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Four Years at the Mount

Travel & Adventure

August, 2013

Our theme this month is on travel . There are tons of events (Columbus set sail, Clark's birthday of Lewis and Clark, Neil Armstrong's birthday, National Aviation Day, Transcontinental railroad completed, Alaska was discovered, etc.) in August that celebrate travel and discovery. You could tell us about a great vacation, traveling mishaps, or unusual places you've explored. Remember, a great traveling experience is more than just the location; it's about how you get there, the people you meet, the food you eat, the new activities you try, and the places you discover. Include these in your story if possible. Let the reader travel there with you. If you haven't traveled a lot, tell us what your dream trip would be like. Who would you meet; what would you do; where would you go?

A pirateís life for me

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2015

Most children grow up entranced by the idea of pirates. Even as we grow up, pirates still enthrall us. They live lives full of adventure and make their own rules. We cheer for them in movies, dress like them for Halloween, and even name our mascots after them. Yet, we all know that pirates were and are very violent and brutal people who didnít exactly earn our admiration. So why are we so memorized by them? Maybe itís for the treasure. That is the reason for pirates after all, isnít it? They fight to the death over a treasure chest once they find where "X" marks the spot. They canít get there without their treasure maps though. What if I presented you with a treasure map right now? How would you react? I would predict that you would have a desire to travel to that "X" and uncover the treasure it promises. Well, what if I told you that instead of one treasure map I was going to present you with 2,140,316 treasure maps? Granted they arenít all in this country. In fact, they are in every country and on every continent. Yes, that includes Antarctica. There are even some in outer space. Naturally, those ones are pretty difficult to get to. However, if I presented you with these maps would you be up for the challenge of finding the ones within your location? I guess I cannot physically give you these maps but I can tell you a single word that will provide you with all the information you need to know: geocaching.

Geocaching is a game played around the world. It is an outdoor adventure where participants seek to uncover hidden containers and the treasures within them. In a sense, it is a worldwide game of hide-and-seek. A geocache is a hidden container which includes, at minimum, a logbook which is signed and dated by everyone who finds it. What is inside a geocache varies from container to container and is, of course, determined by the containerís size. Containers can be any size the hider wants, and any container can be cleaned out to become a geocache as long as it is watertight.

Each geocache has GPS coordinates that allow the seeker to get within the general location of the cache, and the smallest containers, called "nanos," are often magnetic to make them easier to find. The caches are never buried underground and are usually visible depending on oneís angle. Once you find a geocache, itís exciting to see whatís inside. If there are treasures within the cache, each seeker is allowed to take an item to keep as long as they put an item into the cache in return. After a treasure is selected, a replacement is made, the log is signed, and the geocache is returned to its spot, allowing the game to continue.

Anyone can hide a geocache, but it is hidden for a more specific reason than the cache alone. Geocachers are usually trying to share something with other geocachers. The hider may want to show off the local park, a scenic location, or even their favorite stores. Caches are sought for the fun in finding but also for the purpose of discovering even more about oneís surroundings.

The first time I went geocaching I had no idea what I was looking for. The GPS had told me the general location of the cache, but I was still having a rather difficult time finding it. Finally, I found the cache hidden in the trunk of a broken tree. When I first laid eyes on it I was thrilled. I remember jumping up and down with excitement and refraining myself from screaming, "Tharí she blows!" I opened the container and found a few small items. There was a toy racecar, a few coins, a necklace, a button and, of course, a log. I unfolded the log and was shocked at the length of it. There had to have been at least 50 logs already on it! I signed my name and returned the cache to its previous location without even knowing that I had just set loose the geocaching bug within me. I was hooked. After that first experience, I went geocaching every day for a few weeks. I was quickly on nearly every cacheís log within 15 miles in every direction.

I have been truly shocked and amazed in the number of caches that I have found throughout my town. Multiple caches are in areas that I have passed by almost daily without even realizing there was a cache to be found. The geocache that surprised me the most was a middle-sized container attached to the fence of a restaurant only a few miles away from my neighborhood. When I found it I was completely stunned that I had driven past and seen it so many times, yet had never thought anything of it. Now I cannot drive past it without acknowledging it. I often witness people casually walking past it as they approach the restaurant without even realizing the treasure that lies feet from them.

