The Bionic Hiker

HikeItForward-Final-MediumI love stories like the one that surrounds Niki Rellon. I read three powerful articles about Niki (see below) and this post is a summary of these writings. Niki is a current 2015 thru-hiker, on the trail at this moment. Her trail name is “Bionic Woman” for a good reason.

Niki is forty years old and was a world-class athlete: kickboxer, swimmer, snowboarder, rock climber, and bicyclist. In 2006 Niki hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada.

I said “was” a world-class athlete because on Nov. 1, 2013, Niki was climbing a rock face in Utah when tragedy called her name. Her harness failed, she fell 45 feet and broke several ribs, her sternum, her pelvis and spinal cord. Her life was spared but her body was severely damaged. Her left leg was so crushed that doctors had to amputate below the knee.

Niki 1According to the news report from the Bangor Daily News, Niki Rellon shared, “Every day was the same. I was going into the stages of depression. Exercise, rehab, yoga, physical therapy – after a while I was able to come up with excuses not to do it. I decided to walk to recovery because I didn’t like myself anymore after my accident.”

On March 9 — just 14 months after that terrible fall — Rellon, a German-born Colorado resident took her first steps from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus in Georgia. Niki will become the first woman with a leg amputation to ever through-hike the trail. Rellon is hiking unassisted and as far as I can discern she has reached the 1,200 miles point.

niki 3The injury has made quite a difference in Niki’s speed. She averaged more than 40 miles a day on the Pacific Crest Trail. Now, on the Appalachian Trail she is pushing to cover 12 miles in a day. At times, she feels more like “Snail Trail” than “Bionic Woman.” I personally would vote for the Bionic handle shouting admiration for her spunk and determination.

Rellon is a “flip-flop” hiker, meaning she started in Georgia and walked about halfway north before flying to Maine and starting atop Mount Katahdin for the journey south. Her summit to the top of Katahdin was difficult indeed. She hiked the mountain on a 90-degree day that turned ugly when 80-mile-per-hour winds complete with a major thunderstorm blasted through Baxter State Park. The powerful gusts of air knocked her over several times before she was forced to call for help. Niki and her rescuer had to descend on their hands and knees at times to avoid being blown off the mountainside. It was 1:30 in the morning before they reached the safety of the campground below.

Niki2Rellon shared with a local Virginia TV station, “On the trail, no excuse, you wake up in the morning, you have to start hiking again. There’s no magic pill that cures all your pains. You have to overcome the pain and push yourself and live with the pain for a while, but when you push yourself and live with the pain for a while, the pain then goes away.” Niki declared that the trail itself was giving her physical strength, but the friends she’d met along the way were providing needed emotional support.

Niki is on my prayer list. I am trusting that God will speak to her with a powerful affirmation of His love for her and the strength and protection that He offers to those who draw near to Him.


Trail Photos from Niki’s Facebook

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Mahoosuc Notch, Maine, Mount Katahdin, Pacific Crest Trail, Thru-Hike, Trail, Virginia | Tags: | Leave a comment

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