I’m not sure about you but I never enjoyed walking alone.Preparing for my thru hike of the AT next year has definitely caused me to up my mileage lately. If I don’t have a human to keep me company I have the next best thing. Barney the superdog! He’s ten pounds of flying fur and a great hiking companion.
It all began with a single question, “Dad what are you doing next spring?” I received his typical reply, “why what’s up?”. I asked him if he would he like to thru hike the Appalachian Trail with me. At first he laughed, then phone got quiet and I received a simple answer, “sure.” That conversation took place in early February of 2016. At the time I wasn’t sure if my Dad was fully committed, but each time we spoke after there would be a joke or two about who could outrun a bear (just so you know it’s never recommended to run from a bear)! Things would get a little more serious, more questions were asked and more serious planning began. We both started taking our work outs a little more serious and have had debates over what equipment we think is best.
It’s early in our planning process yet and things may change, but right now we are expecting to be on the trail for six months. Reactions from family and friends have been varied but most think we are crazy! My Mom doesn’t understand why we don’t just do a portion of the trail. Others say they couldn’t imagine going that long without the comforts of home. We are a pair of unlikely wanderers who very possibly have gone mad but just like Alice says to the mad hatter “you’re entirely bonkers, but I’ll tell you a secret all the best people are.”
It all began with a phone call and a single question. “Dad what are you doing next spring?” You see I knew my Father was getting ready to retire and I was hoping he would be up for an adventure, a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. My kids are now grown and going about their young adult lives and I recently closed a business that I had been running the past several years. It seemed like the perfect time to branch out and do something epic! Of course there’s always more to the story.
Shown in the above photo are me, my Dad, my brother Jim and his lab Sherlock Bones. At the age of 19 Jim was in a severe auto accident which left him permanently disabled with a traumatic brain injury. His initial prognosis was bleak and the doctors in the trauma unit did not expect him to survive. Last Rites were given, goodbyes were said. As you can imagine it was a dark time for our family. Jim had other ideas though and surprised us all. Jim blessed us with his presence for another 27 years! They weren’t easy years by any stretch of the imagination. Confined to a wheelchair, blind and unable to speak he still had an amazing sense of humor that he somehow was able to convey despite his limitations, there was something about Jim that just drew people in. My family made sure that Jim lived life the best he could. Going for walks, playing catch with Sherlock, fishing and several trips to Disney World (my brother’s favorite place) were not uncommon. Jim’s journey here on earth ended on Christmas Eve morning in 2015 when God called him home. The lessons he taught us through his daily fight will stay with our family forever.
Hiking in my brother’s memory is a big part of what set this all in motion. I know he will be with my father and me cheering us on every step of our five million step journey! My Father will be celebrating his 70th birthday while we are on the trail. He has one kidney and had a knee replaced a couple of years ago. As for me I wouldn’t say that I’m in the best shape of my life and will be celebrating my 50th birthday a couple months after our expected finish date. This year, 2016 is a year of preparation for us which we have embarked on with excitement and A LOT of questions. We are a pair of unlikely wanderers my Father and I. We know there will be challenges ahead, but we have a lot of heart and one remarkable guardian angel smiling down on us!