfast at a restaurant just outside the gates, then set up our camp inside the park. Friday afternoon we rode the bus up to the north end of the park and hiked about a mile up the Virgin River toward the narrows. Saturday we rode the bus over to an eastern spot and hiked about 11 miles back into the main canyon. The variety of rock formations and foliage was astounding. Unfortunately, it was also very hot, and there was no potable water on the trail. To compound matters, no one had brought water purifiers and so the hike turned into an ordeal. At its conclusion back at Zion lodge, the dads were all ecstatic about the beauty of the hike and the Scouts were all extremely upset over the heat, the lack of water and the overall pointlessness of hiking for the sake of hiking. At night Jim Armor showed us that for two or three hours after dark it is possible to locate satellites in the sky. Most satellites orbit 200 or more miles above the surface of the earth. As a result, while it is already dark on the surface, there is still sunlight where the satellites are. They look like stars, except they move quickly from west to east, then appear to "blink out" when they finally pass into the Earth's shadow. Occasionally we would see a polar orbiter, which travels from north to south. If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't have believed it. This year we broke with the tradition of attending summer camp at Emerald Bay. It was announced in late 1993 that the owner of Emerald Bay was going to convert it to some kind of tourist site. Every Scout Troop in Los Angeles suddenly had to find a new summer camp. Local options booked up quickly, forcing us to widen our search considerably. We eventually decided on Camp Kern, which is near the Sierras, two or three hours north of Bakersfield. The Troop rented two Econoline vans to haul about 20 scouts up to the camp. It turned out to be wildly successful, leading to a new tradition of alternating between Camp Kern and Emerald Bay for summer camp. Interestingly the public outcry was sufficient to pressure the owner into renewing the lease on Emerald Bay with the Boy Scouts.
1994 -- 1995: Again we needed a new leader, and Mike Garcia (whose son Grant later became an Eagle Scout) volunteered to be Scoutmaster. Steve Sperry continued as the primary Assistant Scoutmaster. Troop membership remained at the 40 to 45 Scout level. Once again we started the year with the Scout swim meet in September at Chadwick school. The Fall Court of Honor was again held at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach, with a potluck dinner and a bonfire at the amphitheater. Other annual events included Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. In planning for the year, we tried something a little different. Jim Armor had recognized back in February that we could use Field Day as motivation to encourage the Scouts to master the fundamentals of Scouting. With the concept of preparing every Scout in the Troop to earn the Block E at Field Day, we laid out a month by month plan to cover all the fundamentals. In November we backpacked to Cooper Canyon in the Angeles National Forest. It snowed early that year and we arrived at the trailhead to find about a foot of snow covering pretty much everything. Undaunted, we plunged ahead with the hike and campout. Once again we made several mistakes. Our "map" was a fifth-generation photocopy with a heavy highlighter stripe denoting the trail. Unfortunately the actual trail line had been obliterated, leading us to believe the hike was about one-third of its actual distance. Although some of the scouts and dads had been on the trail before, none of us had seen it in the snow. We staggered into camp at dusk, scrambling to find enough wood to sustain a large fire. In the morning we discovered that the newspaper fire-starter, which had been left out overnight, was just damp enough to prevent it from really catching fire. Several of us were approaching hypothermia by the time we got the fire going. In March we traveled to Santa Catalina for an overnight backpack. There had been considerable rain that spring, and the island was greener than any of the adults could remember. We took the high-speed ferry to Two Harbors, hiked by the "bump gate" and the buffalo corrals to Little Harbor where we camped out. Our campsite was a bit mushy as a result of the recent rains. On Sunday we hiked back to Two Harbors and caught the ferry home. In an attempt to interest the scouts in hiking as opposed to backpacking, we scheduled a few day-hikes this year. One was to Solstice Canyon in Malibu. This hike was quite interesting, as the first half is along a stream and has the feel of an eastern forest. The second half of the hike was at higher elevation through typical West Coast chaparral. Being a Havasu year, we did the Mt. Wilson to Spruce Grove backpack. At Havasu I again hiked to the Colorado River, this time with Phil Belleville, who is Mike Garcia's father-in-law. For summer camp the scouts returned to Emerald Bay.
