Amputee to Hike Appalachian Trail

In simple terms, I am trying to save my life...and I need your help.

My whole life has been a struggle with weight and health issues.  In March 2017, I reached 382 pounds and I knew that if I didn't make a change soon, the weight would kill me.  It was already affecting many aspects of my health negatively.

I started changing how I ate and in the last year, I lost 97 pounds and then regained over 40  when stress and life got in the way and then lost another 15.  No matter how much I lose, though, I still see a fat person in the mirror.  I am working on changing how I see myself and trying to be more healthy.  To that end, I started walking and hiking last year.  

While I enjoy walking and hiking, I am having some challenges with it.  Most notably there is the fact that since a car accident when I was three years old in July 1974, I have been without a right foot.  I wear a prosthesis (artificial leg) to be able to walk. 

My current prosthesis is over 10 years old and does not fit properly and is starting to fall apart.  That coupled with the fact that I have had pain in my leg EACH AND EVERY DAY since I was 12 years old, make it a challenge to be as active as I would like.

My prosthesis not fitting has not stopped me.  Being more than 130 pounds overweight has not stopped me.  Being diabetic has not stopped me.  Having SEVERE sleep apnea has not stopped me.  Having high blood pressure has not stopped me.  Having gout has not stopped me.  Having a myriad of other assorted medical issues has not stopped me.  Having pain EACH AND EVERY DAY has not stopped me.  In fact, those challenges are what drives me ever forward.

I want to be healthy.

I want to weigh a weight appropriate for my height.

I want to be able to do normal everyday things without being in pain...each and every day.

I want to live.

To that end, I decided to do a hard reset of my life and to make the kind of big changes needed to make that happen.  Then I had a roommate abandon me and leave me to pay his rent and cable bills.  Then an accident with my van and other financial setbacks all hit at the same time along with a death in the family and other family discord that temporarily sent me off track.

Almost everything I own has been sold to facilitate the change I wanted to make in my life, but much of the money I raised has now been spent to cover these unexpected expenses.

"If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten."  No one is sure who said that first, but it is so true.

So I am going to do something different.

I am going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail this year.  If you don't know what the Appalachian Trail is, just Google it and you will find a ton of information.

Basically, the Appalachian Trail is a 2,190-mile long trail through 14 states from Georgia to Maine.  It has an elevation change of well over 400,000 feet.  That is like climbing from sea level to the top of Mount Everest 16+ times.  

In order to do this successfully, I need some equipment and money to cover food and expenses along the way.  This is where you come in. 

Best estimates say it will cost about $1,500 per month to cover food, occasional lodging, repairs to my leg and medical care along the way.  I estimate I will be on the trail for at least 7 months.  That comes to about $10,500.

Repairs need to be made to my artificial leg before I can start the trail.  Those repairs cost around $2,000.

Hiking gear.  Specific gear that is both extremely lightweight and durable is helpful in trying to successfully execute a thru-hike.  I have done hundreds of hours of research and have put together a list of good gear at the best prices I could find.  That equipment costs right at $2,000.

I have invested much time, energy, and money into preparing for this trip.  I have purchased a significant amount of gear and have paid for a lot of travel and preparatory hikes to make this happen.  I have also set aside money to get me to the start of the trail in Georgia. 

At this time, I am trying to raise the money to get the remaining gear I need, get my leg repaired and cover my first month or two on the trail.  I have a little money set aside for emergencies but need help getting to the trail and getting my equipment.


Here are some answers to popular questions:

Yes, I plan to hike all 2,190 miles of the trail on the northbound route, from Georgia to Maine.  5,000,000+ steps

Most people take 5-7 will likely take me quite a bit longer.

A few (less than four that I have found) amputees have hiked the whole trail.  Most with support teams from what I have read.  I will be going alone without a support team on the trail with me

No, I will not be taking a gun.

Yes, I will be hiking alone.  I hope to meet people on the trail.

There are some shelters along the trail, but most nights will be tent camping along the trail.

No, I will not have an emergency locator beacon unless I can raise money to pay for it.

No, I do not have all the equipment I need to go.

I don't know what I will do if my artificial leg breaks, but I am confident that I will be able to come up with a solution should the eventuality arise.

Yes, I do think I can make it all the way.

Yes, I do think people will donate to help with this project...even if it is just to see the pain and suffering that is ahead for me.  

Yes, I will be making YouTube videos updating my progress on the trail.

Donations (33)

  • Christine Cook
    • $50 
    • 5 yrs


Mark Roepke
Arlington, VA

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