Wilderness Therapy and Beer

To many of us, drinking a beer in the mountains IS Wilderness Therapy, but for many troubled youth, this special subset of therapy is a second chance at getting a hold of their lives and forging a healthy path of self reliance and self respect. Those are the key goals of many Wilderness Therapy programs, including the Jason William Hunt Foundation.

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This foundation out of Ohio looks to not only keep alive the memory and spirit of Jason William Hunt, but also Jason’s desire to help at-risk youth through Wilderness Therapy. Who was Jason? Just a guy. A guy with a huge love for the outdoors and a heart for helping kids find their way through life with the help of exposure to the outdoors. He was a rock climber who lost his life doing what he loved but not before spending ample time working for many Wilderness Therapy programs and gaining a higher purpose to his life.

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Now the Jason William Hunt Foundation is seeking your support by asking you to drink beer. Think you can help them out?!

Throughout September and October the Foundation is raising awareness for Wilderness Therapy with the help of micro breweries in 13 states across the country. According to the Foundation website, “each brewer is designating a beer for the month and will make a donation at month’s end to the foundation’s scholarship fund based on that beer’s sales.” So by drinking beer you are helping an at-risk kid get the help they need and have a life changing experience. We don’t know about you, but we are on board!

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Our neighbor North Carolina is one of the 13 states on the list and we have selected a few breweries in Asheville (an incredible town for beer and the outdoors) that we highly suggest you check out. There are nine other breweries across North Carolina that are also participating so feel free to check those out if you can’t make it to Asheville.  

Wicked Weed Brewing Company — Get the Dirndl Bock

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Oyster House Brewing Company — Get the Moonstone Oyster Stout

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One World Brewing Company — Get the Mountain High Rye

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The Foundation asks:

“When you stop by to enjoy their brew please
1.thank the management for participating
2.take a selfie with the management/staff
3.post the selfie on social media of your choice
4.use the hashtag #cheerstowilderness
5.Remember to include brewery’s name in post.
6.EX. Thanking 50West #cheerstowilderness”

Running the Appalachian Trail

Just over a month ago we did a blog post about Karl Meltzer, an ultra-runner from Utah, attempting to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. Well, guess what: he finished and broke the record! He arrived at Springer Mountain at 3:38 am on September 18. He completed the 2189 mile trail in 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes. For his final stretch, Karl ran 83 miles in 24 hours.

On Saturday the 17th, former AT thru-hike record holder Scott Jurek came into Mountain Crossings to check out the store -he didn’t get to stop by the year before because he was running the trail. Scott has been running with Karl for some sections, and he was happy his friend was going to break the record. Later that day, Karl’s support crew came by and prepared for his arrival. They were all very friendly and had enjoyed the journey from Maine. Karl came through Mountain Crossings around 6:30 pm and sat down for only 20 seconds before he was on his way again. Congratulations are in order to Karl for accomplishing this great feat!
   14322515_715438658596923_1525010223794558950_nKarl and support team finish on top of Springer Mountain

“Karl always told me he loved the Appalachian Trail.
We have spent many days on the AT. I only hike the trail; he runs over those rocks!
I always thought I just exposed him to the mountains; he stayed and made a life and career there.
He has taken me t
o the mountains, deserts and canyons, all because of this “running thing.”
-Karl’s Dad

What does ultra-running mean?

Technically, ultra-running is running a distance longer than a marathon, 26.2 miles, in one go. Races usually have a predetermined distance, but in some cases there is only a set time period. For example, there may be a 100 mile race, or a 24 hour race to see how far you can run. Ultra-running has become very popular the last twenty years, and there are numerous races around the globe.

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Speeds on the Appalachian Trail

There has been plenty of criticism about hiking the trail too fast, but a common phrase in trail culture is, “hike your own hike!” Karl wanted to break the speed record, so great for him. Plenty of other hikers want to really push their bodies every day and see how far they can go, and we should allow them to do that. They might not care about seeing every overlook or stopping in every town. Each person has their own goals and they should not be judged for them. If you don’t want to hike fast, then don’t! Don’t let other people pressure you to go faster than you want. Encouragement and pushing yourself can be good, but no need to go farther just to appease others.

