When Emily Cormier attends a fall fair and steps up to a climbing wall to watch, she often wonders: "Do the kids on that wall have the potential to be a good rock climber, but they just don't know it?"
"I see those rock walls at the fairs and wonder," Cormier, 14, of Norway said.
Cormier is a bit of an advocate for the sport of rock climbing. She has to be. Norway is not exactly a mecca for people who enjoy hanging off rock cliffs.
"I wish there was someone I could talk about the rocks with," Cormier said.
The freshman at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School has met a few climbers in the Bethel area, but as far as in her hometown, it is her grandparents that she talks shop with.
Tom and Pat Winsor share the love for the outdoors with their granddaughter. They have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Mount Katahdin. They finished their 2,180-mile goal in 1997.
Cormier's toenails are painted green and have the AT emblem on each big nail. The remaining eight have white blazes across them. The trail's entire length is marked with white blazes.
"That is one of my life goals — to hike the AT," Cormier said.
It was Cormier's grandfather that discovered her climbing ability.
"Emily was 9 or 10 years old, we were at a friend's house and she asked to climb a big pine tree," said Winsor, a representative in the state Legislature. "I turned around and when I looked back, she was at the top of an 80-foot pine."
Winsor channeled Cormier's energy into a climbing lesson in New Hampshire's White Mountains and Cormier has been hanging from her fingertips ever since.
"I really like being off the ground. I love it," Cormier said.
Cormier is on the competitive climbing team at the Maine Rock Gym in Portland and entered a regional competition in Massachusetts last spring.
"This is a girl that never wanted to be competitive until the last couple of years," Winsor said.
Cormier plays field hockey, runs track and ski's on her school's Nordic team, but it's climbing that feeds her passion. "It's definitely my favorite sport."
"Different kids are motivated in different ways," said Winsor, who finds climbing to be a great fit for his granddaughter. "Climbing has done a lot to build up her confidence ... she sees a challenge, she faces it and becomes a stronger person," Winsor said. "Climbing has helped her be a better student and a better athlete."
Cormier and her grandparents make road trips to rock faces such as Jockey Cap in Fryeburg and Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park. She makes the trek to Maine Rock Gym two times each week during the indoor climbing season and her home wall is at the Big Adventure Center in Bethel. She just returned from a weeklong rock camp for teens in West Virginia, where she climbed routes with names such as "Easily Freaky."
"No one is driving her to do this," Winsor said. "You don't climb because your parents want you to do it, but because you want to do it."
"I want to climb until I can climb no more," Cormier said.