Unfinished Business

Off the Trail

It’s been over a month since I’ve written a blog post updating my Long Trail hike and several people have contacted me asking for an update. First things first. For those that don’t already know, I’m off the trail. My apologies for not updating this blog sooner. Here’s what happened.

After a day of rest and resupply in Rutland, I was ready to pick up my pack and get back on the trail at Sherburne Pass. Using my father’s 1937 itinerary as a guide, I had carefully mapped out the mileage for the next part of the journey, hoping to camp in the same locations that he had whenever possible. It would mean slowing down a little and carrying more food for this stretch.

That plan was interrupted when I was hit by a car while crossing the road at the trailhead. I don’t want to dwell on the details of the accident other than to say it was devastating. From the moment of impact, I knew my hike was over for this year. My injuries are serious, but after great medical care and successful surgery, I’m on the mend.

Challenges and Triumphs

Successful long-distance hiking can be described as a series of challenges and triumphs. The challenges can be physical or mental. They are often related to trail conditions, weather, terrain, gear failure, wildlife encounters, blisters, or injuries. It can become a mental game when you are cold, wet, exhausted, or harboring self-doubt. Overcoming these challenges is part of what makes backpacking so rewarding.

Earlier this year on the AT, our hiking group experienced a typical challenge. We started the day at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, navigating the Jump Up, to finally reach the top of Cheoah Bald.

It’s amazing how light you feel after dropping your pack. Celebrating our triumph on Cheoah Bald!

It was roughly six hours of constant climbing with heavy packs after resupplying at the NOC. Challenging, but we all persevered and shared in the triumph. I embrace these challenges.

An Unexpected Challenge

My Long Trail adventure was going great with very little adversity in the first hundred miles. I was more than ready for the minor challenges the trail threw at me. But the accident was a serious and unexpected challenge that I wasn’t prepared for.

This isn’t where the accident occurred, but is typical of the countless road crossings on the AT/LT.

There are many road crossings on both the AT and LT that can potentially be dangerous. The accident happened even though I approached the crossing with caution.

My Training Paid Off

As I chronicled in earlier posts, I was well prepared for this trip. I had been training regularly for quite some time, logging more than 300 miles this year alone. That’s more than the entire length of the Long Trail itself.

Not only was I physically prepared for the hike itself, but my training paid off in other ways. I’m convinced my fitness level is one reason that my injuries weren’t more severe. My doctors commented on that as well. They also believe it will help facilitate recovery. So even though I won’t be able to hike for a while, the road to recovery may be shorter than it would have otherwise been.

It’s My Turn to Live Vicariously

Right after the accident, I shared my news with a few friends on the trail.  We had been texting back and forth about our progress, cheering each other along. Each of them asked if there was anything they could do to help me. I thanked them and made one simple request: Finish your hike and send me a photo when you do. After having others follow my journey to this point, it was now my turn to live vicariously.

The day after my surgery I received photos from friends at both Journey’s End on the LT and Katahdin on the AT. That really lifted my spirits! Off the Cuff and Egret in their moments of triumph!

I’m currently following a number of bloggers on the Trek, cheering them on virtually. Up until this point I had been wrapped up in documenting my own adventure. Now that my hike is done, I have time to read what other hiker/bloggers are up to. It’s been fun tracking their journeys and it keeps me motivated to get back on the trail as soon as I’m able.

I’ve also found that I’m not alone. Others have had to leave the trail before finishing due to injury. Dealing with the emotions of suddenly being off trail can also present an emotional challenge. I can relate.


I’m thankful for all the people who’ve helped me face this challenge. Thanks to everyone at the scene of the accident, the hospital in Vermont, and later at the medical center in Pennsylvania. I made it a point to try and thank everyone I encountered: helpful bystanders, good Samaritans, EMT’s, police, nurses, doctors, radiology techs, physical therapists, and social workers. If I somehow missed anyone, please know that I am grateful for your assistance.

