Somewhere between his first and last step — perhaps a “baby step,” as the teen might call it — of a 50-mile hike through the Cascades, Deven Biehler had an epiphany of sorts.
“That was one of the most influential events in my life,” said the Sequim High School senior, recalling the week-long trek he made more than two years ago with fellow Boy Scouts.
“I learned how much I was capable of.”
Biehler was busy this past weekend putting the capstone of his scouting career with the finishing touches of his Eagle Scout project: two picnic tables and two benches for public use at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
It’s a culmination of a scouting life that started in first grade and had a bit of a bump in Biehler’s early high school days. Now, thanks to some serious work toward essential merit badges and required paperwork, Biehler hopes to be eligible for the scout rank by his 18th birthday — the age deadline for Eagle Scout candidates — in mid-March.
Biehler, originally a member of Troop 1492 before the group was absorbed in recent years by Troop 90 in Sequim, said he initially wanted to do something for his school but something triggered memories of visiting the “art park” — Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s Webster Woods — during family outings.
The first sculptures were installed at Webster’s Woods in 2000 and each year new pieces are presented through the Center’s Art Outside program. Visitors explore the grounds through a series of trails and often discover artwork hanging in the forest’s trees or on the grounds. Both center gallery and Webster’s Woods are free and open to the public year round.
“Every time I went back there, there was new stuff,” Biehler said.
He initially suggested making some signage for the park, but said PAFAC staff sought more public seating.
Biehler decided to make two 8-foot-long benches and two smaller (4-foot-long) benches for individuals and families to use while enjoying the outside art.
After getting some formalities out of the way, including a sign-off from regional and scout leaders and PAFAC staff, Biehler then had to secure donations from local businesses. He got lumber from The Home Depot and Thomas Building Center.
Like other Eagle Scout projects, Biehler assumed more of a management role, overseeing the project while as fellow Troop 90 scouts build his vision.
The project comes only after earning dozens of merit badges along the way, including Eagle Scout-required badges for citizenship, first aid, physical fitness, family life and personal management.
One of the tougher ones, Biehler recalled, was the Lifesaving badge, one he earned during a stint at Camp Meriwether. Located along Oregon’s northwest coastline, Meriwether is his favorite scout camp, but his test for the badge was prior to his joining the Sequim High swim team.
“If I had been in swimming (at the time) it would have been a breeze,” Biehler said what he estimates was an 800-yard swim. “Back then, it was a lot.”
Last summer, needing some elective merit badges, Biehler earned a wake-boarding badge.
Biehler also took part in Order of the Arrow (OA), a scouting program that “has recognized Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives” for more than 100 years, according to the program’s web page. It’s originators, E. Urner Goodman and Carroll A. Edson, searched for a way to recognize select campers for their cheerful spirits of service. Its focus today includes conservation, high adventure and servant-leadership.
After being selected to test for the honor, Biehler completed an eight-hour session of community service before earning a place in the Order.
“(It) made me feel like I was part of something — it’s a brotherhood,” he said.
Adventure is nothing new for Biehler He recalled the hike through the Cascades in his early teens didn’t start off well, as scouts began their sojourn in a downpour.
“Some of the kids were like, ‘Are we going to go home?’ The scout leaders just laughed,” Biehler said. “It just got harder from there.”
Being able to stand on a a vista and look back at a mountain they’d just climbed helped the Sequim youth realize that it oftentimes takes the accumulation of hundreds of “baby steps” to realize a big accomplishment.
Oddly enough, Biehler said his future may be more focused in traditionally indoor venues, working with computers. He said he’s looking to start his own computer business and tackle ethics issues in the field dealing with artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR).
Troop 90 Scoutmaster Rene Nadon said Biehler isn’t the most vocal scout he’s had in his four years with the Sequim group but that he’s worked hard to complete the Eagle Scout honor — still a difficult rank to earn, Nadon, notes with only about 4-6 percent of all scouts completing the requirements.
“He’s a quiet young man,” Nadon said of Biehler. “He’s done everything he needed to do to get this project done. He’s a nice young man (and I’m) glad to have him in the troop.”
The Scoutmaster said he tries to get his scouts on track to complete the Eagle honor by age 16 because “once they get a car, they get a job … it goes away, the interest. (There are) too many other things going that affects their lives.”
Troop 90, which also recently saw scout Keith Wilwert recently complete his Eagle Scout requirements, now boasts 36 scouts.
“I’ve known other troops; this troop I have now, these kids are above and beyond,” Nadon said. “They are a good group of kids and they try hard. And I’m really proud of them.
“I think the scout program has a lot to offer, both boys and girls. Boy Scouts covers everything a kids need to know to becoming a lead and contributing adult.”
To get involved with Boy Scouts of America, go to beascout.scouting.org; select either Cub Scouts (youth grades K05), Scouts BSA (11-17 yards old), Venturing (14-20 years old) or Sea Scouts (14-20 years old).