The most difficult geocache I have found to date was actually underwater. Yes, underwater! I convinced my sister, Kelsey, to help me search for it knowing that a team effort was needed. We took a boat out to a sandbar and jumped into the bay. The water was a little less than five feet deep, and at some places we couldnít touch below us, but we kept trying to find the geocache. We used our hands and feet and waved them all around. After nearly an hour of searching I felt something floating near me. I quickly called Kelsey over and told her to feel around for it. By this time I had drifted away from whatever I had felt, but within a few minutes Kelsey found it and grabbed on. Grabbing ahold as well, I realized that I was going to have to dive under the water and detach the container. Seeing through the bay, even with goggles, is rather unreasonable so I had to rely only on my sense of touch. The geocache was a reusable water bottle carabined to rope, which was tied to a rock. Luckily I was able to retrieve the geocache and it floated up to the surface. I swam over to our boat, geocache in hand, and climbed aboard to sign both Kelseyís name and my own to the log. As a treasure, I took a pin that had been aboard the space shuttle. I thought it was so neat that I had found a treasure that had been into space and underwater! In its place I left a rubber toy fish that I thought was fitting for the location. I resealed the container and jumped back into the water to return it to its original place. Kelsey had been waiting in the spot the geocache was located so that we would be able to return it exactly where it came from. Kelsey and I returned to the boat overjoyed with our find.

Travel doesnít have to be far away. It is merely defined by movement from one place to another. My favorite type of traveling is on the hunt for geocaches. It always promises adventure, surprise, and a sense of accomplishment. I guess everyone can live pirate lives after all. I invite you all to become part of the geocaching community that is over five million strong. There are multiple online databases and apps that provide you with the coordinates of caches in your areas. If you havenít traveled recently, what are you waiting for? There are over 10,000 caches only miles from you, just begging to be discovered. Now the only question is, can you log them before I do?

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen


The Land of 10,000 Lakes

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

Regardless of where you go, the journey that you take, or how far you manage to make it in this world, as the old and often clichť saying goes, itís not about the destination; itís about the journey. Throughout human history weíve been shown that these words of sage advice go beyond mere adage and stretch into fact. Christopher Columbus, the man who discovered America, was looking for China when he and his merry band stumbled onto land. Little did he know that he was a few oceans and several continents off from where he wanted to be, but at that point it did not matter. He had made history, discovered a whole new world, and changed the course of human experience for the next 200 years. Yet if we took his journey based solely on its beginning and ending points, Columbus would be considered a failure on par with hydrogen blimps.

All failures of aviation and discovery aside, the truth is that even the most far flung and exotic locations and the longest quests really are just about what you make them. This is a lesson that I learned early on in my life. When I was a child, my family and I would make the trip to upstate New York to see my grandparents. My first memories of seeing my family were not those of days spent playing or having dinners with my grandparents (although there are certainly many of those), but rather of the massive van that we travelled in as a family, driving to and from our scattered relatives. Maybe itís weird to associate our vehicles with the people who I know and love, but for me the place that weíre going to and the way that we got there are linked. In the passenger seat of our van I had some of the greatest adventures of my life, with the people that I completely adore.

One of the greatest moments occurred while en route to see members of our eclectic clan. We were traveling to my momís birthplace in Minnesota for our auntís wedding. While we were making our way to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, my parents decided that it would be a great opportunity to see some of the gems of the Midwest while we drove. Thus, we took a twisting, curving path through the country and managed to see and do a million things while we journeyed. It was during this trip that I finally came face-to-face with the stony expressions of several beloved presidents at Mount Rushmore. In the middle of the night we decided to stop at White Castle for the sole reason that my younger brother and I were absolutely fascinated with this strange building that looked like a medieval fortress but served delicious fried meat rather than hefty servings of arrows and armor clad thugs. However, there was one incident during this journey that I will never forget, a moment that stood head and shoulders above all the others: our tour of Teddy Roosevelt National Park.

