Hiking high, swimming low

As the sun sets on summer, Tri-State teens recall their vacation highlights

As the sun sets on summer, Tri-State teens recall their vacation highlights

August 26, 2003

If you're a student in the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District, you have a week before you have to be back in the classroom Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Kids in the Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) district started school Thursday, Washington and Frederick counties began Monday and other Tri-State area public school systems will be back by Wednesday.

Some of you may find yourselves working on a classic back-to-school essay, aka "How I spent my summer vacation."

Staff Writer Kate Coleman talked to several kids whose summers included a little something more than sleeping late, vegetating in front of the tube or mowing grass.

They shared their tales of summer vacation. If any of the ideas pique your interest, the summer of '04 - it's only about nine months away.

Thurmont boy travels to warm water for deep diving tests

Ripley Hassel had a certifiably good experience during his summer vacation.

The 13-year-old Thurmont, Md., resident spent four days in the Bahamas and came away with memories and his advanced open water scuba certification.

Ripley accompanied his grandfather, Richard Murtagh, a master diver and former U.S. Navy diver. In full gear - 20-pound air tank, mask, snorkel and flippers - Ripley took nine dives during his visit to Walker's Cay in the Caribbean.

"I don't like cold water," Ripley says.

His summer experience suited him fine, though. Even at a depth of 53 feet, the water was warm, he says - about 86 degrees.

Ripley saw a few eye-catching fish and a parrot fish - a fish of different colors so named because of its beak-like mouth.

He also saw some sharks.

"I like sharks," he says.

Hedgesville student eyes state of things

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Braswell's school year started with band practice before the first day of classes today at Hedgesville High School.

Her summer has been busy.

She spent a June week in Wheeling, W.Va., learning about government at the American Legion Auxiliary's Girls State citizenship training program.

As a member of the Girls State House of Delegates, Sarah joined in passing bills geared toward improving the participants' experience. She and her fellow legislators voted on a dress code and making sure that veterans of Girls State - people who have participated recently - are involved in orientation.

Along with her brothers Paul and James, both 17, both seniors at Hedgesville High - the Braswell kids are triplets - Sarah also spent two weeks at Episcopal Church camp at Peterkin Camp and Conference Center near Romney, W.Va.

The "Hallelujah Hike" part of summer camp included hiking, swimming, sleeping in tents and outdoor cooking.

"It was a good summer," Sarah says.

From New Mexico to Atlanta, teen has a full summer

Addie Hardinge, 15, has been a Boy Scout for several years.

Along with nine fellow scouts and three adults from his Hagerstown troop, Addie journeyed by train to Chicago, then on to New Mexico.

Their destination was Philmont, the 137,493-acre national camping area owned and operated by the Boy Scouts of America. Since the ranch's first season in 1939, more than 700,000 Scouts and troop leaders have experienced Philmont.

At base camp, activities included horseback riding, shooting black powder weapons - "all that good stuff," Addie says.

During the High Adventure part of the trip, the crew trekked the Philmont wilderness for 10 days. A camp staff member accompanied them, but they had no communication with the base camp. Nor did they have the nighttime benefits of soap, toothpaste or deodorant. Such luxuries were stowed and hung in a "bear bag" after 5 p.m.

They saw a mother black bear and cub. He figured the mother weighed about 100 pounds.

"It was a good experience," Addie says.

Addie had another good experience during his summer vacation from North Hagerstown High School.

Addie was one of about 25,000 teens attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Youth Gathering in Atlanta in July. There were mass events - speakers, choirs, bands - in the Georgia Dome stadium.

Addie's experience in Atlanta was a "totally different thing" from his time in New Mexico, and he enjoyed both.

"It was great," he says.

Singing away the summer

Two years ago, Michael and Matthew Polonchak of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., recorded "fantasie," a six-song CD.

They wrote and performed all of the music.

Now 15, the home-schooled twins continued on their creative path during their summer vacation.

They both had roles in a production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in Frederick, Md.

Michael played James, the apostle, and Matthew played James, another apostle.

For their band, Transcendent Third, the young men have written and recorded five new songs during their summer vacation.

"It's gotten a lot more rocky and more upbeat," Michael says of their music.

Their writing has progressed in the five years they've been doing it, Michael says. They both get ideas for their songs, but he's not sure how it happens.

"They just come to us," he says.

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