A few years ago, I bought my mom a plane ticket and met her in Iceland as a Mother’s Day gift.

I was living in the UK at the time, so the small piece of land in the middle of the North Atlantic was a “convenient” meeting place. In four days, we learned how to navigate across a glacier, explored an ice cave, and drank beers with locals in a small fishing village.

Most impressively, we completed the Fimmvorduhals hike, a 15-mile trek through some of Iceland’s most impressive landscapes. The hike starts at the base of the famous Skogafoss waterfall and crosses over parts of Eyjafjallajökull, the famous — and impossible to pronounce — volcano that erupted in 2010 and shut down air travel in Europe.

Mike Healey and his mom, Janet Healey, traveled together to Iceland in 2014 to celebrate Mother’s Day. Submitted photo

Some parts were still smoldering in 2014 as we walked across the summit.

Near the end of the guided hike we came to a narrow pass called the “Cat’s Back,” an eerie 2-foot wide piece of rock with a steep dropoff on both sides.

One person at a time had to use a rope to repel down a rock face and then proceed carefully over the narrow passage. As we approached, the guide offered our group some encouraging words, made a few jokes to lighten up the mood, and then asked for volunteers to go first.


Then, among the group of 15 or so people — most of them in their 20s and 30s — came a “Oh, I got this.” And my mom stepped forward, grabbed the rope, and started to descend down the cliff face.

A European gentlemen next to me turned and said with an accent, “Your mom is a badass.”

I know, I said.

My mom is a badass.

She has summited all 48 of the 4,000-foot peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. And, just last month, she was recognized by the Appalachian Mountain Club for hiking the 67 highest peaks in New England, an honor only bestowed upon 3,000 people since the AMC began keeping track.

What’s next?

Well, she has said she intends to repeat all of the hikes in 2022 — when she turns 70. I don’t know if anyone has done that before, but I believe she will do it.

If it’s not already evident, quality time with my mom requires a hefty dose of adrenaline. Her friends, most of whom are scattered throughout New England, have come to learn that there is no such thing as a “laid back” vacation to Papoose Pond, where my parents have lived since 2003 and my grandparents before that since 1980.

There will be relaxation (and wine), but only after a grueling hike, a snowshoe excursion, a kayak adventure down Crooked River, or a bike ride up and down the hills of Oxford County.

Had my mom grown up at a time when girls sports were more prevalent, I’m convinced she would have been a professional athlete or Olympian. She’s that impressive and that driven.

In the winter, she is cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In the summer, she kayaks, rows, and racks up thousands of miles on her road bike. Our garage is full of sports equipment, outdoor gear, and tools for fine tuning all of her “toys,” as she says.

Her and her friends — apparently part of a badass mom supergroup — participate in mud runs, backcountry camping trips, and overnight bicycle treks across Maine.

Last September, I joined my mom for the Closer to Free ride in New Haven, Connecticut, a bike ride that raises money for Yale’s Smilow Cancer Hospital. Closer to Free is a special event for my mom, because she worked at Yale New Haven Hospital for many years and, like all of us, she has lost friends and loved ones to the disease.

Something my mom rarely draws attention to, however, is that she is a survivor. She was diagnosed in 2003 during my junior year of college. I was scared, but I also knew the cancer didn’t stand a chance. She kicked its ass and came back stronger than ever.

I have a million things I could thank my mom for on this Mother’s Day: all those times she woke up at 5 a.m. for a hockey practice, or the time she drove a van full of young boys to a water park for my birthday.

For now, I simply want to brag. Janet Healey, my mom, is a badass, and I’m incredibly proud of her.

Michael Healey lives in  St Louis, Missouri. Today, the badass is celebrating Mother’s Day and her birthday in Ohio with her son.

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