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Hard Work is Worth the Reward on an Epic Maine Adventure

Anthony Frisoli crouched next to David Benavides as they both stared into the churning white water.

“You ready for this?” Anthony asked. David nodded.

“But you go first.”

Anthony, 17, winked and scooted along the muddy riverbank. With a sudden whoosh, he was pulled away by the fast current and shot off downriver. David, also 17, watched his fellow Scout floating on his back, his life jacket keeping Anthony above water and adding to his speed.

Then, with a yell and a laugh, David jumped in.

TRIAL BY WATER

The two Scouts from Troop 1367 in Woodbridge, Virginia, had completed their first high-adventure experience in Maine’s northern woods. Most of the troop had never done anything like this. But they had trained hard. They were prepared.

“It was a tough time,” 17-year-old Kiegan Menezes says before launching into the bubbling river ride. “Climbing Mount Katahdin was really hard but awesome.”

Before they summited the highest point in Maine, they had to get through the first half of the adventure. Flat-water paddling was simple enough, and the rapids sections were tense but manageable.

“But we couldn’t do it the whole way,” Anthony says. “We had to carry the boats sometimes.”

This portaging of their canoes was the toughest part of their water experience. Lugging the 65-pound Royalex crafts up and down rocky, tree-choked hillsides was the last thing their burning muscles needed after paddling for hours at a stretch.

“But when we got to put back in the water, it was all worth it,” Kiegan says. “None of us had much practice, but we’d all drilled hard on proper technique before leaving Virginia. We couldn’t have made it otherwise.”

Preparation and teamwork got them successfully through the water portion of their adventure. But no sooner had they set their oars down than it was time to lace up their boots for the mountain assault.

HEARTS OF STONE

“The water was a really good warmup for the mountain climb,” says James Garrison, 17. “I’m a huge fan of literature, so I wanted to climb where Henry David Thoreau had all the way back in the 1840s.”

First recorded as being climbed in 1804, Mount Katahdin is the northern end point of the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail.

The Scouts did a few practice hikes at local parks and in the Shenandoah Mountains, but the magnitude of the elevation was unlike anything they had tried back home.

“It was pretty intimidating,” 14-year-old Utsav Adhikari says about staring up at the 5,269-foot mountain shrouded in fog. “But we had each other’s backs on the water, and we had them on the mountain.”

This proved true when the climb began to test the boys and the adult leaders.

“Along with the usual bumps and bruises, I fell and scraped both my hands pretty bad on a rock,” James says. “It was tough, but I kept going, because I wanted to make my dad proud.”

Their strong spirit and teamwork helped overcome the scraped knees and hands, freezing temperatures and painful cramps in their exhausted legs.

“Everybody gave a big cheer,” 17-year-old Gabe Stachour says about reaching the top. “We could hear the echo for miles, and the view went on forever.”


MAINE HIGH-ADVENTURE BASE

Every year, hundreds of Scouts head into the backcountry of northern Maine for hiking and whitewater adventures. These include climbing Mount Katahdin, the state’s highest peak, and paddling on the same waters Henry David Thoreau did more than 150 years ago.

Packages include food, camping equipment, van transportation, and a guide who accompanies the group for safety and provides fun stories and advice about everything the Scouts see. Learn more at mainehighadventure.org

5 Comments on Hard Work is Worth the Reward on an Epic Maine Adventure

  1. Profiled Alumni Alive in summer 2017 // July 24, 2020 at 1:29 pm // Reply

    As a scout leader in Augusta, Maine in the 90’s, we could have done our own Maine canoe trips. Rather, due to safety considerations, we chose MNHA in 1991 and MHA (council program) in 1994. Several years later, a couple leaders from our troop tried to do The East branch on their own. The cost was 2 destroyed canoes and two injured troop members. The Matagamon based program stressed safety and fun. Equipment was top notch. The staff was incredible. Both of my sons who had attended National Jamborees, and camporees all over the northeast, agreed that this was their best scouting experience. If you go, make sure you do Webster Brook. My other favorites are The East Branch and The Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Unlike other high adventure bases, you get to set up your own itinerary. Other highlights of our trips include the wildlife: moose, dear, eagles, otters, etc, rump bumping at the Grand Pitch and seeing the old logging steam engines between Eagle Lake and Chamberlain Lake. Hiking and Canoeing in the North Maine Woods is an outstanding adventure! The 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the program is summer 2021. No National Jamboree, so a good time to canoe Maine!

  2. Paddlin' John // July 24, 2020 at 10:30 am // Reply

    Maine High Adventure offers treks in the largest undeveloped tract east of the Mississippi, and only 560 miles from New York City. Solitude, clear night skies, clean lakes and rivers, rich forests, cooking on wood fires, moose, eagles and the calls of loons to fall asleep to. This beautiful natural setting is the backdrop for Scouts and Venturers to develop teamwork, self-reliance, camping skills and an appreciation for the environment. A Maine High Adventure trek can create memories to last a lifetime.

  3. As a Scoutmaster for 20+ years, I’ve done five Maine High Adventure trips over the years. Each trip’s route was different, and each experience was uniquely fantastic. MHA tailors each trip to your crew’s interests on the day you arrive. No cookie-cutter trips at MHA!

    MHA was viewed by my Scouts as a ‘rite of passage’, inspiring them to achieve rank and truly master the skills that a High Adventure trip requires.

    As a Leader, I viewed MHA as a valuable tool to keep my Troop active and enthusiastic for decades. The payoff for my Scouts was that MHA became the pinnacle memory of their Scouting experience. The payoff for our Troop was when these Scouts returned stoked to spread their enthusiasm for Scouting to the younger Scouts. Additionally, my MHA Scouts returned with new confidence and Esprit de Corps…valuable qualities for a PLC in a Scout-Led Troop.

    From a practical standpoint:
    If you’re in the Eastern U.S. especially, an MHA trip is logistically simple, and IMHO a financial bargain when compared to the total-cost of a BSA national high adventure base trip which often entails air-travel expense and related uncertainties.

    So if you want to keep your Scouts engaged & challenged by offering them an adventure of a lifetime, I enthusiastically suggest you give Maine High Adventure a look!

  4. Former MHA Guide '19 // July 20, 2020 at 10:19 pm // Reply

    This is a wonderful place to spend a summer as a guide! You grow so much as a person and learn to lead scouts through the greatest adventures. I would highly recommend this program to anyone!

  5. IM IN THIS TROOPPPP

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