Shortly after returning from Maine, I contacted REI with a proposal to share my adventure at a local store (Cincinnati). The proposal was warmly received but it took quite a few months to finalize an available date. The date was set and I had a great opportunity to relate my thru-hike journey to about thirty interested people.
When I arrived at the store, Owen was already setting up the area for my workshop. This friendly young REI employee was so genuine and enthusiastic about my talk. We exchanged some small talk as he put the finishing touches on the room with moving screens and chairs. He expressed a little concern about the timing of the event because Major League Baseball scheduled their All-Star Game (held in Cincinnati) on the same night without consulting either one of us. I could see my thirty participants quickly shrinking to three. To my surprise, twenty-eight people arrived. Owen shared after the meeting that there was a wait-list of forty-five individuals that wanted to attend. I decided to work with Owen and arrange a repeat presentation – maybe as early as October.
I really enjoy telling others about my journey. I had a PowerPoint presentation filled with photos of the trail to help the folks visualize the thru-hike. I talked a bit about some of the unique aspects of each state along the path, some of my hiking gear (most of which I purchased at REI), and some of the special colleagues I met along the Appalachian Trail. The Q/A session after the presentation was lots of fun for me. I like answering questions and the inquiries serve as an interesting reflection of the uniqueness of the crowd.
Hike It Forward has been very silent for several months. The reasons for the lack of postings are three-fold. First, I wanted the climax of the hike in Maine and the glorious homecoming I experienced in Ohio to be the focal point of the blog site for several months. Second, I have focused my attention on transcribing my journal into a readable electronic document infused with the full use of spell-checker. The experience of reliving my hike through this transcription was very therapeutic in the transition back to the city. The sights, sounds, and emotions of the trail filled my thoughts as I attempted to decipher my hand scrawled notes on pages smudged with AT dirt and Snickers bars.
The third reason for silence was the formation of a desire to write a book about my life-changing, five-month journey. Out of the journal reconstruction came the idea for the book. I did not want to compose just a travel-log approach to the hike, but rather a humorous look at some of the lessons learned, a focus on the faithfulness of God in the midst of adversity, a snapshot of the people that brought friendships to my steps, a reflection on the memorable experiences associated with living along the AT, and the blessings of the wildlife, the food, the forest, and the towns – of just walking in the incredible environment of the trail.
The journal has been transcribed as a priceless personal treasure. I know I will spend time often in its pages reflecting on those challenging days of excitement, discouragement, relationships, and growth. The book manuscript has suffered through four or five revisions and is currently off to a publisher for consideration. I am prepared for rejection but I am also filled with anticipation. In the coming months, I hope to refocus my love for writing into this blog – I hope you will continue to check it out as I strive to Hike It Forward.
I climbed Katahdin and made my road trip back to Springboro, Ohio over 11 weeks ago. During the past few months, I have been transferring my journal from my hand-written chicken scratch to a Word document… it ended up encompassing 112 pages (single space – 11 font). The transfer of my journal was so much fun for me. I revisited (emotionally and mentally) each camp site and through my mind’s eye reflected on the trail, my fellow thru-hikers, and the special adventures that filled my days. As I result of this “second” walk through the AT, I have been silent on my blog.
Let me share some of the exciting opportunities that have filled my return to civilization. After a weekend of relaxation and catch-up with my family, I was welcomed back to Dayton Christian with two amazing parades (one at each campus). The students and teachers were so encouraging. Then I had an opportunity to be interviewed twice by local television (one on the school site and the other in the studio). I was invited to share about my hike with the students at both campuses during chapels as well as in a couple of individual classrooms. I also was interviewed by a local Christian radio station. What a thrill it has been to share the excitement of my thru-hike with so many.
I have been in contact with REI regarding the possibility of sharing my story in the Columbus and Cincinnati stores. The initial response was favorable but the dates will most likely be in the spring of the year. I will post the dates as soon as I know them and hopefully many of you will be able to attend. I have also been in contact with a number of my hiking friends and established some Facebook connections. One fellow thru-hiker, Ungerwhere, has already paid me a visit in Ohio and was able to share his story with the seniors at the Dayton Christian campus.