There we were, a family of four rolling slowly through the wasteland in our giant burgundy monster of a van, like a mixture of the Addams Family and the folks from the Little House on the Prairie. Everywhere we looked there was something amazing to stare at in awe. Strange desert shrubs dotted the landscape, rustling in the rare breeze that blessed the ground. Red earth stretched as far as the eye could see, casting the surrounding area in a warm glow that seemed both pleasant and strange under the hot midday sun. Eventually, the red ground gave way to massive plateaus of stone that jutted out of the park, dominating the sky and the surrounding area with a kind of silent majesty by which I still find myself impressed. Occasionally, the tiny head of a prairie dog would pop out of one of the thousand holes in the ground and look around quietly, trying to see whether or not they wanted to come up. Most of the time they seemed either scared of the people that scurried around or uninterested in going up into the heat when they could simply remain in their miniature underground mansions.

While this was all amazing and breathtaking on a level that I had never experienced before, all of this paled in comparison to what was about to befall my family. While we were leaving the park after a long day of experiencing everything that the wilderness could throw at us (or so I thought), I turned my attention away from the windows and down the collection of action figures that I had brought with me to alleviate the boredom. While in the middle of making the Red Power Ranger uppercut Donatello from the Ninja Turtles I noticed the car had stopped. This fact alone did not perturb eight-year-old Kyle; we had stopped several times that day to allow tourists to cross the road or watch some of the aforementioned prairie dogs scurry from one side to the other. Not really caring about the path we took, I continued to act out the most vicious fight in superhero history, complete with sound effects. It wasnít until I heard my mom utter the words, "Kyle look up now!" that I put my toys down and stared out the window.

We were completely surrounded by a massive herd of buffalo. I remember gasping, dropping the toys and pressing my face to the glass as hard as I possibly could to get a look at the colossal, furry beasts that swarmed around our car, not seeming to care that a chunk of moving metal was suddenly parked in the middle of their domain. Hundreds of these creatures milled about, passing over the road as if nothing had changed about their environment. They munched absentmindedly on grass, occasionally bumped their haunches against the side of our van, and even turned their great heads to look in at the scared and thrilled people inside the vehicle. The strangest thing about the entire experience was that these behemoths were incredibly quiet and gentle. There had been no massive stampede with the thunderous sound of hooves like in the movies. There had only been the quiet clopping of sturdy, quiet animals merely passing through. We sat there for a solid 15 minutes, treated to a show of natureís amazing and unstoppable creation, before the last of the bison finally made its way from one side of the road to the other and continued to meander off toward more grass and better horizons.

We wound up going to the wedding and spending some quality time with family members who I hardly ever have the chance to see. We sailed the Great Lakes, visited Paul Bunyan National Park, and had an amazing time being with people we loved. But, as that old adage suggests, those werenít the things that I remember the most about my time at the wedding. Instead, I remember the best pre-party ever, with just my close family and several hundred large mammals. Just remember, the next time you have to go somewhere, anywhere, whether itís across the country or to the grocery store, stay on the lookout for the adventures that you could have, and the adventures that you one day will have.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott


Itís all in how you get there

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

We pulled into the parking lot of the Baltimore port. My family Ė my mother, father, brother, and myself Ė as well as two of our friends poured out of the stuffed Chevy Suburban and onto the hot asphalt. My father wrenched open the tailgate and started unloading the carefully packed trunk that only he could have organized in expert Tetris fashion. Everyone claimed their pieces of luggage as they appeared, and away we went.

The security building was a stuffy place. Bodies crammed through the doorway in hopes of finding air conditioning, only to be disappointed by the hum of fans. Bags, belts, and shoes disappeared through the X-ray scanner. One-by-one we marched through the metal detector and claimed our certifiably safe goodies on the other side. The line itself was a living thing, twisting around corners, and wiggling closer and closer to its goal. Anticipation grew. A stern face took my passport and looked me in the eyes. The loud clunk of the stamp told me I looked enough like my picture to get on board. Walking out of the building, we stepped into the shadow of our mighty cruise liner, Enchantment of the Sea. I looked up in awe as a white wall of glistening windows greeted me. I felt so small but so excited by the possibility of adventure that this ship symbolized.

I was practically jumping out of my skin with the thrill of stepping on board. My friend Amanda and I twittered away enthusiastically as staff greeted and guided us. I wished the elevators would move faster so that we could find our rooms. Once on the eighth floor, we practically ran down the hallway to our rooms, threw our bags inside and immediately made it our mission to explore the ship. Our mood was dampened only slightly by the fact that we had to meet for a quick information session teaching us about our safety options Ė life boats and vests Ė and their location if, God forbid, we pulled a Titanic. But after that, the ship was ours.

