On the day I turned 16½, I passed the driver’s test, collected my license, and gained my freedom.
My parents gave me a brown Ford Pinto station wagon to visit friends, get to and from work, and most importantly, for a new driving teenager, head-up-north to New Hampshire for hiking and skiing.
I have so many good memories of the White Mountains. During high school vacations and weekends, my friends and I would fill the back of the Pinto with backpacks, tents, cooking gear, food, and occasionally beer and set out on adventures. One such trip, included a visit to the Franconia Notch State Park where we reached the top of Cannon Mountain. That trip was the first day hike on which I started using my new Yashica FX3 single lens reflex camera (with real film) to document the fun. (See the photo at the top)
I learned so much about nature on those trips, including the immense power of the Pemigewasset River that erodes solid granite into nature shoots (water slides). We loved entering the top of the shoots and dropping into deep cold pools. I can still remember the rush of the cold water and speed of the trip to the plunge. During these and other activities I started to gain an interest in geology and earth science.
During my senior year, I took Mr. Buell’s Earth Science class and fell in love with learning about nature and the earth’s interrelated systems, such as the intercoastal zone of Nantasket Beach in Hull, MA and the wetland systems associated with the Sudbury River in Wayland, MA. We visited these environments and learned that even though they were different system, they both filtered water and were important to water quality for plants, fish, and animal babies. It was exciting to learn how natural systems filter themselves and support healthy life.
Because I was curious, my powers of observation improved over time and I started to see features in nature and around town that I had learned in my science classes. On hikes, I would discover the power of a mountain stream and its ability to move huge rocks and trees after a heavy rain while barely touching a sand grain when it had been dry for a while. And the more I learned the more I wanted to know. My innate curiosity pushed me to become a scientist.
As a high school scientist, I worked hard so that I always had gas money allowing for more adventures and practical experiences. I cut lawns, shoveled snow, completed odd jobs, worked in restaurants as well as the YMCA. Whatever it took to maintain my freedom to discover.
It makes me smile and laugh when I think back to all the fun and crazy things I did as a kid. I would not have changed a thing. My skinned knees, sunburned neck, and sore feet came from outdoor adventure that allowed me learn about the wonders of nature while feeding my insatiable curiosity and desire to know more. Today, I still keep active and continue to discover both physically and mentally by walking daily while listening to audio books. Life is good.