The fund-raising portion of my hike will be ending at the end of this calendar year. So far, the gracious giving of others has totaled $34,428. I would love to see that total hit $40,000 prior to January 1st. If I am able to offer $2,186 scholarships per family ($1 dollar per mile of my hike), I would be able to help 15 students attend the school system. In order to help 20 families I would need $43,720 and to provide scholarships for an average class of 25 students I would need to raise a total of $54,650.
The scholarships will be provided for the 2015-2016 school year and I will be absolutely thrilled to help as many families (preference given to middle income, alumni families) as possible. Please prayerfully consider an end of the year gift to Hike It Forward. Just go to the Support Tab on the blog site for directions to make a tax-deductible contribution. Be sure to designate “hike it forward” on your contribution.
It has been a week since I reached the summit of Mount Katahdin in Maine. Thanks to my dear friend, Mark, who drove all the way to Maine from Ohio to pick me up, I had a two-day road-trip back to Springboro filled with fellowship and relaxation. Cathy and I spent the weekend sharing lots of stories from the trail and from the city that filled our lives during the past 5 months.
My welcome home from the school was truly incredible. The administration arranged a hike/parade on campus that made me feel like a celebrity. The students lined up on the sidewalks and as I hiked down the campus, they cheered for me and then followed me to a central location where there was a nice presentation and I was able to address the entire student body. There were actually two parades – one in Miamisburg in the morning and a second one in Xenia in the afternoon. I have never given more high fives in all my life. I was so humbled and honored by this special reception. God is faithful!
The news media came as well to report the story and I have attached a link to the coverage of one of the local news channels.( http://www.abc22now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wkef_vid_22546.shtml ) The same channel did a follow-up interview with me this morning at their studios (http://fox45now.com/shared/news/features/morning/stories/wrgt_vid_910.shtml ). What a thrill to be able to talk about my hike and the faithfulness of God.
My sister, Diane, came up from NC to be part of the celebration. It was special to have her here because she supported me in so many ways during the adventure – she was always so positive and encouraging throughout the hike. I was thrilled that she could be part of this welcome home celebration.
I mentioned yesterday that there was a group photo-shoot on top of Katahdin with all the thru-hikers that made the summit that morning. I was the last to arrive at the sign. It was amazing because the group was already gathered around the sign when someone saw me coming. I heard someone shout my name and urged me to join the picture – then the group started to cheer for me and shout my name. They told me to touch the sign and then join the celebration.
After my hand slap on the big brown wooden sign, someone suggested that I climb the sign for the picture. I could not believe the place of honor that was spontaneously mine.
I thought I would share this photo with you as well.
Katahdin is this daunting mountain from a distance and her call of intimidation does not disappoint. The climb was strenuous and rocky but such a thrill to summit.
We left about 7:00 am and reached the big brown sign about 11:30. I celebrated with a dozen other thru-hikers. I was the last of the large group to arrive so I got to stand on the sign for the photo – I felt so honored to have that special spot.
Some very special hikers from YWAM hiked to the top as well. These three guys ministered to me in powerful ways throughout my journey from Harpers Ferry. Bamboo, Ungerwhere, and Mountain Light are friends for eternity.
I have attached a photo of Mark Shaeffer, my dear friend who drove all the way from Ohio to pick me up, and RaceWalker, who hiked the last 450 miles of the trail with me.
God is faithful. I am truly overwhelmed by His grace.
Today was a perfect day to summit Katahdin. More details tomorrow but I am officially a Thru-Hiker!!!!!
Day five in the 100 mile wilderness involved a fantastic moose sighting. RaceWalker and I were hiking along a stream and saw two moose directly across the stream from us (mom and youngster). Attached is a photo that really looks like a moose (no chipmunk this time).
Maine continues to be beautiful but rugged. Lots of stream and vistas that take your breath away.
Beautiful day for hiking in Maine. It was in the 30’s when I woke up at 5am, but the sun warmed us up by 9:00 and the rest if the day was quite pleasant.
Some beautiful scenery today – vistas, ponds, and cool running streams. Maine is so lovely but I am looking forward to climbing the Big Mountain.
I hiked the final 10 miles to the base of Katahdin with plans to summit tomorrow. The weather forecast is for a sunny day and I am looking forward to climbing the final mountain of the AT. The adventure has been fantastic and God has been faithful to lead me every step if the long way home.
The trees are starting to change colors in Maine and the trail today was simply gorgeous. The photos below capture just a few of the visual impacts that the path presented today.