Bucket List

May 5, 2013
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When I was just sixteen I had my first of many adventures that have made me who I am today. I was bored and didn’t know where my life was heading (not that a whole lot of sixteen year olds do). One chilly fall day I was in the attic looking for some of my old stuffed animals (childish? maybe, but no need to judge), when I stumbled upon an old black and white photo of my grandparents house, well it was their house, it burned down some many years ago. It got me thinking about them, how they were high school sweet hearts who fell in love but felt they were miss understood by their parents so decided to take off after high school and try to live life on their own. Their parents disagreed with their decision so cut off all contact with the teens, leaving them completely on their own.

I remember my Nana telling me stories of her and my grandfather’s lives, how they started with nothing (not a penny to either of their names). The house in the picture was actually given to them. One day, long ago, when my grandparents were still in their early 20’s, they were walking down a pitch black road just admiring the beautiful night when all of a sudden, seemingly out of no where, comes a storm. The winds picked up fast and it began to pour. They were too far away from their vehicle to run back, so they had to find shelter some where else, the pair ran to the nearest house.
There were three candles burning in a window giving the house a cozy looking glow. Joe (my grandfather) knocked a few times, waited a moment, and just as he was about to knock again an old lady opened it. Just a crack though, for she was only a frail old woman living alone and for all she knew these could be robbers on her doorstep. Upon taking a quick glance at the couple she decided that it would be fine to let them in so that’s what she did. She was very gracious and offered them some tea, crumpets, and told them to warm up by the fire. When the storm passed my grandparents thanked Grace (the old lady) and walked the three miles back to their car. This was the first of many visits that my grandparents paid to the old lady. They helped her fix up her house, paint the exterior a brilliant white, and make the yard look more inviting. Over the years Grace became a good friend of theirs. They really got to know her and came to think of her as a motherly figure. When Grace passed away some years later she left her house to the young couple who had helped her and become her family, her only family in fact, she never had any kids.

The house was a mansion, when I was little I thought that my Nana and Grampy lived in a castle, were royalty, and rich. This was not true of course but as a kid it lead to some really fun games and stories about kings, queens, castles, mythical creatures, and what life would be like if I was the wealthiest person on earth and could get whatever I wanted. So as I was looking at the picture of their mansion all these memories from my childhood came flooding back. All my childhood dreams and thoughts about what my life would be like when I was older came back to me.

That was how I came up with the plan to tell my parents that I was going camping for a few days with my friend Heather. We had a three day weekend coming up in just over a week so it worked out perfectly. Heather was in New York, at some basketball camp, little did they know. Because I was sixteen, had my license, a job, did well in school, and had for the most part proven to be trustworthy, my parents believed me and did not do a whole lot of questioning about this trip. Less than two weeks later I was driving to Vermont in a green car with cracked leather seats and no air conditioner. My plan was to drive down to vermont, find a trail head, and hike for a couple days. I figured that I could iron out the details once I got there. I had also hoped to be able to stop by the University of Vermont in Burlington on my way home, for this is where I wanted to go after I graduated from high school.

I saw some pretty weird things on my way to Vermont, there was a young ape eating a banana, not in a cage or with anyone, just sitting by the side of the road, eating a banana. At one of the rest stops there was a pickup driving fast, it flew by and as it did so a small crate of clementines was flung from the bed of the truck. The way home was even more odd but I’ll have to save that story for another day , don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

I will get to describing my actual hike in just a moment, first I would like to go back and give some more information about the planning that went into this hike. I didn’t just lie to my parents and up and leave. There was actually a fair amount of planning, such as how much food I would need, packing the right apparel, remembering to bring medical supplies, sleeping bag, my camel back, among many other things. I decided to bring a tarp instead of a tent, I knew this could turn out to be a big mistake but what the heck, I wanted to sleep under the stars and the tarp would provide shelter if it happened to rain.

After quite a few hours of driving and taking the occasional rest stop I decided that I needed to to take a break from driving for a while. I happened upon this cute looking dinner in this quaint little country side town. As soon as I walked through the doors I was greeted by an an energetic old lady who introduced herself has Mrs. Winifred but asked to be addressed as Untie Hazel. She got me some hot cocoa (though I hadn’t asked for any) and introduced me to her husband Barney and son Fredrick. I thanked Untie Hazel for the cocoa and ordered some pancakes for lunch. The Winifred family was very kind. Fredrick, the son, was a bit older than me and an avid hiker as well. He advised me to take the long trail starting at Lincoln Gap, going north to Appalachian Gap. This was only around an eleven and a half mile hike so would take a day. If I found a place to set up “camp” and hiked back the next morning it would take me nearly two days. This sounded like a fun hike so I took his advice and after about another hour of talking to Untie Hazel I got back in my car and drove to the trail head.

It was past two when I got to the trail head so I thought it best to just explore and go for a short hike and start my longer hike in the morning. It was a sunny day and the trails were well marked so I was able to find one that could be completed in under 3 hours. That night I decided to sleep on top of my car, sleeping inside it on such a beautiful night seemed ridiculous and sleeping on the ground when I knew there would be and even better view of the stars from atop my car was just silly. I have to say though, I was delighted to wake up in the morning and still be on the roof of the car instead of on the ground. I was sure that sometime in the night I would have rolled off and fallen. Lucky for me if that had happened it would’t have been a long fall. I had a quick breakfast and was off.

