A Mile In My Boots, or 34 ?

Doc on the Trail : A Mile In My Boots, or 34 ?

“Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” ∼ Seneca

I stepped out with the class at 0330 hours on a cold November morning in 2007. Freezing rain casting down, my ruck cinched up tight as high on my back as I could get it. Feet taped up in preparation for the next three hours. It was day ten of US Army Air Assault School at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Graduation was mere hours away, forcing your mind to complete the task ahead, as your unit and family have already planned the day around your completion. You wanted those wings on your chest. The past ten days were not nice. Amidst the classroom work, studying, knot tying, rotary wing aircraft combat specifications, and repelling from the tower and the Blackhawks, was grueling mornings of class physical training. Log PT, lifting telephone poles in unison, long runs, and the famous obstacle course.

Forced marches were a big thing here, full equipment with a 35lb ruck and weapon. First, we did a four mile then two eight milers and on graduation morning the dreaded twelve mile, in three hours or less. For reference, the rest of the Army time standard on a twelve-mile forced ruck was four hours. Being short, the odds were stacked against me and everyone else like me. I can’t remember how many times my ankles buckled, but I do remember how much it hurts to down a full canteen of ice-cold water every two miles. Instant abdominal pain, that decides to be your pall for the duration of the ruck. For miles up hills and down all one could see where the lenses of our red right angle flashlights hanging off our load bearing vest. Somehow though, and very proudly I made the end, and graduated. Having my wings pinned on is a memory I’ll never forget.

Air Assault mission prep. Mosul, Iraq 2008

Before I ever hiked a mile under my own will, this was all I knew. Moving people and equipment tactically and efficiently was the name of the game. I lived and trained in the outdoors, but I never had the time or pause to enjoy it at the time. An Iraq deployment was fast approaching, and I had to nail down my medical skills as much as possible by then, fracturing my focus even further. I didn’t know that these lessons, these experiences were training me for my own recovery using hiking for the next battle after discharge in 2013 with post-traumatic stress. In Arkansas we have the luxury of some amazing State Parks, a National Park and National River area, and with these thousands of miles of trails. It’s not called the Natural State for no reason. Working through my mental issues in solitude I found how to live with the new me. Taking in sunsets and sunrises on the trail, chasing waterfalls, admiring new spring growth, or the fall leaves into winter. I felt as I walked that my mind and body were in constant communication, and sometimes I was just an observer or a vehicle or sorts. As I became more in tune with this while day hiking, I learned of the Ouachita National Recreation Trail.

Lake Catherine State Park, Arkansas

Two hundred and twenty-three miles west to east through the Ouachita National Forest with over thirty-four thousand feet of elevation change. With a target locked, the next steps are to plan, test and re-test gear, and get some shakedowns completed. Another buddy of mine Doc Moore is joining up on this endeavor and talk of a Vet/Hike focused YouTube may be in the works. More to come! So, cheers to you all, thanks for your time and attention, and let’s see what’s next. See you out there, your Doc on the Trail.


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