Once a week until the release of my book, I will be publishing snippets of writing copied directly from the final pages, and a small gallery of photographs. If you like the writing and want to read more, please order my book here. Thanks and I hope you enjoy this selection from Chapter 7.
7. NO SERVICE
I unzip my backpack and start shoving in books next to my water bottle and puffy jacket and tuna sandwich. In goes Addicted to Danger and of course The Freedom of the Hills and a dog-eared copy of some old tome called Conquistadors of the Useless. I lift the backpack and it’s not nearly heavy enough yet, so I add Dad’s memoir, A Life on the Edge, and Uncle Lou’s Memoirs of a Mountain Guide. Since my back’s feeling better lately and it’s sunny outside, I might as well include Americans on Everest by James Ramsey Ullman and Everest: The West Ridge by Tom Hornbein, and now I think I’ve got enough weight to get a workout, especially if I go fast and nobody gets in my way. Dad yells at me from his recliner in the living room, “Good-bye. Have fun! Don’t forget . . .” but I’m already out the door. I’m sure he was just reminding me to bring sunscreen or something anyway.
The car rattles like a tin can when I go over sixty, but it would cost more to repair than it’s worth and I’d rather save my money for important things, like another climbing trip to South America, or a new rack of cams, or a new rope. Besides, if I turn the music up I hardly notice the vibrations, and it’s only an hour to the trailhead. I turn up the radio. Who is that? Rihanna? It’s catchy, whatever it is, and the bass is better than a new muffler.
At the trailhead I check my phone, but it says NO SERVICE in the upper-left corner, so I stash it under the driver’s seat. I won’t need it where I’m going.
The parking lot is full of Subarus and I’m not surprised, because it’s Saturday. Mount Townsend is a popular day hike this time of year. I set out on a trail that’s just slightly damp and the color of milk chocolate. Sword ferns and huckleberries and Oregon grape and salal cling to the edges of switchbacks. The forest is mostly Douglas fir with its thick, rough bark. A creek tumbles somewhere below, a bird sings shrill melodies, and the whole place stinks of spring—things sprouting and blooming and getting warmer quickly. It’s the perfect place to spend my day off. I put my head down and hike.
Twenty minutes and I’m sweating through my shoulder straps. I probably haven’t carried a pack this heavy since before the surgery.
People say climbing’s dangerous, but what about basketball? Two and a half years ago, I dove for a loose ball during a game of pickup at the high school gym and felt a tweak in my back. It wasn’t that bad and I didn’t want anyone to think I couldn’t keep up, so I played two more games. I did all the right things that night—ice, ibuprofen, rest. The next morning I woke up in so much pain I could hardly get out of bed. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. Surgery, resulting nerve damage, rehab, and the whole deal, but my right foot still doesn’t flex or twist like it should. I try to tell myself it doesn’t slow me down too much. But I don’t know if it’ll ever come back.
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