The Words of the Holden Family
The weekend forecast was 80 degrees and sunny: perfect weather for a two-day canoe trip down the Oswego and Wading Rivers in southern New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Boy Scout Troop 1212, the first Unificationist-affiliated Boy Scout Troop in the United States, cobbled together a plan; 23 Scouts and Scout alumni, and two assistant Scoutmasters met in the school parking lot of the New Hope Academy in West Lanham Hills, Maryland, early on Saturday, May 30, 2009, and were soon trekking out on another sweet adventure. (The New Hope Academy is the sponsor of Troop 1212.)
As Boy Scouts, our motto is “Be Prepared.” And we were. The boys had enough meat products and snack food to feed a small army. The senior patrol leader produced a TomTom GPS system, punched in our destination, and the voice of “Jane,” with a pleasant English accent, guided our convoy of three vehicles from Maryland through the sandy back roads of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey.
This trip was somewhat unusual in that five former senior patrol leaders from Troop 1212 were in the ranks -- Richard Abendroth, David Moffit, Jake Mas, Brennan Boothby, and George Burton -- as well as former scouts Karl Selle and Ryan Parrish.
What else was unusual about these Scouts? The great majority of the boys belong to the Unification Church, actually the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, the institutional successor to the Unification Church. Most of the parents of the boys are proud disciples of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon of Korea. These Scouts love God and country and have distinguished themselves as Boy Scouts since the troop was formed in 1999. Since that year, more than 20 members of the troop have attained the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
Our plan was to rent canoes, paddle down the Oswego River the first day, and camp at the confluence of the Oswego and Wading Rivers. The second day we would get picked up by the canoe outfitters and drive northwest to a spot on the Wading River for a five-hour trek back to the campground.
We launched eleven canoes around midday at the northern end of Oswego Lake and were soon in another world. It took less than an hour to cross the lake and portage the canoes over a berm to the Oswego River. The river started out narrow. The low-lying land has very sandy, nutrient-poor soil. Apparently crops imported by European settlers did not take well and the land was never developed. Spruce trees line the banks; their roots emit tannic acid, which stains the water dark brown. Sounds nasty, but it is, in fact, very beautiful. It reminded some of J. R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
The Oswego River has a lot of sharp turns and sunken tree limbs that must be navigated around. The current seemed strong, and it took a lot of skill to turn tight and not get drawn across the river and into a thicket of branches. We had our share of collisions and canoes being capsized. Names of individuals ejected from their canoes will be omitted to protect the innocent, but Jake Mas, Matt Holden, Kentoku Oyoyama, Francis Marchitelli, and Robert Abendroth come to mind.
The sun was going down by the time we beached the canoes and made camp at Bodine Field. After the troop divided into patrols, each patrol erected its tent and then huddled around a cooking fire or camp stove to eat. Assistant Scoutmaster John Clark asked for volunteers to carry a couple of canoes closer to our campsite. Even though they were dog-tired, three of the Senior Scouts volunteered. This is the spirit of Scouting: living for the sake of others.
The morning of the second day, we were socked in by clouds and rain. The eleven-seat van offered shelter and was soon crammed with wet, sorry-looking Scouts. Our senior patrol leader convinced everyone it would stop raining by 11:00 am. No one really believed him, but we made arrangements to get picked up by the canoe outfitters and be driven to our launching point on the Wading River. An hour later it was bright and sunny. The Wading River was more impressive that the Oswego. Deciduous trees grew amidst the spruce, and the land was interspersed with small meadows and dells. If hobbits exist, they probably live here.
We made really good time paddling down the Wading River. Four hours later, we were back at Bodine Field. Our Scouts quickly gravitated to a rope swing and were soon plunging into the water. When the stragglers showed up 30 minutes later in a tight convoy of three canoes and singing a pirate song, they were pounced upon and dumped in the river.
It was time to leave and head home. Josh, Hunter and others entertained the van’s captive audience with remarkably good Harry Potter impressions. Their off-color humor, when spoken with a British accent, seemed so stupidly funny even Jane, our GPS gal, couldn’t object. We rolled into the New Hope Academy parking lot around 10:30 pm., tired but satisfied, knowing we had made another great memory.
Contributed by Assistant Scoutmaster Peter Holden