Birchbark Expeditions - Meet the Guides
Professionalism, Commitment and Experience: the Birchbark Expedition Guide staff is made of a group of committed and experienced group of scouters with many hours of dedicated training in back-country camping and canoeing skills.
Several events during a recent tripping season highlighted the value of our Birchbark Expeditions Guides.
SEARCH AND RESCUE. The first event was a two hour long search and rescue of a Scout lost on a confusing portage trail. Guide Marty Stevens and I were on that double crew, and it was edifying to see the adults, including veteran trippers Mike and Diane Kujawski, Chester Overbeck and Jeff Cesar galvanize into a search team that conducted itself professionally and effectively-with a happy result: the Scout was found safe and sound.
MEDICAL EVACUATION. The second event was a medical evacuation by bush plane. Guides Shawn Gawron and Carl Skompinski took charge of the situation, gave appropriate first aid and arranged a fly-out evacuation within the space of about one hour. The double crew was calmed by the professional direction given by the Guides, as Carl escorted the injured Scout to the hospital, while Shawn assumed Guide responsibilities for the double crew.
ADAPTABILITY WITH A SMILE. Guide Paul Chambers came to help for the beginning of the final week of the season, even though his own trip down the Albany River had to be postponed because of soaring bush plane costs coupled with a cancellation by one of the crew members. In Paul’s classic form, he maintained his enthusiasm, despite the disappointment. Then, when Guide Rick Baecker had to leave that night because of a family emergency, Paul pivoted again and graciously stepped into Rick’s position as Guide for the South Carolina crew.
RESPONSIVENESS. Guide Ed Pozniak experienced a sense of deja vu when his adult crew advisor insisted on paddling two to a canoe. (Ed had the same experience a prior year). When Ed could not sway the leader to the preferred method of three-to-a-canoe, he set about making the two-to-a-canoe arrangement work to the satisfaction of everyone.
ENTHUSIASM. Guide Kevin McNamara brought his constant enthusiasm and vast knowledge of Algonquin Park’s natural and human history to any crew he guides.
GOING THE EXTRA MILE. Guides Charles Feller and Dave Bliss personally trained a double crew from Pennsylvania, even traveling out of state to conduct a weekend shakedown. Such effort above and beyond the call of duty is an edifying example of the dedication to delivering a program of national quality.
Birchbark Expeditions Guide Staff:
| || |
Rick Baecker, Guide, Quartermaster.
Eagle Scout and former summer camp waterfront director, Rick has canoed for over 40 years in New England, the Adirondacks and Algonquin. Rick is a Silver Beaver, past advisor to the Order of the Arrow and avid backpacker. Rick is the Birchbark Expeditions BSA quartermaster, maintaining the quality of the Birchbark Expeditions gear. When it comes to details, Rick is our huckleberry. Rick is a retired case worker for the Social Security Administration. In his long off-season, he kayaks, spends his time with his Scout Troop, cultivates an impressive garden, and woodcarves. He has been a Guide since 2004.
| || |
Dave Bliss, Guide, Program Co-Chair.
As a youth, Dave canoed summers on the St. Lawrence River, where he became a powerful paddler. Our gear guru, he is constantly searching for the best tripping equipment, and he is in a large part responsible for our state of the art equipment. He is direct; he is opinionated; and he gets the job done. Dave is a retired manager for United Parcel Service. He is also our lead Leave No Trace trainer. In his long off-season, he spends his time as Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 261 in Amherst, New York, and is also developing a new backpacking program for the Greater Niagara Frontier Council. He has been a Guide since 2008.
| || |
Steve Burgeson, Guide, Nutrition Advisor.
