Sunday, June 22, 2014

Milford Scouts paddling to Shelton Monday

Troop 701 Boy Scouts photographed Sunday with their kayaks and canoes along the banks of the Housatonic River. / Contributed photo
Public can track Scouts paddling 90 miles from Massachusetts to Milford

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MILFORD >> Twenty Boy Scouts in Troop 701 are using satellite technology to keep followers up to date on their 90-mile paddling trip down the Housatonic River from Massachusetts to Long Island Sound.
“Young people love action,” Assistant Scoutmaster Mark Lofthouse said Sunday from a campsite in Southbury.
“We plan a high-adventure trip every year,” said Assistant Scoutmaster Brian Leary, who could not make the trip.
“They learn skills they will have for the rest of their lives, and we enjoy just watching them grow up and develop these skills,” Leary said.

They left the city June 18 for an adventure that includes camping and portage (carrying their craft overland to avoid obstructions).
They are expected at Walnut Beach for a picnic at 3-4 p.m. Tuesday.

The Scouts, ages 14-18, and eight adults, 45 and older, are in 22 kayaks and canoes for seven days.
To make their schedule, the boys average four hours travel daily, getting up at 6 a.m., “no grumbling,” Lofthouse said.
The boys cook, clean and put up their own tents. “Nobody’s going to do anything for them. This is a big self-reliance week,” Lofthouse said by cellphone from Kettletown State Park.
“They’ve all said this was awesome,” Lofthouse said.
A big hit with the boys has been going through rapids, said Steve Johnson, the city’s open space and natural resource agent, is on the trip with son, Paul, 15.
Lofthouse has spotted a black bear cub in the woods; they once sat under a tree with a bald eagle 25 feet above; they’ve seen osprey fishing; and have been catching and releasing large-mouth bass and perch.
The group has been eating freeze-dried food and lots of nuts, Johnson said. As a special treat, leaders Bill Holdeck and Dave Shaw came up from Milford to cook dinner.

They also saw the International Space Station overhead about 9:30 one night, said Dan Murray, an Eagle from Milford. “We just watched it sail right over us. It was really beautiful,” said Murray, 19.
The trip was the brainchild of Murray, who recently finished his first year at the University of Connecticut.
When Murray was about 14, he asked Lofthouse about rowing down the Housatonic, to which Lofthouse replied: “‘We’ll make that happen.”’

On Sunday, Murray said it was a great idea, despite a few blisters, some sunburn and sore muscles.
Asked how the “old people” were doing, Lofthouse said, “The old people are handling it just fine. I haven’t seen anyone breaking down in tears, calling their wife,” Lofthouse laughed.
Planning for the trip began about 18 months ago for Lofthouse and Leary.

Follow this link to see location updates. The group will be at Sunnyside Park in Shelton Monday.

They had to get special permits for camping locations, as only there were only two state parks; the other sites were private property, or owned by municipalities or utilities, Leary said this weekend. And the two men paddled about 50 percent of the river, taking it in sections, Leary said.
In addition to Lofthouse and Johnson, other adults on the trip are Peter Murray, Bill Elliott, Tom Mercaldo, Bill Thorne of Storrs and Ian Siveyer of Monroe.
“We try to keep the ratio 3-1,” said Leary.
Part of the trip was to educate the boys, Leary said.
On this adventure, the focus is on getting a deeper appreciation of the beauty of the river and its economic importance for transport and energy.
The other part is helping and watching the young men develop life skills, Leary said.
Leary said Lofthouse gives up three weeks a year to plan and go on these trips.
“Mark does high-adventure activities. We’ve hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and part of Vermont,” Leary said.
“No story would be complete without Mark Lofthouse,” Leary said.

Call Phyllis Swebilius at 203-789-5681. Have questions, feedback or ideas about our coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at

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