Let’s see a show of hands who loves mountain stories???
I think my hand was raised higher than anyone else. I love the mountains. Been on several mountain trips through the Smokies and the Blue Ridge and I always come back so refreshed. I’ll be blogging about my trips shortly, but I have a special guest today. Paul V. Stutzman has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (2,176 miles by foot) after his wife died and wrote a book – a very very good book – about his journey. It’s called Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail.
Paul is presently on a book tour – a physical and a virtual book tour – to talk about his book and it’s my pleasure to have him here today.
Quit Dreaming, Start Walking
by Paul V. Stutzman
In the fall of 2006, my wife Mary died of breast cancer. Life as I had known it for 32 years was pretty much over. For a year, I struggled to make things “normal” again, but that, of course, could never happen. My life situation had changed drastically, and I knew that somehow, I myself needed to change, too.
In the spring of 2008, I left a secure job and paycheck to walk the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. I had known, even before losing my wife, that being out in the beauty of God’s creation had a healing effect on me. That was one reason I decided to hike the Trail. A second reason for my decision was that I had long dreamed about doing a thru-hike on the AT, and I had come face to face with the fact that we are never assured of tomorrow—we need to live today. So I quit dreaming and started walking.
I was a thru-hiker, which meant I walked the entire 2,176 miles in one season. Along the way, I met many section hikers, folks who wanted to experience the Appalachian Trail but only did short sections. Some of those people go back year after year, each time doing different sections of the Trail. I also met many, many day hikers. The Appalachian Trail is legendary, and hikers everywhere want to experience at least part of it.
Even if you’re eighty, if you dream of walking on the famous Trail, I encourage you to do it! Many parts of the AT were so strenuous, so rugged, that I wondered sometimes how I could go farther. But there are sections of the Trail that are relatively easy, and yet so beautiful that hikers will never be disappointed.
Let me take you briefly to three of those places.
Max Patch Mountain is called the “crown jewel” of the Appalachian Trail. The bald summit, covered by 350 grassy acres, is part of Pisgah National Forest near Hot Springs, North Carolina, and is a favorite spot for picnickers and kite-flyers. The trail crosses the very top of the bald, and I felt as though I were on that mountain meadow with Julie Andrews singing “The Sound of Music.” The views are 360-degree panoramas of mountain ranges stretching to every horizon.
The AT cuts through Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia, and this area has some of the most beautiful scenery and interesting rock formations that you’ll find anywhere on the Trail. The Highlands are dotted with pink and red rock outcroppings, with clusters of evergreens scattered in open fields on the hillsides. Herds of wild ponies graze throughout the state park. Although hikers are encouraged not to feed the ponies, many of the animals were so tame that they nuzzled us, looking for a handout.
Our quick tour is going to stop in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, for two reasons. First, the headquarters of the AT is in this little town, and anyone who dreams of hiking the Trail will find the few miles of trail through West Virginia only whet the appetite. Also, hiker-friendly towns like this all along the Trail are the hikers’ lifeline—we stop for supplies, a hot shower, big meals, laundry. Yes, sometimes we stop just because we’re lonely and need to meet and greet people.
If you dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail, don’t wait for someday. Do it now! Dreams can come true. Just start walking.
If you’d like to hear more of Paul’s story, purchase his book, Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail, online by clicking here.
Paul V. Stutzman grew up in the middle of Ohio’s Amish and Mennonite community. His new book, Hiking Through, chronicles his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, seeking peace and healing after losing his wife to cancer. He is available to speak to groups on the subjects of hiking the AT, working through grief, and finding a relationship with God. More information available at www.hikingthrough.com.