Steve Burgeson has a lifetime of camping, conoeing and Scouting experience..As a youth camp counselor he spent two summers at Bulowa Adirondak Scout Reservation (Rockland County Council) as First Aid Assistant to the nurse and in the kitchen. Assistant Scout Master in Kenmore led to a 100 mile Philmont Trek, a 50 mile canoe trip and Okpik winter camping. Recent efforts to remain fit and healthy have resulted in the completion of 2 half Marathons and 5 marathons of 26.2 miles each..
| || |
Paul Chambers, Guide
During his college years, Paul camped extensively in the Rockies. After graduation, he worked as a smoke jumper for the US Forest Service in northern Montana. He has canoe tripped in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, the Adirondacks and in Algonquin. He has been a Scoutmaster for fifteen years, and is a past OA Chapter Advisor, was named Scoutmaster of the Year in his Council and is a Silver Beaver award recipient. Paul has a quiet, easy manner that belies his extensive canoe tripping skills. In the off-season, Paul is a programmer/analyst for Erie County. He has been a Guide since 2004.
| || |
Brian D’Arcy, Guide, Medical Advisor
As a Scoutmaster, Brian has led his Troop on four Birchbark Expeditions canoe trips. He has paddled the Madawaska River and the 200-mile Missinaibi River Expedition to James Bay. He is our Birchbark Expeditions Medical Advisor. The quintessentially affable Irishman, Brian gets along with everyone. In the off-season, Dr. D’Arcy, a Cardiologist by training, works as the Medical Director for Catholic Health Systems in Buffalo, New York, and has led a medical care expedition to Peru. He has been a Guide since 2012.
| || |
Charles Feller, Guide, ACA Instructor
Eagle Scout Charles Feller is an accomplished ACA Whitewater Instructor, Red Cross Instructor, National Ski Patrol Instructor and National Jamboree Instructor. He has canoed in Quebec, New York, Ontario, and New Zealand. A Silver Beaver and Assistant Scoutmaster, he developed the whitewater program for Birchbark Expeditions. Multi-talented and humorously eccentric, “Sir Charles’” Vigil Honor name aptly fits him, “He who teaches”. Some claim he has blue blood. In the off-season, Charles is the president of a firm that manufactures specialized insect repellents for personal and military use. He hails from Avon, New York. He has been a Guide since 2003.
| || |
Shawn Gawron, Guide, Canoe and Trailer Mechanic
As a Scoutmaster for ten years, Shawn produced a string of Eagle Scouts. As a strong man and a competitive tripper, Shawn enjoys setting records for distance and speed. He has been reported to eat trail food dry, and wash it down with a draft of cold water—to “quick cook” the meal. A master craftsman by trade, he regularly repairs our fleet of canoes to keep them in tip-top condition. In the off-season Shawn owns his own home construction company in Hamburg, New York. He has been a Guide since 2006.
| || |
Ken Gibson, Guide, “holds to nature”
He has a degree in communications, is an outdoors writer, and an avid canoe tripper and backpacker, having climbed many of the Adirondack’s High Peaks. In the off-season, Ken runs a heating and air conditioning business in Buffalo. He has been a Guide since 2003.
| || |
Kevin McNamara, Guide, Historian
Kevin knows Algonquin Park intimately, perhaps as much as anyone else, having traversed the park in all seasons. He has canoed to James Bay on the 260-mile Albany River expedition, locating historical trading posts and cemeteries along the way. Kevin provides the enthusiasm factor on any trip, and his considerable canoe tripping expertise is immediately evident. He has worked with Boy Scouts on the troop, District and Council levels for four decades, and was a Scoutmaster for eighteen years. Some say he is a Leprechaun. In the off-season, Kevin is a secondary education teacher in the Niagara Falls School System, and an avid amateur historian. He has been a Guide since 2004.
| || |
Mark McCormack, Guide
Mark caught the canoeing bug in college going on trips with the outdoor club and then later leading groups up Black Creek. Fast forward a few years and his two sons joined scouts and he was able to enjoy his first Birchbark trip and the flame was re-kindled! Mark has been the adult advisor on three Birchbark expeditions and three Philmont trips. He loves the outdoors and when he isn’t planning outings with Troop 483 he is attempting to finish all 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks. In the off season Mark is an IT manager at First Niagara bank.
