Since I was a kid, I was always told to seize the day. You know, carpe diem and whatnot. Though, to me, seizing the day sounded like a lot of work. Why seize the day when you can seize the book? (Carpe librum folks!) Anyways, that whole seizing the day thing did not suit me one little bit. Nosiree. So, I guess this story is about how I did seize the day, and why waking up really early sucks.
“Penny, Penny!” At the sound of my name, I shot up in bed narrowly avoiding conking my head with my father’s.
“What?” I muttered, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.
My father grinned maniacally, “Hurry up and get dressed--today we’re going to climb a mountain.”
In retrospect, my father was probably expecting a super enthused response. Perhaps he was expecting something along the lines of, ’Wow Daddy; that sounds like so much fun! I can’t wait!′ However, I said nothing along those lines and simply muttered, “Mountain? What mountain?”
He rolled his eyes, “It’s Mt. Katahdin. Also, you need to get up; we’re going to be leaving pretty soon.”
He left the room I was currently sharing with my sister, and headed to the main part of the cabin. Our family was currently near Bangor, Maine visiting relatives. The wild land of bears, moose, and cousins--oh my!
I slowly rolled off the edge of my bed and plopped onto the floor. I then proceeded to shuffle on the floor over to the side of the room that housed my sister and our shared suitcase. It was all quite sloth-like.
I grabbed some clothes and my Gryffindor hoodie and slowly got dressed. I flopped back down on the bed nearest me and was surprised to hear it yelp.
“Sorry, Bianca,” I muttered, running a hand through my hair.
I trudged downstairs and was surprised to see that my mother was also up.
“Hi, sweetie,” she smiled, “Ready to climb a mountain?”
“Yeah, definitely! Hang on,” I said, putting my hand to my head like a physic, “No, no. I’m not really ready to. Nope not at all. In fact, my inner eye tells me that I shall indeed perish on this fateful trip.”
“Go ahead to the car. Daddy’s waiting for you,” she said, completely ignoring my previous comment.
I begrudgingly went outside to meet my dad, but only after grabbing a NutriGrain bar and a book for the way there.
I marched on the dew covered glass to my dad’s car. I shivered and drew my hoodie closer, mourning the fact that my sneakers were now damp and cold with said dew.
“All right!” my dad cried once I got in the car. “You ready?”
I nodded, “How are you so awake? It’s bloody--” I checked the clock in the car, “4:50 a.m.! I don’t think it’s legal to be up this early.”
My dad simply chuckled.
We drove in perpetual silence. Or, at least, it was silent on my part. My father on the other hand wouldn’t stop talking. He talked about all of the nature we would see, the trails we could take, the things that may kill us, the lakes, the fresh blueberries. It was pretty much just him talking occasionally interrupting himself mid-sentence to interject a Monty Python quote.
When we finally got close enough that I could see the mountain, I was ten times more tired than I had been when I had gotten up. The mountain itself was exceptionally beautiful. It was lush and green and over five thousand feet high. Not incredibly impressive compared to some other mountains, but it was downright gargantuan compared to my diminutive stature of four foot six.
We drove around the base of the mountain for about ten minutes before I blurted out, “What, exactly are you looking for? We’ve passed about fifty empty parking spaces!”
“Well,” he said, “if you had been paying attention to what I was saying on the way here, you would know that we need a specific lot depending on what trail we’re going to take. We need to look for the Roaring Brook Campground since that’s how we get to the Chimney Pond Trail.”
“Oh?” he repeated, “Does that not sound interesting enough to you? If you wish we can climb Knife’s Edge. It’s about a five foot, if that, walking space in between a sheer drop of over a hundred feet on both sides.”
I stared at him, bug-eyed, “Nope, nuh-uh. Chimney Pond Trail is perfectly fine.”
We finally pulled into a parking space at the exact time the sun decided to peek out from behind the trees. It made the sky a neat pink color streaked with light blue and the dew on the grass sparkle as if there were tiny mirrors embedded in the blades.
“Will we see any moose?” I asked as we got out.
“I’m not entirely sure,” he responded, “It all depends.”
He led us to the start of the trail and we began our ascent. At first, going was pretty slow. Although it was a nice day, and the path was mostly clear, there were some large rocks imbedded in the dirt just barely jutting out, which made it very easy to trip and fall. Since the sun was still rising, it shined through the leaves on the many trees and made them a luminous shade of green. Birds flew above our heads, whistling their merry tunes. It was all very nice, even if it was barely five o’clock.
We eventually made it to a part of the mountain where there were no trees, just rocks, and because of that we had a great view. You could see for miles and the sky was a deep blue due to the lack of air pollution. Since we were so high, we could see the layouts of towns and a lake that looked oddly like a moose, and I pointed it out to my dad.
“Ah,” he said, “that is, in fact, called Moosehead Lake. It’s pretty big when you’re on level with it.”
