My summer bucket list

Gray Hughes

Life is returning to (somewhat) normal just as the summer season gets here.

There’s a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. Vaccines are being fast-tracked, and much of the country is on a downward trajectory when it comes to cases. Sports are even returning in some places (my beloved Bayern Munich have won their first three games back in the German Bundesliga and remain on the top of the table there). I truly hope — and somewhat believe — that the worst of this, for now, is behind us.

Which brings me to summer.

Spring is now in our past. Springs here are great as you can do many things. Well, due to our pandemic, my ideal spring weekend of skiing one day and hiking the next was robbed from me. I didn’t get to do many of the things I wanted to do, like enjoy an ice-cold Coke on a restaurant patio on a pleasant spring day.

Now, though, it’s a new season — a season of rebirth for our society. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of COVID-19, I hope that our businesses soar and everyone has a successful summer season. Most importantly, though, I hope we all remain healthy.

OK, enough with the COVID-19 talk. I’m probably as sick of dealing with this as you all are. Friends, allow me to delve into the main point of this column.

Summer here is a fantastic season. It never gets too hot, it’s not humid and there’s plenty to do. Back home, summers are hot and humid. There was many a day at 8 a.m. that I would take the 20-foot walk from my apartment door to my car and I’d be drenched in sweat because the humidity would be 100 percent and the temperature would already be 90 degrees. And, sure, we had the ocean, but it was often so crowded that you couldn’t enjoy it.

There was a lot last summer I was not able to do. Between out of town graduations and funerals, June was gone in a blink. July and August seem to fly by, too.

And I want to make the most of this summer. In that vein, inspired by Leslie’s 50 for 50 list, I have created a summer bucket list.

First on my list: I want to hike Black Elk Peak. Hiking is one of my favorite summer activities. I like the fresh air, I like the exercise that it provides and, to paraphrase the young kids, I like getting “dope ‘grams off” (translation: I like to take good pictures and share them with my friends and family on social media).

Since I’ve moved here almost two years ago, I’ve been drawn to the highest natural point between the Rockies and the Alps in Europe. And yet I’ve yet to conquer it, let alone attempt it. I hope to change that this summer. I’m in better shape than last summer (down nearly 30 pounds since last summer for those of you playing along at home) and I’m ready to do it. This may have to wait until later in the summer, though, after the crowds have started to die down and the trails won’t be as crowded.

Second, I want to jump from the rocks at Sheridan Lake into the lake. I was at Sheridan Lake the other day after work for a little hike and dinner by the lake, and I saw a group of teenagers doing just that. I thought to myself: “I can do that.” As it was hot that day, I went for a quick swim in the lake. It felt fantastic. The more time I spent in the water, the more I thought: “Yeah, I can definitely do that.”

This one, though, may be harder to do. I don’t think my hiking buddy would be too thrilled to see me jump off perfectly good rocks into water not knowing how deep it is, and she would probably do everything in her power to prevent me from doing that, especially regarding how injury prone I am.

But if those kids can do it, then by God so can I.

Third, I want to read 10 books. I was in a reading groove here at the beginning of the year, but between moving and stress from the world around us (OK, last time I mention COVID-19, I promise), I fell out of my groove.

That’s changed, though, in the last couple of weeks. I knocked out two books the other week, and my mind has never felt sharper. So, I want to knock out 10 additional books beyond that. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know. I’m always in search of good books.

Fourth, I want to be able to sit by a lake or a pool and just enjoy the day. I grew up surrounded by water, and short of being on a ski hill, I’m at my happiest when I’m by water. I miss the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, but the lakes here are just as good as those are, in my opinion. Pools, too, are fantastic, as they provide a reprieve from the heat on a brutally hot summer’s day. If I get to spend one day by a pool or a lake, then I’ll consider that a win in my book.

Finally, I want to enjoy an ice-cold Coke (or root beer or Mountain Dew or Dr. Pepper or whatever soda is available) on a restaurant’s patio after a long day outside. Nothing quenches my thirst like an ice-cold soda, and, to me, that’s one of life’s little pleasures. Nothing makes my day more complete than that.

As I have said before, it’s the little things that make life enjoyable that our society should focus on. To me, simple things are more enjoyable than the complex, grand things.

So I’m extending the Spring of Simple Things to be the Year of the Simple Things. I hope that, just as I am able to enjoy these simple things this summer, you, too, my friends, are able to enjoy the simple things this summer and the rest of the year.

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