1995 -- 1996: Mike Garcia remained as Scoutmaster with Steve Sperry as his primary assistant. Steve Freije (whose son Kenneth later became an Eagle Scout) and Joe Arroyo became Assistant Scoutmasters. The scout membership was still around 40 although it fell a bit during the year. Once again we started the year with the Scout swim meet in September at Chadwick school followed by the Fall Court of Honor at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. Other annual events included Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. During the year we scheduled a series of hikes around the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There is a 20-mile loop trail that (almost) circles the peninsula, and over a two year period Steve Sperry and Lyle managed to hike the whole thing. It is a remarkable trail, covering multiple climate zones (forested canyons, chaparral, and cliffs overlooking tide pools). It links well-known peninsula sites such as Ernie Howlett Park, the Little League field at Dapplegray School and the reservoir. It is also poorly maintained, impassable in places and frequently shares horse trails much to the consternation of the horse riders. In January we managed to squeeze in a Ventures activity. The older Scouts went to a climbing wall on a Sunday afternoon. There are a few of these around, including one at REI, which is now located in Manhattan Beach. In March we returned to Santa Catalina Island, repeating the Two Harbors to Little Harbor hike. This was the year of the moon-sized comet, which was strikingly visible from the Little Harbor campsite. With a ridge blocking the ambient nighttime light from Los Angeles, the comet and its amazing tail became increasingly bright as the night wore on. In April the troop did a training backpack in the San Gabriel Mountains. We started at a parking lot off the Angeles Crest Highway near the Switzer picnic area. The trail goes past Switzer Falls and then angles left up Bear Canyon, alongside a creek. The Bear Canyon campsite is about 2 miles up the creek. On Sunday we continued up the creek, eventually scaling a ridge and coming out on a fire road that skirts San Gabriel Peak and intersects the road into Mount Wilson at Eaton Saddle. On Saturday evening we were approached in the campsite by a young man and woman who were obviously lost. They had been to Switzer Falls and then had taken the wrong trail, ending up at our campsite instead of their car back near the picnic area. They had little water and no map, food, flashlight, compass or extra clothing. We gave them water and a map and pointed them in the right direction. They had about 2 hours of daylight to get back to the parking area, which was just enough if they didn't take any more wrong turns. The dads speculated that night about whether we would hear about search parties in the news the next day. Early in May we set up a Ventures hike to the top of Mount San Antonio ("Old Baldy"). In order to get an early start on the hike we drove out Friday night and camped near the trailhead. Only one Scout, future Eagle Sul-Mo Kim, attended along with three adults (Mike Garcia, Phil Belleville and Steve Sperry). It was a rigorous climb, taking about 4 hours to cover the 4 miles to the peak. There was snow circling the top of the mountain, although the peak itself was bare and rocky. We found a surprising number of people on the top, although they all left abruptly about 15 minutes after our arrival. We took a longer route down and stopped at the ski lodge for a cool drink along the way. Every time it is clear enough to see Mt. Baldy I think about the day we climbed to the top. This was a non-Havasu year, so we chose Escalante in Utah for the Memorial Day weekend backpack. Braving snow and wading much of the time through a stream, the backpack was quite successful. Unfortunately, several of the hikers ended up with severe cases of poison ivy, apparently due to poison ivy plants in a tributary to the stream. Summer camp was back at Camp Kern.