He turned to a scraggly bush with some berries on it and proceeded to pluck one off. “Blueberry?” He said, offering it to me.
I eyed it with suspicion, “How do I know that’s really a blueberry? You could be trying to poison me.”
He shrugged and said, “Your loss,” and popped it into his mouth.
When we moved on, I snatched a small handful from the bush. They were extremely good; they simply exploded with flavor the second you bit into it. These were way better than store-bought berries.
The two of us continued hiking without exchanging many words, just admiring the scenery. The trees crept back up, but none as large as they had been at the base of the mountain. The air was clear and it was delightfully refreshing.
We finally made it to the top of the mountain, Baxter Peak. By then I was tired and my legs ached. Even turkey sandwiches could not help, though they did taste very good.
Though they say the descent is easy, this one was not. There were even more rocks to scramble over, and despite the fact that was summer, the sun was setting quickly. My father and I made it to a part of the mountain where the ground was more level and the sides of the trail were covered with tall, spindly trees, each only two feet apart. Every snap of a twig and shadow cast by a tree limb caused me to jump and flail my arms in alarm.
We had yet to see a bear or a moose and I was getting anxious.
“Is that a bear?” I whispered, pointing to a shadow in the wood, half in fear and half in anticipation.
“No, Penelope,” my dad sighed, “It’s just a shadow.”
“What about that?” I said pointing to a misshapen tree, thinking it might be a bobcat or something of that sort.
“What about--do you hear that?” I whispered. There was a pounding sound behind us and it was getting closer.
My dad froze, “Yeah, I do.”
The pounding got louder and louder until both my dad and I whirled around and screamed. There was a lady charging towards us like a rhino with her hair in a high ponytail and exercise clothes, though she looked like she was, thankfully, beginning to slow down.
“I am so, so sorry,” she wheezed, gasping for breath once she had come to a complete halt, “I usually try to slow down before I scare anyone.”
My dad and I both sighed in relief, our hearts pounding with adrenaline. Our heat beats were so loud that they must have sounded like a troop of squirrels on caffeine shaking around a bunch of maracas to the Bear-Not-Bear-Lady.
“So you’re not a bear?” I asked, still wide-eyed from shock.
She threw her head back and laughed, “No, last time I checked, I was not a bear. I’m so sorry for scaring you guys. It’s just, it’s getting late and my fiancé is supposed to picking me up from the parking lot and I don’t want to have to have him waiting for too long.”
“That’s fine,” my father said grinning, “We would be running if we had a driver waiting to drive us off into the sunset as well.”
She laughed again then jogged off, waving her hand in salute. As soon as she rounded a corner, my dad and I burst out laughing.
“You screamed just like a girl!” I cried, tears of laughter streaming down my face.
We continued laughing and poking fun at each other until we reached a parking lot.
“Wait a minute,” I said while looking around wildly in confusion, “our car isn’t here. Daddy! Someone stole our car!”
“No, we’re just in a different parking lot,” he explained calmly.
“Come on,” he said, “we still need to walk.”
As fate would have it, it’s a lot harder to walk long distances on unpaved roads than it is to walk long distances on hiking trails (a mystery that never quite made sense to me.) Very quickly, my feet started hurting ten times more than they had before. Cars would whiz past us, leaving us coughing in their mini clouds of exhaust fumes. Car after car passed us until one blue Camry slowed down and pulled over.
The window nearest the side of the road we were on rolled down. Out peeked the friendly face of a twenty-or-so woman with crazy, curly, puffy, and black hair.
“Do you guys need a ride?” she said, looking sympathetic, “We had to walk this all the way down to our parking lot and definitely could have used a ride while we did.”
My dad grinned in appreciation, “Sure, thank you so much.”
He opened the side door and gestured for me to enter. I slid in and was immediately soothed by the air conditioning and was surprised to see someone I recognized: The Bear-Not-Bear-Lady.
“Hi, nice to see you two again,” she said, smiling.
I smiled back.
“Do you three know each other?” the driver asked. He was really tall and I couldn’t see any space in between his head and the ceiling of the car.
“Nope,” my dad said, sliding in and closing the door, “we just thought she was a bear.”
The lady in that had invited us in the car looked at the two of us in the review mirror with her eyebrows raised. Bear-Not-Bear-Lady, my dad, and I then proceeded to enlighten our two new companions to the tale of our hysterical panicking.
When we finally got to our lot, my dad and I were in high spirits. Our feet felt better and we were well rested. We parted ways with our driver and Bear-Not-Bear-Lady and set off for our car.
The drive back to the cabin was in complete silence. It was a comfortable silence, both of us satisfied with the day we had seized. While in Maine, I did not expect to climb a mountain, especially the largest mountain in Maine, but I did. Now, when people brag about what they did over the summer I can tell them that I conquered a hunk of rock that was over five thousand feet.
How’s that for carpe diem?
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