Stratton Pond

January 17, 2012
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My first thought, when I hopped out of the cramped minivan, was that this hiking
trip might not end up happening according to plan. Little did I know, however, just how
far off the track this trip would be.

It was a misty day in late October with only a week or so left until Halloween.
Yet, rather than deciding on our costumes and plans for that night, this group of kids and
adults were going on a backcountry hiking trip. Camping on the ground, carrying all of
our necessities, (and only the necessities) in heavy bags on our backs, our scouting troop
was near Stratton pond, about to start a five or six mile hike.

Our packs weighed down on us as we began the hike. Most of us were tired
already, because we had had to get up so early that morning. It was a relatively chilly
day, and the mist was verging on a light drizzle. Apparently, though we didn’t know at
the time, this the perfect weather if you are looking to develop a case of hypothermia.
The best way to determine if someone has a case of hypothermia is to use the three-word
phrase; mumbles, stumbles, grumbles. That is exactly what a hypothermic person will do.
They will mumble when talked to, stumble while walking, and grumble like a cynical old
person about how this trip was such a bad idea, why did I even go, can we just stop
walking? And so on. Our group, if I may say so myself, was the most mumbly, grumbly,
and stumbly group you have ever seen. Every two minutes someone would ask if we
could stop and have lunch, and moan when the answer was a very definite “No.”
However, at some point all the kids decided that they could not take one more
step without food, and since the adults figured we had to be close to the top of the
mountain we were climbing, they obliged. Greatfully, we ate our tiny, not very classy
lunch of cracker, cheese and salami sandwiches. Ask any athlete, rock climber, hiker, or
other person who has ever exerted themselves strongly and they will tell you that yes,
hunger is the best seasoning. Because when you are hungry enough, even your least
favorite food tastes like a delicacy. After we finished our wonderful lunch, we began
walking again. At the same time, the adults remembered an extremely important fact; we
had a deadline to reach the top of the mountain. We had to reach the summit by noon,
otherwise we would end up hiking down in the dark. So, the adults told us to hike our
hardest and our fastest to reach the top. However, even our fastest hiking speed was
pretty slow, and by the time the summit was even in sight, it was 12:10. Sadly, we would
have turn around and hike all the way back down the mountain. Grudgingly, and with
mostly complaints (although a couple people mentioned that we didn’t have to hike as far!) we began the hike back down, retracing our steps.

I barely remember that hike, since the main subject everyone’s mind was focused
on was taking the next step down the mountain. Well, at least my mind was. Other people’s minds must have been in a totally different place, because on the walk down the mountain, there were an incredible number of trips and falls. The main offender was a
kid who must have fallen in the mud at least three times. He did the most memorable
falls, with the suspenseful teeter before he jerked sideways and fell. Luckily, we were all
able to laugh these off, and no one actually got hurt.

Finally, after miles of slowly sauntering, when we saw the cars in the parking lot,
we ran toward them. "I can take off my bag now!" and "I can take off my boots!" were
yelled by multiple people when we got up to the cars. Now we could relax, as the adults
tried to find us a usable camping spot. This is not actually an easy thing to do at the last
minute, because often all the campsites are taken, or the ones left are very expensive.
However, somehow a spot was found, and the adults drove us up to it. On the drive up,
one of the adults mentioned, "Apparently it's not the best campsite, but it'll do." We all
said we didn't care, as long as we could set up our tents there, we were A ok. However,
when we said that, we weren't expecting to see what was right in the middle of our
campsite. "WHAT?" I shouted. "You're kidding me." Another person mentioned an
important fact; "How are we supposed to sleep with this next to us?" The adult with us
laughed. "Come on, it won't kill you! Anyway, I never understood what makes people so
frightened of little graveyards, like this one." I don't know about you, but I don't feel all
that comfortable when I know I will be sleeping right near a bunch of dead people. I had
to get used to that idea, though, because it was about to happen. It didn't take long. After
about an hour or two, the graveyard went from eerie and creepy to interesting and kind of
a joke. We played around in it and were totally comfortable with it. Why are people
afraid of graveyards? We certainly weren't. After the tents were set up and we had eaten
dinner, we went to sleep right next to the graveyard without fear.

The next morning, most of us younger people were too tired to go hiking, so a
group of us stayed behind at the camp with an adult while all the others went hiking. We
had to find something to entertain ourselves with, so we decided to make little videos.
Given that we were next to a graveyard, and it was almost Halloween, we made the
subject of the movies zombie attacks. Well, only one thing can be said about those little
videos. Jumping out from behind gravestones is fun. After we tired ourselves out with the
movie, we figured that we should take a tour of the town. Sadly, the nearby town wasn't
exactly packed with things to do, and the few museums that were there you had to pay to
get into. However, as we were sadly coming back from our search for interesting things
in the town, we came across what looked like an old, abandoned, mansion hotel. Still in
the mood for eerie investigations from our zombie videos, we got out of the car to take a
look at the old building. It was so decrepit and neglected that the façade was rotting and
there was a tree growing out of one of the balconies. It would have been the perfect spot
to film a scary movie. Unfortunately, as a homemade sign near the doorway stated,
someone actually lived in this mansion, so we couldn't enter the premises. But we still
got to see the place, and we began to make bizarre ghost stories about it on the ride back
to camp. Even if we had been able to go into the building, we probably would have been
to freaked out to go in.

If we had found a museum, then we probably wouldn't have found the Mansion
Hotel. If we had known there was a graveyard in our campsite, we probably would have
switched campsites rather than exploring and making zombie movies. If we had climbed
the mountain on time, we would have just had a normal, on schedule, unmemorable trip.
Thinking back on the situation, our failures actually brought us to more interesting places
than our successes would have. We always try to win, but sometimes losing can be just
as useful. You should always remember that even if things don't go as you planned or
hoped, doesn't mean that they didn't go well. Who knows? That unexpected trip could
end up being a your very best and favorite story to tell.

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