1996 -- 1997: Mike Garcia remained as Scoutmaster with Steve Sperry, Steve Freije and Joe Arroyo the Assistant Scoutmasters. Jot Hollenbeck took over as the Committee Chairman. The Scout membership hovered around 40, although the number of active scouts was somewhat lower than that. Once again we started the year with the Scout swim meet in September at Chadwick school followed by the Fall Court of Honor at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. Other annual events included Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. In October the troop went to Tamarack Valley for an overnight backpack. Another annual event is the theme park outing the Saturday before Christmas. That Saturday is generally the day after school ends for the holidays, and the Scouts enjoy going to Magic Mountain. Some years they have gone to Disneyland instead. In March we tried a new place, Leo Carrillo State Beach which about half way to Santa Barbara. Although it is possible to car camp there, we chose to park about 3 miles away in the hills above the campground and backpack into the park. We then stayed overnight in the hiker-biker section. During the day on Saturday we went over to the beach (a 5-minute walk from the campsite). Some of the Scouts surfed while others played touch football on the beach. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day. On Sunday we hiked back up to the cars. This was the beginning of our training regime for the Philmont trek in August. In April we went to Santa Catalina Island for an overnight backpack. This time we tried a different campground, Parson's Landing, which is north of Two Harbors. The hike is more interesting than the hike to Little Harbor, but the campground is not nearly as appealing. It is near the shore, with lots of sand and rocks. There was another comet visible at that time, but the cloud cover obscured it on Saturday night. Jot Hollenbeck sailed his sailboat over to Catalina and met us at Parson's Landing. More accurately he brought his dinghy up on the beach, as Parson's Landing has no pier or dock of any kind for landing larger vessels. Late in April we went to Bear Canyon again as a preparation hike for Havasu. Unfortunately, this time a few things went wrong. One of the Scouts put an unopened can of beans in the fire. The can exploded with a nearly deafening sound. Fortunately the closest anyone came to being injured was one Scout who was sprayed with a couple of hot beans. No one ever admitted to putting the can in the fire, but some remedial safety instruction took place afterward. Then the next day we discovered that three of the cars parked at Eaton Saddle had been vandalized overnight. No perpetrators were ever found. For the Havasu trip we again took the bus and followed the standard plan. On the "rest day" no one wanted to hike down to the Colorado River, so we spent the day touring the three waterfalls near our campsite. Late on Saturday Grant Garcia accidentally stabbed himself in the leg with his "Leatherman" knife. This knife is essentially a block of metal about the size of a man's pocket comb. Fortunately the blade is only a couple of inches long. Mike Garcia used a couple of butterfly bandages to close the wound, and the next day Grant hiked out. We kept him near the adults for most of the hike, just in case he ran into trouble. As it turned out these precautions were unnecessary as Grant ultimately beat all of the parents to the top. We scheduled a Sierra backpack in July, as further preparation for our trek to Philmont in August. This time we went to Woodchuck Lake, which is at the conclusion of a very rugged hike above Wishon Reservoir. We left on a Thursday and drove to Kings Canyon campground for a night of car camping. On Friday we drove to Wishon reservoir and started the actual backpack. Although all of the hikes in the Sierras I attended were difficult, this was truly the toughest of them all. Most of the other people we saw on the hike were on horseback. We ended up stopping the first night an hour or two short of our intended destination. Then on Saturday we continued up the mountain to Woodchuck Lake, where we stopped for lunch. We continued back down a different trail to Chimney Lake where we spent Saturday night. On the trail there was a point from which we could see Mount Whitney. The campsite at Chimney Lake was as beautiful a place as I have ever seen. It made the whole experience worthwhile. There was good trout fishing in the lake, and several of the scouts caught impressive sized fish. We had talked about going to Philmont for several years. It is not easy to reserve a trek at Philmont, so the beginning of the trip actually occurred about a year and a half earlier when Steve Freije made telephone contact on the one morning that reservations are accepted. In the intervening time we signed up 4 adults (Steve Freije, Mike Garcia, Joe Arroyo and Steve Sperry) and 10 Scouts (Kenneth Freije, Grant Garcia, Anthony Arroyo, Andrew Sperry, Sul-Mo Kim, Farhad Sachinvala, Neal Dodson, Colin Robinson, Justin Go and Roger Hollenbeck), made travel arrangements, selected a hiking route at Philmont, and engaged in a variety of training exercises. Our departure date was August 1st. The plan was to fly Southwest Airlines from LAX to Albuquerque, then charter a small bus to Santa Fe for some sightseeing and shopping. Then we would ride on to Philmont for an evening arrival. The Scouts were instructed to be at the airport by 6:30 AM because if we missed the flight the whole trip would be threatened. Remarkably everyone was on time and we checked our packs to Albuquerque. After that everything changed. None of us had flown on Southwest before so we didn't realize that we needed to obtain boarding passes at