This story is part of Only A Game’s “Time Show” which examines how the passage of time influences sports.
Everyone was passing us, heading up the mountain. Most were younger — 10 years, 20, 30 — willing to chat briefly about the weather, but they were also pointed in their pace. They had distance to cover. We didn’t take it personally.
We were sitting on a slanting boulder, mostly sliding off, but pretending it was restful, when a small pair of light-up sneakers passed on the left. The little boy was deliberate, sure-footed, not in any way flashy, but also not in any way friendly. He didn’t greet us. A young woman followed, and nodded to us on behalf of both of them.
“How old are you?” My partner asked the boy.
“Six,” his mother said. He had stopped on a rock, and looking ahead to where the path steepened considerably, stood on one foot while he waited for her.
My friend said something admiring about his fleetness.
“This is his fifth 4,000-footer,” his mom said.
She wasn’t being boastful — no future college application needed to know about it — but these were the facts. While he balanced, she took a minute and filled us in.
They lived on a nearby farm with her husband, where they raised pasture-fed beef, and Hunter kept track of the eggs. He sold them out of their kitchen; business was brisk.
Climbing all the New Hampshire 4,000 footers had been his idea. He’d first brought it up when he turned 5. They were keeping a list, as peak baggers do, with dates and weather conditions. Today, they were planning to head to the peak above the hut where we were stopping. That was 4,902 feet.
If the weather held, they had another mountain planned for tomorrow: 4,698 feet. Hunter was in it for all 48 peaks of that region, and she was his bemused but willing Sherpa.
“But why does he want to do this?” My friend said, “why?”
All three of us looked at Hunter. He scratched an ear, shyly. He wasn’t talking, but his mother knew. There was love and philosophical pride in her voice.
“He doesn’t think he’s high enough,” she said.