by Tessa Bacathe, one and only female participant in the 2015 program
Words cannot describe how relieved I was to see Cassie on July 26th. Wait, actually, yeah, words can.
Now for me, I was going into this little road trip with a series of unfortunate events behind me, including a fresh knee injury and at that point, an unresolved issue with my best friend. So, for several reasons, I was looking forward to seeing Cassie because something about this fast-talking, philosophical human being always seems to brighten up my spirits. So, yes, I REALLY wanted this trip even though things weren’t perfect.
So we drove, the exact mileage I can’t say, blaring full soundtracks ranging from Johnnyswim to Pitch Perfect 2. I had never seen this side of Texas; I had no idea Texas was even capable of having hills. Every so often Cass and I would stick our hands out the window, using the GoPro to record the gorgeous countryside. We eventually made it to the campsite, complete with running water and electricity, which we couldn’t help cackling over since we are used to backcountry camping with no frills. There was only one other time we had been “glamping,” and even then we couldn’t help but make jokes about the luxuries. Regardless, I would take nearby flushing toilets over a tree any day.
Now let the orchestra of complex music play: we organized our campsite, set up the tent, made dinner, and managed to get our fan going (yes, a fan. Because, c’mon, Texas hardly cools down at night). However, none of that went smoothly; Cassie forgot a spatula, the air mattress barely fit in the tent, and it took several attempts to get the electricity going. Still, we ate Cassie’s “hobo food,” we were settled, and then we went for a swim. By this time, Cassie and I (or shall I say Johnny and Joey) had adopted (who knows why) male, New York style, Italian-American personas and befriended a local who found our exaggerated accents intriguing. This, in turn, inspired us to create multiple personalities and use them for the majority of the trip, which, now that I think about it, sounds incredibly unhealthy of us to do.
I had honestly forgotten how brightly the sun appears from inside a tent; we woke up early the next morning. I’d been mentally preparing myself for the long, uphill portion of a bike ride we had planned, but as soon as we finished breakfast, Cassie told me she ultimately decided against it for safety’s sake. We did, however, manage to fill the morning with activity before devouring juicy peaches for lunch and heading to the Longhorn Caverns in time for our tour.
The caverns were something else entirely; I have trekked up to some of the highest points in the U.S., but not once have I actually seen what lies underneath. I have seen lakes wedged between mountains, but I hadn’t seen the effect of whirlpools in Earth’s crust. While seeing stalagmites and stalactites was amazing, I’ve got to say that being in the cool air for a change really made my day (well, until I started feeling sticky from the humidity). I rather enjoyed ducking down and wriggling myself between crevices —but I could’ve done without the occasional slip on the wet cave floor.
After the tour, we went back to Devil’s Waterhole and jumped from the cliff a few times, but mainly watched daring young men and women leap from some of the most questionable places. We relaxed, coasting along the current, and met several other locals and tourists. Soon after, we changed and went out for dinner in town at a lovely Thai restaurant. Great food and lots of sun exposure left Cassie and me in a content mood. Before we went back to our campsite, Cassie had this lovely idea of lighting Chinese flying lanterns to signify a new beginning. They didn’t take off, but I still appreciated the symbolism behind them, LOL. I’m just glad we had enough matches to get them lit.
My content mood only lasted for so long because in the morning I felt like death. I missed having central air conditioning, I wanted caffeine, and I wanted WiFi. I felt so disconnected from the world, I had no signal, and I was exhausted. My body had started protesting but there was no way I wasn’t seeing everything Cassie had planned: Hamilton Pool and Jacob’s Well. Hamilton Pool was nothing what I expected. Then again, I didn’t know what to expect (actually, I didn’t expect a Jello-like creek connecting to the pool). At Jacob’s Well, Cassie took a good minute and thirty seconds to jump into it from the rocks above. I chose not to jump but rather slink into the natural spring. The water was freezing, but it woke me up from my funk.
This trip was coming to a conclusion, and knowing that this was also Cassie’s goodbye trip, it surfaced all sorts of feelings. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have stayed or even joined Veritas at all. I would have never felt so comfortable voicing my questions and opinions about life. I admired her on so many levels; she had sass and compassion and determination and a tasteful sense of humor. I kind of regret crying so much on the trip, but I couldn’t help it —this was the end of an era for me. I hadn’t challenged myself to that degree ever. I started really making decisions regarding family, friends, and school thanks to Veritas. Which by the way, I still continue to do. :)
After arriving home, Cassie helped me gather my things, and then she gave me a very special gift from the program. I fought back even more tears (ugh) and made Cassie promise we would see each other again.
Here’s to the next chapter of our lives!
P.S. Can I give a huge shoutout to Grant, Jashley, their families and the board of directors? Well, I am! I only met you all a few times, but still, so much happiness filled the room when I saw you guys. I felt extremely welcomed. Thanks again for this extraordinary opportunity!