the gate until there were only 2 seats left on the plane. We quickly shifted to Plan B by boarding buses to Burbank Airport and flying to Phoenix, then on to Albuquerque. The charter bus driver met us in Albuquerque, and we got back on track, although several hours late. At Philmont we endured a day and a half of training, medical inspection, an opening bonfire and cafeteria food. Finally we started our trek, number 26, the toughest they offer. Over the next 11 days we scaled New Mexico's version of Mount Baldy (over 12 thousand feet), Mount Philips (over 11 thousand feet) and several peaks above 10 thousand feet. In fact we hiked over passes that were above 10 thousand feet! There are rangers (staff personnel) everywhere and on occasion they would perform skits or musical revues for us in the evenings. We were re-supplied about every four days, which made for some pretty difficult hiking on the days we carried four days worth of rations. We learned to eat everything we cooked (no leftovers!), compress our daily trash into a miniature cereal box, and do without paper products entirely. We saw many deer, a deserted gold mine and hiked through a campsite where a Scout had suffered a bear attack (fortunately very rare) only a half-hour before. The Scout was back with his crew a day later. We spent an afternoon thinning out the forest for our conservation project. Although cutting down trees doesn't sound like conservation, the idea was to clear out the small trees to prevent a devastating crown fire in the future. There was an area nearby that had been thinned a few years before we were there, and it looked great. Philmont gets 20 or 30 thousand backpackers every year, yet it is remarkably undisturbed by all the traffic. The rangers strictly enforce rules about staying on the trails and not despoiling the area in any way. Leaving behind graffiti results in immediate banishment for the entire crew. There were other lessons to be learned at Philmont that escaped us. The daily rituals are supposed to teach the value and importance of planning, teamwork, and setting aside immediate personal comfort for the benefit of the group. Our scouts never understood these concepts and as adult leaders we were unsuccessful in communicating the message. Unfortunately these failures left some bitterness to the experience that resurfaced later. One of the best parts of Philmont is meeting Scouts and Scouters from all over America. After a couple of days on the trail, pretty much everyone is looking for some conversation. Frequently at night in the camps we would meet other crews and ask where they were from, what camps they had visited, and how they had prepared for Philmont. One group we met was from Florida, where the highest elevation is about 150 feet above sea level. We were very interested in finding out how well they had adapted to the 8000-foot-plus elevations at Philmont. The younger Scouts went to Camp Whitsett for summer camp a few days after we returned from Philmont. Of the Philmont crew, only Colin Robinson attended summer camp.
1997 -- 1998: Mike Garcia remained as Scoutmaster with Steve Sperry, Steve Freije and Joe Arroyo the Assistant Scoutmasters. Jot Hollenbeck continued as the Committee Chairman. The Sscout membership declined to 30 or so. Once again we started the year with the Scout swim meet in September at Chadwick school followed by the Fall Court of Honor at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. Other annual events included Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. In March we backpacked on Santa Catalina Island again, this time camping at Little Harbor. For the Memorial Day trip we returned to Zion National Park in Utah. Again we took a bus, leaving on Thursday evening. Steve Sperry was on a business trip, so the troop picked him up at the Las Vegas airport at about 2 AM. This time we camped in a private lot just outside the park. The plan had been to spend one afternoon riding inner tubes on the Virgin River. An excess of rain had left the river a little too high and fast for comfort, so the tubing was nixed. Instead the group took day hikes on each of Friday and Saturday. Both hikes took us to spectacular viewpoints within the canyon, much to the delight of the parents. Sadly neither hike seemed to have much positive impact on the Scouts. Some of the ill will from Philmont arose, with the Scouts claiming to have been left out of the decision to forego the inner tubing adventure and the dads puzzled that the scouts could be so inflexible.
1998 -- 1999: At this point Mike Garcia, who had moved to Orange County, stepped down from his four-year stint as Scoutmaster. Steve Freije volunteered to take over, with Steve Sperry and Joe Arroyo continuing as Assistant Scoutmasters. The Scout membership started at 30 or so but soared over the next two years as waves of former Cub Scouts began to join the troop. Once again we started the year with the Scout swim meet in September at Chadwick school followed by the Fall Court of Honor at Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach. Other annual events included Scout Sunday in February, Scout Skills Field Day at Harbor Park in February and the Pancake Breakfast at Ernie Howlett Park in May. This was a Havasu year, and we took the bus per the usual plan. On the "rest day" five of us made the hike down to the Colorado River. The hikers were Steve Freije, Mike Garcia, Grant Garcia, Kenneth Freije and Steve Sperry. Along the way we saw two rattlesnakes. In three previous Havasu trips (including two times to the Colorado) we had never seen a single snake. My impression is that rattlesnakes really don't want to be near humans, and as long as you give them an escape route, they will gladly move aside.
