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When I lost my first toenail in March I took a picture of it.
Not just any random snapshot either; a real, honest to goodness staged portrait.
I felt like I had just hit the lottery.
Beaming with selfish pride and excitement, I searched my mind feverishly for someone to tell. My smile was quickly overtaken by that sideways, uninterested smirk that I always make when I’m aggravated.
No one I had in my everyday circle would understand.
Long distance hikers know, or learn, that to lose a toenail means a few important things- maybe it’s that your boots are too small… but mostly it means that you really just did something.
You hiked A LOT.
You just hit psychological pay-dirt.
I’ve always been the kind of person who has validated myself by the amount of physical pain or fear I could endure. If it’s physically strenuous, more than most people are willing to take, or really darn scary… it’s probably for me. A lot of you, that I have met on the trail, tell me similar tales…
It makes me wonder.
What are we all searching for exactly? Why does losing a toenail (or three) feel like a celebratory rite of passage? Why do we all want more?
I search for answers. Every time I leave our beloved trail at the end of a hike, it’s in the same posture and frame of mind: neck straining, looking back over my shoulder- bittersweet as I drive away.
Like a child with their face and hands pressed to the back glass, staring wide-eyed, intently concentrating on that which he or she truly loves.
Funny, no matter how great or difficult the hike just was, no matter how many times I asked myself, “what the heck was I thinking?!” before I’m even into 3rd gear I’m already scanning my mental calendar for dates I can return.
The trail will do that to you.
I now know that this is why the trail feels so full of life. For those that love the trail as much as you and I, we all seem to leave a part of our souls behind each time to hold our place and anxiously await our return.
You are calling to yourself, come back.
You NEED TO COME BACK.
Through the sweat of miles, I’ve also come to realize that friendships are many times stronger on the trail. You feel closer to the people you meet there because they are the few, the chosen few, who get you. They understand.
The best part is that they can also answer your “just lost another toenail” news with excited words like, “That’s TOTALLY AWESOME,” “Holy crap, ME TOO,” and the best one….. “You did get pics didn’t you???”
And that’s why, right now you’re laughing. Pretty loudly. People around you think you’ve gone nuts.
You laugh because you understand.
You really do.
Prada has since gone on to successfully lose two more toenails in her ultimate quest for Mt Katahdin. She still lives way “too far from the trail” in Jacksonville, Fl with her toenails, two dogs, and six used backpacks.
You can check out her online hiking mag right here. And you can contact her at Prada@FromTheTrails.com
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