Birchbark Expeditions Staff

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.  Birchbark Expedition Guides maintain an extensive list of high adventure training certifications and skills, including:

Red Cross Wilderness First Aid & CPR – prepared to treat injuries and illnesses when help may be delayed or require considerable travel.

BSA Paddle Craft Safety – extensive practices in the skills and proper handling of canoes and other watercraft in rough water and emergency situations.

BSA Youth Protection Training – for both Boy Scouts and Ventures, maintaining a safe environment for youth with two-deep leadership and policies.

ACA Flat Water Training – delivering best-practice teaching skills for those paddling on flat water.

BSA Trainer’s EDGE – proficient in delivering instruction and sharing personal expertise 

BSA Hazardous Weather – recognizing weather hazards and maintaining safety during weather events

BSA Trek Safely – assisting crews for safe travel over road and trail

BSA Leave No Trace – best-practices to ensure we leave the backcountry as we found it

Liquid Fuels – safe operation and maintenance of liquid fuel stoves used in the backcountry

and more…!

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.

Bob Blatz, Operations Manager

As the Operations Manager for Birchbark Expeditions BSA, Bob has the behind-the-scenes job managing the purchase of supplies and tracking crew payments.  Bob can be reached at:


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 is a BSA Silver Beaver and 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 retired programmer/analyst.  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.

Ron Field

Ron Field, Guide and Field Operations

Ron started his canoeing career in the pre-teen years with a voyager club near Montreal, Quebec. After moving out west, in the late 70’s,  he taught wilderness survival, mountaineering, Nordic skiing and canoeing at the Blue Lake Center just outside Jasper National Park. He has guided hikes and canoe trips in the Canadian Rockies, northern Alberta and Alaska. He was Scoutmaster for troop 664 and is now ASM for troop 92 both in Clarence NY. 


Shawn Gawron, Guide, Canoe and Trailer Mechanic

ACA certified instructor and Eagle Scout.  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.


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 MOOG.

Chris Matthewson, Program Advisor Professional and District Executive

As program advisor, Chris coordinates Birchbark Expeditions financial and compliance requirements, ensuring that the program is properly funded and all the volunteers maintain their safety training.  As an advocate for all things camping, Chris plays an important role in the operations of the program.


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.


Dave Mitchell, Guide, Grubmaster

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 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 the Birchbark Expeditions BSA Program Co-chair and manages the program web site.  In the off-season, Alan is a marketing executive for a telecommunications software company.  For his work in the program, he was named a BSA Silver Beaver in 2017 and has been a Guide with Birchbark since 2009.

Mark Potzler, Guide, Eagle Scout

Marc Potzler started canoeing as a young scout, and carried that passion with him his whole life. Marc joined several flatwater and whitewater canoeing and kayaking trips, including Pine Creek, PA; the Genesee River in Letchworth State Park; Cattaraugus Creek; the Badenkill River; many parts of the Adirondacks; and multiple trips to Algonquin. As Assistant Scoutmaster in his son's troop, Marc led two trips to Philmont, joined 2 Birchbark trips, and many other backpacking and canoeing trips. In his off-time, Marc is a Technical Manager with Ehrlich Pest Control and is always hunting for bugs.


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.

Hank Stopinski, Co-Chair and Program Training Coordinator

Hank Stopinski has spent the past 50 years in the outdoors camping, canoeing, fishing, hunting and Backpacking.  Hank has worked as a forester and teacher of natural resource management and outdoor recreation.   He has guided young people and adults on backpacking and canoe trips in the Green Mountains, Adirondacks, Western New York and Algonquin.   He has been a Scoutmaster  for Troop 92 in Swormville, earned Vigil recognition in the Order of the Arrow.   He is the proud father of two Eagle Scouts (Jason and Peter) and is currently serving as the Superintendent of Schools for a local school district.

Joe Szadek, Guide

Since starting scouting as a youth more than 30 years ago and becoming actively involved in both at the council and troop level when his son joined 10 years ago, Joe has taken the definition of High Adventure to the next level. He was awarded the Scouter of The Year in 2017 and has been a quartermaster and currently serves as an assistant scoutmaster for the last 5 years. He leads the troop in high adventure trips going to the last 2 jamborees and taking on the additional role of zip line manager. He has participated in Birchbark and Philmont and will be taking 2 crews to Seabase this year and soon to Northern Tier. He has honed his skills as a Dutch Oven Master where scouts, leaders and adults wait in line for his concoctions. Before they hit the water, Joe serves up his infamous steak dinner with all the fixings.  Scouting is year round for Joe in addition to working full time at CSX railroad as a facilities foreman.