I’m also thankful for the concern and well wishes of my family, friends, and the hiking community. When I arrived home from Vermont, there was a giant welcome message and care package from my local hiking group waiting for me (thank you Emily, Susi, and STOGA)! Several friends dropped off care packages of food and beer (I won’t be able to brew for a while). I’ve been overwhelmed with all the genuine offers of help. Thank you all!

Well wishes and a care package sent from the local hiking picnic the day I arrived home.

But most of all, I’m truly grateful to have survived the crash. Several first responders and medical personnel commented that my injuries could’ve been much worse.  There were clearly some trail “angels” looking out for me that day. Frankly, I’m lucky to be here. And it’s that knowledge that drives my positive attitude in the face of adversity.

Unfinished Business

Some would say that my accident was just a case of bad luck. Although that is true, that’s not really how I look at it. I truly feel lucky. I’m fortunate to have survived and although there’s no guarantee, I plan to finish what I started. It’s unfinished business for me.

A recurring theme in many of the get well wishes that I received is that this accident is just part of my story, and that I get to write the next chapter in this journey. That sentiment was meant figuratively, but I also plan to continue writing about what comes next.

This was the first time that I’ve kept a journal on a trip and it’s a great daily exercise. Even though there will be a long delay between entries, I’ll be able to pick up right where I left off in chronicling the rest of my journey in both my journal and this blog. In the meantime, I may publish a few off-trail posts as I recover and get ready to hike again.

Although I still have a long way to go before I can shoulder a pack again, I’m hopeful I’ll be able to complete the hike next year. That will give me time to recover, and more importantly, regain my “trail legs” before continuing.  Completing the Long Trail will represent a monumental triumph in the face of this challenge. See you on the trail!

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Comments 8

  • Jared Bryce : Aug 18th

    Hey man, so glad to hear you are on the mend and doing well! Make sure to let the FB group know when you decide to finish up your epic journey, I’m sure a few of us would love to catch you out there! Be well, heal well, peace!

    • Tim Bennett : Aug 19th

      Thanks Jared and good luck on your journey! I’ll be following along on your blog.

  • Wanda Hale : Aug 19th

    Oh my goodness. Praises you are alive to someday finish your journey. Prayers and belief in God, that His will be done goes a long way in the healing process.

    • Tim Bennett : Aug 19th

      Thanks Wanda, that’s pretty much how I look at it.

  • Byron Wood : Aug 19th

    You can’t keep a good man down! Glad to hear you are recovering well, looking forward to tales of the next adventure!

    • Tim Bennett : Aug 20th

      Thanks Byron, good to hear from you. Yes it’s really been quite the adventure! I hope the next chapter is a little less dramatic…

  • Scott Hicks : Feb 25th

    Lucky to be alive sums it up. I learned about your accident after having just read (and commented on) your previous blog post, not realizing what had befallen you. Good God, man! After such an incident, I’m not sure Id be able to maintain such a positive attitude as you’ve displayed. How has the healing been going? Are you able to hike? Shoulder a pack? I don’t know if you’d be willing to answer a couple of questions, but I’ll ask anyway. Did you have a PLB to call for help? Or was there cell service? I’d really like to know if the vehicle operator stick around, or if it was hit-and-run – and whether or not they faced any consequences – criminal or civil.

    • Tim Bennett : Feb 26th

      Thanks again Scott. Yeah it’s been quite a journey. I’ll be posting an update on my recovery here on the Trek soon. I’m not 100% yet, but I’m able to hike. And after a major setback, I can now carry a pack. I plan to complete the LT this summer. The accident occurred at a busy road crossing and yes, the driver stopped. So did some other cars. I was fortunate that an ambulance was coming up the road on another call and they were flagged down to pick me up within minutes of the accident. The accident was unfortunate, but given the severity of it, I’m really fortunate to be able to get back on the trail. Thanks again for reading the blog and your concern.


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