AT-Sized Goals

I cannot walk… you read that right. I am writing my first post from my wheelchair.

But do not worry; as my friends will back me up, when I set my mind to something, I never give up. They will also say I sometimes wander off, but I always come back with amazing stories. About three months ago I was riding my bicycle when, bam, a semi truck decided to take me out. After my dance with death, I realized I almost missed my chance to thru-hike the AT, a dream of mine since middle school.

I just have to relearn to walk first. My journey starts today when I take my first step. If all goes well I will be able to walk in the woods by March, my NOBO starting goal. If recovery is delayed or I need more time to build up my strength, I have a plan B starting in Harpers Ferry to complete a flip-flop. Worst case scenario is a SOBO thru-hike starting no later than June.

In the meantime, while I plan each of the three hiking options above, I thought taking a short break to share a little about myself, you know, get to know each other a little bit would be fun.

Who am I? Still to be determined. I was once a career-driven finance geek, then I became an ultra-endurance athlete to get in shape for the AT, then between summits I became a history teacher and life coach for my students.

Who is my favorite super hero? Batman. I named my dog after his butler, Alfred.

Why the AT? I have run the AT section through Shenandoah National Park twice, both directions. Between there and the Smokies I have not experienced more beauty, other than looking up at Denali when hiking in Alaska. It is time to finally go explore my backyard in its entirety.

Do I prefer beach or mountains? Duh, mountains. However, a long trail hike along the Atlantic coast would be awesome.

Do I think I am ready for the AT? Mentally, yes. Gear wise, almost. Physically, working on it.

Favorite baked good? Cinnamon buns.

Which brownie do I grab first? The corners, I love where all the sugar accumulates. I cannot express how excited I am for the food on the AT. Snacks on the trail and huge meals.

If I could carry one thing the full length of the AT, what would it be? My Canon EOS-DSLR, but to save weight I am only taking my camera-phone. At this point, I only have the necessities in my pack. I will definitely attach my dog Alfred’s tags to my pack.

What are my expectations of the AT? Lots of hikers and lots of GoPros. When I planned a thru-hike that never came to fruition after college, thru-hike attempts were in the hundreds, now it is in the thousands. During my world travels, when I have put down my devices and struck up conversations with people around me, I learned so much more about the cultures I was visiting.

Favorite movie, book, and sports team? Crimson Tide, Lord of the Rings, Capitals. Easy.

Song pick for karaoke? Boston’s More Than A Feeling. The song to get me dancing: Jon Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer.

Bottom line, looking for an adventure and to hang out with some new friends.

~ Later

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Comments 2

  • stealthblew : Oct 20th

    Go for it Brett! This year would be great, but if not, the trail will be around for at least a few more years in case the rehab takes a little longer than expected. I do not believe the AT is a place to rehab, but rather a place to celebrate health and fitness while improving our spiritual connection with life. The body needs time to recover after a strenuous day of exercise.

    Life on the AT is a life in motion. Consequently, it is physically more difficult than almost any other lifestyle in our society today. Growth on the AT happens in stages….1st physical…2nd mental….and 3rd spiritual. The stronger one is at the onset, the more rapid the development. But if one starts too weak, it could be a painful long haul overcoming a litany of minor injuries while the body struggles to adapt.

    All this said, Go For It! The AT is a marvelous goal to shoot for while strengthening your body.

    I will be rooting for you along with countless others on this site. Your attitude has inspired my day.

    Thank you

    Reply
  • Brian : Oct 23rd

    Bret, I’m not sure what your prognosis is, but, if you have the will, you will get there.

    I am also a cycling, climber, hiker, pilot, motorcyclist, among other things. I was/am a competitive cyclist and I have experience with what you are going through. 4 days before I was to head out for a 11-day multi-stage competitive cycling event, I found myself sitting in a wheelchair. I had fallen, unobstructed, 30 feet straight down, landing on my feet. After looking towards me feet, I knew I was not walking out…so I crawled out. A surprise to the doctors, my only injuries, were my right heel (which is now partly plates, screws, and cadaver bone) and my left ankle.

    After my surgery, over a week later (due to complications), the doctor informed me that I may never walk again and if I do, it will certainly be with a cane. They gave me a list of exercises to do while I was unable to bare weight on either leg…after reading through it, I realized it would not be enough if I wanted to continue to do the things I enjoy. So, I turned their 15 minute workout into a 3 hour workout. I had a backup plan, had the worst case scenario become reality, I began looking into racing handicycles and the paracycling events. I was also lucky enough to have a teammate that had a handicycle from their running days (and the surgery that pushed them into cycling).

    By the time I was able to put weight on my left leg, it had partly atrophied, since the exercises could not work all the muscles in my legs. By the time I was able to start putting weight (in increments) on my right leg, it had fully atrophied. At first, when I got on a bike for the first time, it was hard…really hard. But it wasn’t the physical part that was hard, it was the mental part! Small inclines, that once when unnoticed, were now mountains! But I kept moving forward. When I was cleared to walk with only the assistance of a cane, I chose to not use a cane, instead purchased a set of Leki trekking poles…which when the handle is used backwards, is similar to a cane handle. I’ve never used trekking poles before when hiking, but I thought, I’m not going to use a cane and I am going to hike again…this will get me there (mentally).

    Jumping forward, 2 years later, I attended that race I was supposed to have raced 2 years prior…and I walked away, unassisted (no cane or trekking pole) with a check for my winnings during the event! Now, admittedly, it was in a lower category, due to a medical downgrade, but, all the same, I was racing again! During those 2 years it was continually mentally taxing, remembering what used to be! Not just in cycling, but climbing, inline skating (still not able to do that), CX skiing, etc. Once I got over that (mostly) things when more smoothly. just under 3 years after the accident, my son and I started on the AT! In 2019, just shy of 4 years after I was told, if I walked again, it would be with a cane, I will be doing the AT for a second time, this time with my soon-to-be-wife…and eventually we’ll complete the Triple Crown.

    Keep with the positive attitude and everything will come together (even if not quite as planned)! Good luck on your recovery and hope to see you on the trail someday!

    Reply

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