When I completed the Lost Coast Trail in October 2008, I was convinced that I was now a seasoned backpacker, and that all future trails would be conquered swiftly and without too much difficulty. I couldn’t have been further from the truth if I had tried. A combination of illness, injuries, and major life changes stopped me in my tracks, and it would be almost four years before I would venture out into the wilderness again.
I have come to accept that I will never recover completely from the stroke I suffered in May 2007. It has left me with too many debilitating disabilities for me to overcome. What it did do, however, was to instill in me a will to live so powerful that nothing could stop me from achieving my goals, no matter how distant and unreachable they may seem.
I had originally planned an attempt to walk the Colorado Trail, a near 500 mile trail going through the astounding wilderness of Colorado. I never got any further than the planning stage for this incredible hike. Every time I thought I was ready to start training, some other stroke related issue affected my ability to work out, and I had to continually shelve my plans.
My training has to be put into perspective. Most people reading this would probably laugh at my pitiful attempts to achieve physical fitness, and with good cause to do so. However, I always think back to the dark days of 2007 when I was paralyzed completely down my entire left side. I was wheelchair bound and the prognosis was dire. The fact that I am able to walk at all is a miracle in itself, and is all the motivation I need.
My training consists mainly of walking on a treadmill, with the occasional hike in the canyons of West Texas, or even rarer visits to the White Mountain Wilderness area of New Mexico.
I do not carry any weight unless I am in the great outdoors, and I chose a treadmill because they have the rails down the sides that I can grab onto if my left leg gives way, which it is prone to do a lot. I always put safety first.
I am unable to train with weights, or attempt the amazing fitness programs such as Insanity etc. My workouts are low impact, and don’t improve my physical fitness a great deal if I am to be honest.
This is why the website is called Slow Hiking – because my hiking pace is very slow!! But at least I am getting out there, and my desire to attempt more and more is driving me forward.
My health issues had settled down somewhat, and I was as happy as I had ever been in my private life. I was now able to look forward to the future – something I hadn’t been able to do for some time – and my future involved lots of wilderness adventures!!
I was in this mindset when I began planning our second adventure. Along with my hiking partner Cesar Holt, we began looking closely at the Ozark Highlands Trail, which is located in Arkansas. Like me, Cesar had undergone major life changes, and where we were once brothers-in-law, we are now close friends and shared the same passion for the outdoors.