By Ricki Demarest
For some people, summer vacation means laying on a pool float, jetting off to an exotic locale, or digging toes in the sand.
For six Boy Scouts from Troop 416 in Hackettstown, summer vacation meant pushing themselves to their limits and beyond while hiking, white water rafting and ziplining at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W. Va. Along the way, they became physically stronger, more independent and closer as a group.
Every summer, Scouts from the troop select a High Adventure Base to
travel to and participate in “activities that you don’t normally get to do in scouting,” according to the troop’s Scoutmaster Eric Maney. This year’s group of Star Scouts were Brandon Kous, Evan Lenz, Alex
Vejen, Connor Maney, Justin Kitts and Sebastian Markowitz. They
spent the past two years planning the trip with Maney and his assistant Scoutmaster, son Dylan Maney.
“Bechtel offers x-game type activities,” the elder Maney explained. “It
offered something different from the hiking at Philmont, the island
adventure of Sea Base and the canoe touring of Northern Tier. It really appealed to this group of scouts.”
Bechtel is the newest High Adventure Base in the Boy Scouts of
America’s lineup of sites. This was the first outing there for anyone from Troop 416.
The group headed out of town early on Sunday, June 24, driving eight
hours straight, only stopping for fuel for two cars, and Starbucks for
everyone else. One Scout, Sebastian Markowitz, described everyone’s
feelings as they left.
“There was a lot of nervous excitement,” Markowitz emphasized, “and it was very cramped, hot and sweaty in the cars. It was a big relief to get there.”
The adventure got interesting quickly, however.
“Ten minutes away from the actual camp site, we hit a big pothole and got a flat tire,” Markowitz said. Although it was raining heavily, the group persisted, the tire got fixed and they all made it to their camp site.
Fortunately, the tents had already been pitched.
For the next week, Sebastian and his group would get up around 6:30
a.m. to prepare for their day, hike to the dining hall and join other scouts from other locals to form “units.”
Then it was off to their activities, which ranged from hiking, to white
water rafting, shooting, skateboarding, BMX mountain biking, archery and high ropes courses.
One high adventure (literally) that Markowitz enjoyed was a 3,000-foot- long canopy zip line tour.
“The canopy tours went 80 miles an hour and broke the sound barrier,” he said. Since everyone was in a harness and wearing protective gear, no one was scared – just thrilled.
A white-water rafting excursion down the New River Gorge National
River proved to be a favorite experience. Lots of recent rainfall created fast water and massive waves. Eight boys were in a raft working together to stay afloat while an instructor shouted orders at them.
“She was like a drill sergeant,” Markowitz noted. “She would say things like ‘There’s a big rock here and if you hit it, you’re gonna die.’”
Maney was impressed by the fact that the boys tried all the activities,
“even the ones they weren’t comfortable with. They all supported each other in all the activities.”
Conquering the skill of skateboarding showed Markowitz that “I can
learn new skills quickly and if I persevere long enough I can do
something I didn’t think I could.” Also, an enormous “ropes course”
allowed the Scouts to learn to work together while they climbed from
one end of its giant web to the other.
Every evening the guys reviewed their experiences, a practice known as “roses, thorns and buds.” Roses, Markowitz explained, were the things you liked about the day. Thorns, not so much. No one was allowed to complain about the food or the weather. “Buds,” he said, “were things you knew you were gonna do tomorrow that you were excited about.”
At the end of every action-packed day, the Scouts collapsed onto their
cots. They were lulled to sleep under the stars with the sound of taps
playing over the loudspeaker. By the end of the trip, the guys had racked up their merit badges – an imperative for climbing the Scouting ladder to attain the coveted rank of Eagle Scout. The boys were also able to master the life skills of patiently finishing long hikes and gracefully handling hot weather.
They were also able to become “better friends with the rest of the guys
as we learned more about each other,” Markowitz noted.
Dylan Maney, who works full time as a counselor and program director at Camp Bernie in Port Murray, used his experience to provide a steadying influence for the 14 to 16-year-old boys.
They were also able to see their leaders on a more equal footing.
“Both are very outdoorsy, and you could tell they were very at home,”
Markowitz stated. “It creates a different relationship when you’re seeing them constantly for two weeks. It’s a lot cooler when they face the same struggles as you do every day.”
After the rigors of camp, the group took a more leisurely route back to
New Jersey. They hiked up McAfee Knob in Virginia’s Blue Ridge
Mountains. They visited Busch Gardens and hiked to Hanging Rock
Raptor Observatory. On the Fourth of July the group enjoyed touring
Colonial Williamsburg and watching beautiful fireworks at the historic site.
Their final fun stop was In Philadelphia for a Cheesesteak Challenge.
“You stop at two cheesesteak stores,” Markowitz said. “One was Gino’s and the other was Pat’s. You and a partner buy one at each place and you have to see which one is better.”
While the troop has some wonderful memories of the trip, it’s far from last one they will take this year. Eric Maney said they will head to the Wildwood Beach Jam Camporee next month and plan to canoe on the Delaware River in October. There is a special “triple crown” merit badge for Scouts who have attended three high adventure camps, so the boys are looking into their next High Adventure outing as well.
For more information on Scouting and Troop 416, visit
By Ricki Demarest