Our hallway led out into a sitting area filled with board games and a small library, but more of interest was the balcony overlooking the very heart of the ship. Leaning over the shiny railings, we could see our reflections in the glossy black of the grand piano and we watched people bustling across the polished marble floors. Grinning like kids in a candy store, Amanda and I slid into the glass elevator and made our descent to the glamorous ground floor.

Everywhere I looked, there was something to see and do. A singer danced on the shiny piano while balloons fell from the ceiling into the gathering crowd. A fancy concession stand sold ice cream to customers waiting to have their caricature drawn by the quiet artist in the corner. A soft shhh sound came from the tools of the spray-on temporary tattoo artists. Shops lined the hallways, selling everything from T-shirts to Rolexes. A barbershop was filled with men getting the royal treatment, a close shave and a warm towel to prepare for the formal dinner held that night.

We had to prepare for dinner as well, and unfortunately, that meant postponing further exploration. After primping and polishing and running into each other in the closet-sized bathroom, Amanda and I were finally ready for dinner. Adorned in floor-length gowns, we entered the dining room. The ceiling glistened with dozens of chandeliers and large windows that allowed a breathtaking view of the sunset over the Atlantic. Taking our assigned table (conveniently located just inside the doorway), my family was introduced to a friendly young man who was to be our waiter for the duration of the trip.

The next day we took our Willy Wonka inspired glass elevator to an exciting place we hadnít seen yet Ė the upper deck. The doors opened to another beautiful dining room. This one was much less formal, but with high ceilings and glass construction, no adornment was needed. The sparkling ocean and bright morning sun were more than enough to replace the fancy chandeliers. The smell of breakfast teased my nose. A vast fruit bar was spread before us. We will definitely visit this room at least once daily, but right now our goals lay elsewhere.

We opened the door to the upper deck only to guard our eyes from the shimmering of two pools and a hot tub Ė all pleasantly filled with families and smiling faces. We found our way to a staircase that led us to an even higher perch. Leaning against the railing, I was able to look out over nothing but deep blue Atlantic waters. I felt again just how small I was.

The upper deck was an entirely new world from the heart of the ship, with more physical activity and a relaxed atmosphere. There was rock climbing and surfing, a gym, a running track, and a game room. People were swimming, jogging, tanning, and reading. It was a place where the people were being active instead of entertained by the glitzy distractions the floating city provided. The oncoming night was not enough to shut it down either. Lights lit up the deck like a beacon. Tables of food decorated with ice sculptures and carved watermelons were rolled out, music was played, and an ice sculpting demonstration was shown. Chunks of ice sprayed into the audience as guesses were shouted out as to what the artist would create. I watched in amazement as a block of shapeless ice transformed into a swan within five minutes.

Inside the ship, the casino came alive as we reached international waters. While I wasnít about to gamble Ė I wasnít old enough anyway Ė I had to cross through the casino to reach the shipís movie theater. As I crossed the threshold, something caught my eye. I looked down to see an aquarium beneath my feet. They werenít real fish or plants, but the colors and designs were beautiful and convincing nonetheless. A few more steps and my ears were assaulted with the tinkling of coins, the dings of slot machines, and the hum of hundreds of voices talking simultaneously. My eyes blinked against the bright lights and flashing colors. I crossed the floor quickly and found solace in the dim lights and soft whispers of the theater.

This wasnít your typical movie theater, however. From what I had already seen of the ship, I should not have been surprised by the extravagant opera seating, the heavy red velvet curtain, or the beautiful gold painted trimming, but I was. The ships endless glamour made this little farm girl feel like royalty.

The third day of the cruise was the most exciting. From our roomís balcony, we watched as a tiny speck on the horizon became larger and larger until buildings rose from the morning fog. The ship pulled slowly into port, and I looked down to wave at the specks that I knew were people. My time so far had been spent exploring a ship all of which I still probably hadnít seen yet, but now I was ready for something new. Jet skiing, snorkeling, Segway tours, shopping, and pink sand beaches all waited for me on the island of Bermuda. Would I go missing in the islandís mysterious Triangle? Perhaps, but that was a risk I was willing to take in exchange for the unique sights, sounds, and experiences the island had to offer. With sunglasses in hand, I disembarked, ready for another adventure.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

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