What date are you planning to begin your thru-hike?
Are you planning to hike northbound, southbound, or complete a flip flop?
What is your motivation for wanting to complete the hike?
I've always been a fan of the outdoors but much of my outdoor experience was during my military career during my late teens and early twenties. Many aspects of the outdoors became tainted by the things I experienced and I spent the latter part of my twenties depressed about losing my passion for the wilderness. I'm currently a senior in an Outdoor Recreation Bachelors program at SIUC in an avid attempt to reclaim the things I once enjoyed. While my main focus has been rock climbing (bouldering to be specific), the best memory in my adult life was a class that allowed me to hike a short section of the AT in fall of 2017. The group and the atmosphere was transcendent and was a turning point for my ability to once again enjoy the outdoors. Ever since, I have dreamed of finding a way to complete a through hike of the AT.
How do you expect this hike will change your life?
I was the kind of child that didn't come home until the street lights came on. I grew up in a small town with a great community and was able to retain some sense of feral youth until I left for the military after high school. Ever since I've had a negative attitude about the outdoors preferring to enjoy the creature comforts of home. There's been a recent shift in my mentality however and I feel nostalgic for the time I used to spend outdoors. I think this adventure would be a point from which to spring forward, gaining the experience and confidence to be fully engaged in the outdoor industry. I've already lost so much time in my youth and I refuse to waste my adult years missing out on all the beauty that nature has to offer.
Describe your backpacking experience. How long have you been doing it? What's the longest trip you've done?
Hiking in the military was quite common and we would regularly hike 10, 15, or even 20 miles with all of our gear on our backs. It wasn't terribly fun regardless of what people might say yet I guess you could say that counts as experience even though it was mostly along the side of the road or right down the middle of it.
The only true backpacking trip I've done was as a part of a college course, Outdoor Living Skills, taught at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where we hiked a 30-mile section of the AT over a 3 day period.
What else should we know about you?
As a wounded combat veteran, I have not always been in the best of health during my adult years. I broke several vertebrae, the tibia and fibula in my right leg, and lacerated my liver and spleen during combat operations in Iraq in 2006. Overcoming that physical injury is a constant struggle but the desire to reach that goal has made me stronger as a person. Perseverance is a great asset of mine and I've never let myself be held back by the past. My desire to grow is constant and unchanging. Being funded for this hike would be such an important step towards my future as a contributing member of the outdoor community.