Lyle Kampf

What date are you planning to begin your thru-hike?

March 20th

Are you planning to hike northbound, southbound, or complete a flip flop?


What is your motivation for wanting to complete the hike?

On Friday, July 13th 2018, I was ran over by a semi-truck while training for a cross-country bicycle race. I thought I was going to die. When I woke up, I found myself alone, concerned I would never regain the use of my legs, and at a loss for a reason to live, I needed a purpose.

Prior to the accident, each year I pushed my AT thru-hike attempt to the next year, then the next, then the next. I had planned a thru-hike in 2006 but found a reason to start this pattern of delaying my dreams.

After taking a walk with death and coming back, I refuse to let a lifetime goal I had set long ago, to slip by again. I just had to relearn how to walk again.

Since setting this goal and using it to motivate my recovery, I have surpassed all my doctors expectations. I have been able to channel my thoughts towards a productive purpose taking focus away from the tortures of my post accident recovery. Being trapped indoors for over six months, studying about the AT has freed my mind from the confines of my bedroom.

My dedication towards this goal has been so productive that many other patients in my rehab center have been motivated themselves to strive for a better life. Patients and doctors have thanked me for being such a great example. Furthermore, I have created a non-profit organization that will help others who have been involved in similar accidents as mine.

All of this, is because of the AT.

How do you expect this hike will change your life?

My AT journey will bring purpose back into my life. Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the holocaust, said when a person is in search of life purpose they need a work or a deed. Hiking the AT will be mine. It has already done so much and I haven't even started.

In dealing with PTSD, one of the best cures is the outdoors. After dealing with medical insurance, legal matters, and more doctors than I could count, outdoor therapy is exactly what I need.

My life before the accident was too complicated, too fast paced. A life and death experience proved to me I need to slow down. Take joy in my surroundings. Listen to the wind in the trees, feel the sun on my skin, wake up under a frost, and live with wildlife. I hope the AT will simplify my life and teach me lessons that I can bring back and share with my family, friends, and students I teach.

I hope the AT will change my life. However, I am fully aware that it doesn't always do that. If nothing else, movement is the number one pain reliever. My shakedown hikes enliven me and make my body less sore. Hiking pumps life back into my veins. There will be pain on the AT, but it will be different pain. Pain that comes with living an adventurous life.

Describe your backpacking experience. How long have you been doing it? What's the longest trip you've done?

Throughout my life my family has camped in Shenandoah National Park. I have ran the full length of the AT through SNP twice, northbound and southbound. My girlfriend and I have hiking throughout the Great Smokies. I am also a overland motorcyclist and pack my tent or hammock with me so I can explore our National Parks and National Forests along my travels. This will be my first hike of a long trail. During my adventures above, I have lived out of a tent/hammock for stretches as long as 10 days.

What else should we know about you?

In high school I was be recruited by the U.S. Naval Academy until I broke my back. The NAVY decided I did not meet the minimum physical requirements to serve my country. This began the long lesson I learned that physicality only amounts for a small percentage of success. Success is driven by attitude, will, courage, and self motivation.

After being told I couldn't fight for my country, I became an expert Divemaster. I passed first responder and Wilderness First Aid courses. To serve my country I became a teacher and a life coach. I jumped out of planes and received a minor in rock climbing from the University of Utah. I became an endurance athlete and raced in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet.

I proved to myself that not only was I physically able, but mentally able. Through failure at a young age I taught myself life lessons that have served me well and aid to my success on the AT. This accident may have set me back physically during the short term, and I am overcoming that each and every day. But, mentally I was strong before and believe I am even stronger now. When I didn't think I could move my body an inch, I started with a centimeter. Please help me start my first step on the AT and let's see where that step leads me.