| || |
Dave Mitchell, Guide, Commissary
During his twenties, Dave backpacked in the Smokey Mountains as a guide. As a Scout leader, he has led his troop on numerous canoe trips in Algonquin and backpacking trips in the Adirondacks. He has been a Scoutmaster and is now Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 261 in Amherst, NY. Dave works well with adults and youth and his quiet competence makes people want to learn from him; he is as solid as the day is long. In the off-season, Dave owns and operates his own flooring company, Advance Hardwoods. He has been a Guide since 2010 and has taken responsibility for Commissary operations.
| || |
Alan Percy, Guide, Webmaster, Program Co-chair
Alan has been an Assistant Scoutmaster for many years, and has backpacked with his troop at Philmont and canoed with them in Algonquin on numerous occasions. He has developed tremendous people and instructional skills. His leadership style makes others want to follow, and he is particularly adept at developing leadership and citizenship attitudes and skills in youth. Alan is in charge of the Unit Leader and Participant Training for Birchbark Expeditions BSA. In the off-season, Alan is a marketing manager for a telecommunications technology company. He has been a Guide since 2009.
| || |
Ed Pozniak, Guide, Eagle Scout
Ed has guided for and directed the Homme du Nord program (predecessor to Birchbark Expeditions BSA) while a college student. He was an Army paratrooper for six years. An Assistant Scoutmaster for years, he is training his own kids in the ways of the woods. When a job has to be done, Ed’s military training comes through and he accomplishes his objective with efficiency and completeness. In the off-season, Ed is a senior manager for International Paper in Shreveport, Louisiana. He has been a Guide
been a Guide since 2003.
| || |
Eric Reynolds, Guide, Fitness Trainer
Eric Reynolds lives near Buffalo, New York with his wife Katie, daughter Kiernan and sons Thorin and Aidan. He has more than 20 years of experience in the outdoors and enjoys being in the wilderness, paddling a canoe or exploring the woods; when he isn’t researching about life on the Old Northwest Frontier of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is a published author and has been the Scoutmaster of Troop 48 for more than 6 years. Eric started participating in Birchbark in 2012 and became a guide in 2014.
| || |
Carl Skompinski, Guide, Social Media
Carl has been paddling in Algonquin for twenty-five years. As soon as the ice breaks up, he goes deep into the Park’s interior fishing for trout. Carl developed our “Pulley System” for hanging the bear bag – making it incredible easy. He is the Advisor for Venture Crew 93 as well as an outdoors Assistant Scoutmaster and Eagle “coach” for Troop 93. For his efforts he has been awarded the Silver Beaver and serves as our Birchbark Expeditions webmaster. Carl’s enthusiasm for Algonquin knows no bounds and he is a never-ending source of tips and techniques for canoe tripping - a walking encyclopedia of wilderness knowledge. He gave us the photo below to prove to the skeptics that his fish stories are true.
| || |
Maureen Gleason, Wilderness First Aid Instructor
Maureen participated in the very first Birchbark Expeditions BSA canoe trip as a Venture Crew advisor. She has been the resident nurse at Camp Scouthaven for many years and has taught American Red Cross wilderness first aid and CPR for decades for Scouters in the Council. In the off-season Maureen works as an LPN and has ttravelled the country as an ARC emergency volunteer. She is small and feisty and not to be messed with; and she will teach you first aid real well. Maureen has been training Guides and Scouters since 2003.
| || |
James Battaglia, Staff Liaison
As the Staff Advisor for Birchbark Expeditions BSA, James has the behind-the-scenes job of balancing the budget and ensuring the smooth operation of the program—in addition to his duties of managing the Onondoga District of the Greater Niagara Frontier Council. James enjoys kayaking and hiking and is a regular visitor to the woods. James can be reached at: James.Battaglia@scouting.org