“Here we are,” Mom said as we got out of the car and gazed up at Cascade Mountain. I’d never before in my life actually climbed a high peak. I’d climbed a couple mountains in the Adirondacks before, but the 46 High Peaks are the hardest. We got our backpacks on, leashed up our dog, Katahdin (named after a mountain) and began the climb.
Just like the path, our conversation meandered in unexpected directions. Mom and Dad pointed out plants like Trilium and Jack-in-the-Pulpit, while Eben and I try to identify trees. We found rocks, huge ones, and we were told that this is because millions of years ago, the Adirondacks were glaciers. My dad excitedly pointed out some lichen on the rocks. My mom loves lichen. Lichen is a mix of fungus and algae that frequently grows on rocks in the mountains. There are so many kinds, and we love to find them.
The year was 2014, and I was about 6. I was hiking with my parents, My older brother Eben, my younger brother Edmund (he was riding on Dad’s back), and our aforementioned dog, ‘Tahdin. The hike up is overall uneventful, but when we got to the summit, it got cold. There weren’t any trees, and the windchill was awful. I remember having some discomfort in my feet. They felt a little squeezed. We ate lunch up there, my dad did his traditional push-ups, we got to the true summit of the mountain, took a picture and talked about doing another mountain nearby. I complained about my feet, and that put an end to the notion. We headed to the trail out. Going down is both fun and depressing. It’s fun because you can really discuss everything. But it’s sad, too. You just hiked way up, and now you have to go down again. And oh, what a view at the top! You can see for miles around, all the shadows from clouds on the trees, cool lakes, everything.
We started down. My feet were in pretty excruciating pain now. I thought back to that morning, when we were getting ready. Dad had found a pair of boots for me, and I said they were a little small. I had been using them for about a year or two. He couldn’t find any bigger pairs; the next size up was Eben’s, so we went with the small ones. We got halfway down when my feet started to REALLY hurt. I would walk five feet, stop, and sit on a rock, then repeat. It took a while, but we got down.
We got in the car and watched How to Train Your Dragon on the way back. We got home, went inside, and looked at my feet. My big toes hurt badly, I had a blister, but was fine otherwise. The next week wasn’t agonizing, until I walked out of my room one morning.
Now, I was six, and my toes weren’t too big—just the right size to fit under that little gap in between the bottom of the door and the floor. I feel myself subconsciously clutching my right toe with my left foot as I type as I recall how I swung the door open. The door went right over my toe and into my toenail. With a sound like the kind a molar makes when it’s pulled completely out, the toenail was pulled away from the delicate underflesh, and left sticking out at a 45° angle. A pain like the dull aching sensation from a newly toothless gum increased sixfold entered my foot and clung there.
I went downstairs into the kitchen to show Mom and Dad, who were making breakfast. They turned the burner under the eggs off and said that they’d pull the nail out. They said a nail like that would be hard to live with. They led me to the bathroom and got the nail clippers. They clipped that nail down until it was just a sliver by the nail root. They got a pair of tweezers, and this is where the true pain begins. They pulled while I cried. Eventually—poink!—they bandaged the toe up, and I went about my day from there. If you’ve seen new nails start to grow, you know what happened from there. The nail gets kind of bumpy at first, but then smooths out and everything goes back to normal. That’s exactly what happened.
This has since been relived to some degree. In fifth grade I shut my thumb in the door of my dad’s ‘98 Chevy. The nail had to get all bumpy and everything, but it hurt less and subsided faster.
I now look back fondly on this adventure. I bagged my first High Peak, came away with a story and a new pair of hiking boots out of the deal, so it all worked out.