2003 -- 2006: Mark Winkler volunteered to take over as Scoutmaster from Tom Laymon. There were 9 Assistant Scoutmasters. Mark Winkler's two sons, Greg and Eric, both became Eagle Scouts. The Troop size grew quickly to 100 Scouts. There were 11 active Eagle Scouts in the Troop. During Mark Winkler's Scoutmaster term, the Troop produced a record number of Eagle Scouts. More than at any other time in the Troop's history. A few important items were created and changed during this years: a new Troop web site was built, new Troop policies and procedures were generated and approved, the meeting structure changed and the length of the meetings were shortened to one hour (the game was eliminated as the Scouts decided), parent participation was at 99%, the Ventures were set up for the older scouts, and there were one to three outings or events per weekend for the Scouts to choose to attend and participate in. A few of the events we participated in yearly were: Camp Chawanakee Summer Camp, Catalina Backpacking Trip, Scouting for Food, Scout Sunday, Eagle projects, numerous hikes and car campouts, working on merit badges, Scout Field Day and touring historic landmarks in California.
In the fall of 2007 Ree Ryan became the troops scoutmaster, taking Mark Winkler
spot. In 2007- 2008 Ryan Low became the troops senior patrol leader, followed
by Steven Breitenstein in 2008-2009. In the last few years, the troop has
recruited over twenty new assistant scoutmasters. Unfortunately, we did happen
to loose one great, joyful, kind scoutmaster on the yearly Catalina backpack
trip. His name was Asst. Scoutmaster Doug Dethlefsen, and he passed away on the
November 2009. Many scouts received the BSA Heroism Award for their brave
actions when trying to save Doug Dethlefsens life. Here is a short article
explaining the tragic events of that day and the heroic actions by some of our
The Boys Scouts of America's National Court of Honor has awarded five local scouts the Heroism Award. The boys, Andrew Boules (14), Steven Breitenstein (16), Luke Bucklew (15), Nathan Dethlefsen (16), and Brian Zhang (13), all members of Troop 783 in Rolling Hills Estates, received their awards Tuesday evening, October 12 from Scout Executives Paul R. Moore and Col. John Jaacks. The scouts were honored for their roles in attempting to save the life of Nathan' father Doug Dethlefsen last November. Mr. Dethlefsen, an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 783, collapsed while on a troop backpacking trip on Catalina Island. Nathan, Andrew, and Brian pulled the unconscious Mr. Dethlefsen from the ocean where he had collapsed while cooling off after the 8 mile hike. Steven and Andrew and several adult leaders arrived on the scene in response to the boy's cries for help. Steven, an Eagle Scout, began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while Andrew helped treat the victim for shock. Although the paramedics on the scene later commented that the scouts and their adult leaders had "shown very efficient use of their CPR training", Doug Dethlefsen passed away shortly after arrival at Torrance Memorial Hospital. The BSA Heroism Award, is awarded to scouts who demonstrate heroism and skill in saving or attempting to save a life at minimum risk to self. The action taken must put into practice Scouting skills and/or ideals. In 2009, only 82 of these medals were awarded nationwide( Los Angeles Newspaper Group; thursday, October 28).
2010 -- 2011: During June of 2010, Chuck Brill became the new scoutmaster of the troop taking the spot of Ree Ryan. Many more devoted parents joined the troop by becoming assistant scoutmasters. From 2009 to 2010 Jason Choe was the senior patrol leader, followed by Greg Fester in 2010 to 2011. Currently, our senior patrol leader is Nick Van who took over for Greg Fester in the beginning of September of 2011. A new event was added to our troops yearly outings in the summer of 2010. This was a new choice for summer camp. Now the scouts of 783 could choose between Camp Chawanakee and Emerald Bay. Emerald bay is located on Catalina Island, just a short boat ride from nearby San Pedro ports. This opened the scouts up to new merit badges, including sailing, oceanography, and motorboating. Now scouts can experience a camp on the open ocean, or a traditional summer camp like Chawanakee.