by Cassie Byard, Women’s Director at Veritas Life Adventures
How do you say goodbye and move on from a season that has been so full and good? You honor it with laughter. With tears. With good food and fun. With photographs and long chats. With silence. This is how we (the women) wrapped up our last Veritas venture.
This trip to the hill country of Texas was a meaningful one for both its adventurers, as each of us is moving into different directions on our life journeys. Tessa, this year’s sole female participant in the Veritas program, will be beginning afresh(man ;)) at the University of North Texas this month (with a well-earned, FULL-RIDE SCHOLARSHIP, I might add!) moving on to the exciting world of college life! As for me (Cassie), this month marks the last of my time with Veritas. I’ll be leaving in less than two weeks to return to the mountains of Switzerland for the fall. So, to commemorate our Veritas experiences and make a few last memories for good measure, Tessa and I headed deep into the heart of Texas and explored caverns, waterholes, lakeside cliff edges and natural springs.
With iTunes playlists ready and car packed for two nights of camping in July heat (WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!?!), we hit the road for Inks Lake State Park! Good company makes the time pass so quickly; before we knew it we were setting up camp and making dinner in our “glamping” electric skillet :) —I must say, short-term camping with the opportunity to make fresh food instead of dehydrated meals was a lovely way to end our Veritas saga!
Watching the sun set over the lake was the perfect way to end the day, and once sun was down it was “lights out” for us, too. Though, even with the measures we took to cool down the tent, we still had a restless night of “sleep” due to the fact that it was July. In Texas.
So, how else should we counter the heat than spend as much time as possible in the water? There’s a cove in Inks Lake with a section of craggy cliffs and large boulders called “Devil’s Waterhole.” It’s popular for its straightedge rock face and water level deep enough for some mild cliff jumping. I mean, you had me at “Devil’s Waterhole,” but add the option for cliff jumping and we are IN! And here I must brag on the courageous determination of Miss Tessa Baca. While I stood at the edge of the rocks and deliberated my first jump for more than a minute, Tessa climbed to the top, peered over the edge and took the plunge with no more than a second blink! As she swam over to me after the jump, I remarked on her fearlessness. “No, I was definitely afraid,” she replied, “But this was something I had to do, so I just did it! I knew if I just stood there and thought about it I wouldn’t do it. So I just jumped.” Now THAT is how you face life. It’s not about being fearless; it’s about staring your fear in the face, saying, “You don’t own me, and you can’t hold me back,” and pushing through it! Waytago, Tessa!
After a snack lunch we headed down the road for an extensive tour of Longhorn Cavern, a fascinating underground labyrinth packed with mystery, history and natural A/C! If you’ve never been in a cave, this is a great one to check out!
That evening we strolled down to the lake’s edge as the sun sank toward the horizon and performed a Veritas closing ceremony of sorts. The plan was to light Chinese sky lanterns to commemorate the close of one season and beginning of another, but the wind had another idea. An entire box of matches later, we said goodbye to two drowning sky lanterns that never got to fly. Well, they flew a little bit. Er… maybe they fell. In style. We’ll just say the flight was less like an eagle’s, more like a chicken’s. But we chuckled as we watched our “futures” dashed, drowned and destroyed despite our best intentions. At least we snapped a photo of one in the air before it died! (p.s. we’ll do better with our actual futures ;))
Our trek home the next day required driving further south first, to experience the wonders of Hamilton Pool and Jacob’s Well. Neither of these places can be described in words; they MUST be seen! But even photos don’t fully capture their beauty and marvel, as Tessa would tell you (she cheated and looked up photos before we visited both places and was still blown away -but I’ll let her describe that in an upcoming blog!). So if you haven’t been to either, plan a detour through Dripping Springs and Wimberley next time you’re near Austin. I promise it’s worth it!
In only two and a half days, we experienced the perfect conclusion to each of our Veritas journeys. Throughout this season, we have found friendship and depth, love and acceptance, challenges and encouragement. We have overcome obstacles, faced fears and crushed opposition. We have grown, each of us in different ways, but always moving forward. And now we move on to the future, glowing bright and flying high —and the wind will not blow us into the lake and put out our light! :)