The day went by so fast. I had an arduous hike over the peaks of Mt. Abraham, Mt. Ellen, Lincoln Peak, and General Stark Mountain. Each peak was so wonderfully unique in the view that they provided. I felt as if I was in a whole other world. I saw very few people and for the most part just listened to the sounds of the forest that surrounded me. I did a lot of thinking but never found the answers that I had been looking for like where I wanted me life to go or what it was I wanted to do in life but I guess that’s ok. I was amazed at how fast I was able to go without having to stop every ten minutes to wait for my family. What I had predicted would take me seven hours to hike only took me a little under six. I ended up hiking past Appalachian Gap a ways and finding a nice clearing to lay down me sleeping bag. I found a tree a distance away from where I was planning to sleep and hung my food and other good smelling stuff high up in it so that any bears in the area couldn’t reach it, at least not easily, if they really wanted to take my bag of food they probably could but they would have to work for it, the thought kind of made me smile. I gathered some wood and started a small fire, although I knew I could have done without one and it probably wasn’t worth the risk, but by george I was cold and frankly a little frightened to be in the woods, far from home, at night, alone. That’s when it really hit me, I was completely alone or so I thought... Just when I was about to hide in my mummy bag and pray to god that no bears decided to come snooping around, a group of young girl scouts and their troop leaders showed up. They had apparently been heading to a camp further up on the trail for the night but gotten side tracked and fallen behind schedule so wouldn’t be able to make it there before sunset. They kindly asked it I minded them staying in the clearing with me and I, very relieved to have company, said that it would be my pleasure. It was reassuring to have other people around me, even if they were only a group of young girls and their troop leaders who looked to be barely older than me. When I awoke the next morning they had been long gone, but no matter, I had made it through the night and had lived to see another day.

It was a rainy day so the hike back to the car was one of much slipping. Surprisingly though, despite my being clumsy, I made it back to Lincoln Gap (where I had left my car) in one piece. When I finally got out of the woods and back to my car one of the first things that I did was check my cellphone to see if I had any service. I did, and you would never guess who had called, my parents. There were multiple missed calls, messages, and some very angry sounding voice mails. One of my many mistakes was not telling Heather my plan. In my absence she had called my house asking to talk to me and my plan was pretty much unraveled. My parents were more worried than angry I guess. After all I had disappeared for days without telling anyone where it was I was heading, and for that time had no contact with the outside world. So inevitably I was forced to call my parents, explain the whole thing and drive straight home.

As I mentioned before the drive home was even more odd than the way up. Not because of the things that I saw but because I realized that I had changed in some way. I had a lot of time to ponder my life both while hiking but even more so on the way home. I came to the conclusion that even though I had made some really dumb decisions that I had proven to myself that I could take care of my self, even if it was only for a few days, I had navigated those trails like a pro. It was more than just a bit scary but I had done it. This made what was to come well worth it. I enjoyed my last hours of freedom as much as possible for I knew that the second that I stepped foot in my parents house the feeling of being on top of the world would quickly be replaced with guilt and a headache from what was to surly be a long night of scolding.

I won’t go into detail about what happened when I got home but let’s just say that I got off easy. Along with losing almost all my privileges, being given an almost endless list of chores, and “disappointing” my parents, I was only allowed to go to school, xc practice, and then straight home. For the next few months my life was pretty dull, filled mostly with school work, reading, and cleaning. While organizing my room one day I came across an old paper that I had written. It was my bucket list from middle school. There was so much on this list, most of it I hadn’t even begun to try. I set the paper aside and went on with my organizing. The rest of high school went by in a breeze and before I knew it I had been accepted into the University of Maine in Orono and was graduating.

That summer in between high school and college was when I completed the first goal from my bucket list of Adventures. I went skydiving. The funny thing was that although I had anticipated this to be the toughest and the one thing on that list that I would probably chicken out of, it was the easiest. My Uncle Cam came with me and together we took a course on skydiving, went skydiving with an instructor then on our own. This was something that I’d set my sights on doing when I was just a pre-teen. I was excited. Jumping out of that plane that first time was amazing, sure I had been just a bit nervous, I even hesitated for a split second the first time. In that split second I remembered something a mentor had once said to me, he said “Wow Audrey, your crazy, you have no fears” this was not true of course, everyone has fears but remembering this in that spit second made me want to have no fears so I just gathered myself, said my favorite word (cheese), and jumped. From the moment I jumped I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a blast. The second time I jumped was the same. Both were such out of body experiences. I was proud of myself for jumping but truthfully this was not enough. This goal was easier to reach than I had thought. I decided at that my next goal would be to accomplish all the adventures and things on that list, the bucket list I’d made in middle school one rainy day. The list that had been taunting for years. I would give myself 10 years to complete this challenge. At the time I had thought that 10 years was plenty of time, that maybe it wasn’t enough.

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