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Karl and support crew taking a break at Mountain Crossings

Is Meltzer’s record already broken?

Kaiha Bertollini posted on Facebook just 13 hours later that she had finished the AT, unsupported, and about 12 hours faster than Meltzer. There has been some speculation surrounding her claims, so she is currently asking for verification from people who saw her along the way. Regardless of the outcome, great job to her as well as all others completing the trail this year.

A Reader’s Guide to Thru Hike Prep

It’s getting to be that time of year again. You can feel it in the breeze. You can see it on the edges of the early turning trees. Fall is coming! And soon behind it will come winter. There is little else in the world that makes me more content than laying in a hammock with a good book and a cool breeze rustling through the bright Autumn leaves, save for maybe curling up with a similarly good book and sipping on hot tea as snow falls outside. It’s the best time of year to start stacking up some good books to read. If you are planning a thru hike (or simply love all things AT) here is a list of some of my favorite Appalachian Trail centered books to help inspire you to thru hike and prepare you to hike in numerous different ways!

(click on any book title or image for a link to the book!)

First thing, first: GET INSPIRED!

As a former thru hiker and big time book worm, I’ve read a pretty good amount of Appalachian Trail memoirs. I find these to be the most inspiring; reading about the high ands lows of someone’s experience makes you excited to face the same things in the future. You place yourself in their shoes and know that when you are on trail many similar situations will arise. It gets butterflies churning through your stomach to think about. Here are my top memoir suggestions:

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

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This is one of the more inspiring memoirs of an AT thru hike I have ever read. It is actually written as a biography of Emma Gatewood, who at age 67 set out for her first thru hike in 1955. This was also the first thru hike recorded by a woman on her own. Grandma Gatewood traveled light, wearing Keds tennis shoes and carrying a satchel over her arm with a little bit of food and clothing and a plastic shower curtain for shelter. She not only thru hiked the AT in ’55, but again in ’60 and even section hiked it in ’63. This woman’s life was an incredible one and well worth reading about!

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

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This is by far the most popular memoir about the Appalachian Trail out there and has recently become even more popularized by the movie version released in 2015. Bill Bryson enlists an old buddy to take on the AT with him to satiate their need for adventure in life. The two quickly learn they have bitten off more than they can chew. The proceedings are hilarious but in no way an account of a true thru hike. The pair only makes it a short ways and then Bryson jumps up trail to get a better sense of the AT, but the character mapping is pretty on point for the AT. You just never know what you’re going to find around the next bend!

Just Passin’ Thru by Winton Porter

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This one is about a pretty cool little place (we may be a bit biased) that nearly every single Northbound thru hiker sees during their time on trail. Standing at mile 31.7, on day 3 for most hikers, is a funky little place called Mountain Crossings. This neat place sits right on the AT, along a remote mountain highway, and offers a  bit of solace to new hikers getting used to the idea of a six month outdoor expedition. You meet the interesting characters who run the place and the even more interesting characters who choose to hike the AT. This is a much different Mountain Crossings than the one that exists today, but then again, some things never change!

Next, GET PREPARED!!

After you’re pumped up on the stories of others and aching to go out and make your own, then you need to start getting ready to do just that! This next set of books will be a world of help preparing you for the trek ahead. Some focus on your gear, others on your route, and still others, on you yourself, the most important key to your success!

Trail Tested by Justin Lichter

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Justin Lichter, aka, Trauma, has hiked over 35,000 miles of trail all over the world and besides being a beast among men, he is also a really nice guy! We don’t push his book just because he is a friend, but because it is the most comprehensive gear guide we have ever seen! Not to mention the best visual guide, as well. Trauma not only goes over all the different gear possibilities for backpacking and their uses, but also goes into wilderness survival, reading the weather, tips and tricks for hiking in different climates and a ton of other things you wouldn’t even think to ask but will be sure to find all in this one book! Did I mention the pictures?! He makes it so easy to grasp complicated aspects to explain by using ample visual aide. This is the one stop shop book for preparing you for the trail and all things backpacking!

Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis

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This is the ONLY psychological and emotional guide I have ever seen to help guide you in thru hiking the AT and I absolutely encourage all prospective thru hikers to read this book just before setting out on trail! In fact, I am not sure how thru hiking and the Appalachian Trail got to be so popular before someone finally (thank goodness for the rest of us) thought to write this much needed book! You could have the best gear, the strongest body and perfect weather the whole time but none of these things will get you to Katahdin. Only you can do that! In Zach’s book, Appalachian Trials, he focuses on exactly that; all the many, exceedingly different and challenging trials you will face on the AT. He walks you through his own trials (and he had a fair amount of them, the poor guy) and goes over how he worked through them all. Besides being a super fun and enjoyable read, this also ended up saving me on my own thru hike. I followed his prompts in the book to safe guard myself against those tough days when quitting is easy. Zach encourages hikers make a series of lists, which will absolutely end up talking you out of quitting on a tough day if you take their creation seriously. DO IT! READ THIS BOOK AND DO IT!

AWOL’s Guide by David Miller

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While this isn’t exactly a book you’d curl up and read cover to cover, it will be one you will wear out cover to cover. I always like encouraging people to buy their AT Guide early and review it, learn how to use it. Most importantly, don’t waste your time with other guides if you’re going to thru hike. This has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Purchase this book as soon as it is available for your thru hiking year and start familiarizing yourself with it. Start planning the first few days on trail or go on a small section hike to get the hang of using it. It is incredible that this book stays so up to date from year to year and the hard work of those who keep it up to date is a blessing to all AT hikers!

O’Ree On The AT

It takes a lot of courage and drive to set out into the woods and just start following a trail. It is way easier to just drive around the mountains and stop at all the scenic overlooks. But as we can tell just by the existence of the AT and many great trails like it, this isn’t enough for some folks. O’Ree Crittenden is one of those people. He loves the outdoors, living an active lifestyle and wouldn’t change for anything. O’Ree may be a quadriplegic, but he isn’t using this as an excuse as to why he can’t hike the Georgia Section of the AT. That’s right. 78.6 miles from Springer Mountain to Bly Gap. With the help of a special wheelchair called a TrailRider and a crew of super awesome buddies from high school and the following years of his life, O’Ree is about half way there as I write!!

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O’Ree on the AT!

Before an accident that left O’Ree paralyzed, he was more active than he is currently. Currently, he is more active than most typical Americans. He recently was on a wheelchair rugby team called Shepard Smash and just last month went sky diving. He unknowingly became the poster child for independent disabled persons in his community by simply living a life true to himself. After the accident, the desire to get back on trail and continue backpacking was always strong. O’Ree loved watching his friend Lee and his family and keeping up with their outdoor adventures. One day, that dream to hike started to become a reality when O’Ree sent Lee a text: “Do you think you could get me out there?” Lee responded with an immediate and resounding “Yes!” Enter the TrailRider.

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Everything that is yellow (and a good bit more) is an addition or a change made by O’Ree and the crew.

A TrailRider is a specialized kind of rugged wheelchair that sits on one off-road tire and operates by one person pushing and another pulling along the trail (check out the video below). Lee says that there are about 117 TrailRiders in existence and estimates about 20 are in the US. This awesomely mobile wheelchair has been up Mt. Kilimanjaro and down into the Grand Canyon. But this is the first time a TrailRider has been on the Appalachian Trail! They aren’t the cheapest rig in the world but O’Ree and his band of most excellent buddies got to work on collecting up the funds to purchase one. Once they cleared that hurtle and had one in their possession, they began to tailor it for O’Ree’s specific needs. They changed the seat up and switched out the belting system with the same sort of belt O’Ree used for wheelchair rugby. They removed the foot plate and rigged up their own system. They changed the locations of the hand brakes for more versatile braking. Over several test hikes, the crew created the perfect all terrain wheelchair for the expedition.

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The crew outside the hostel at Mountian Crossings.

O’Ree and the crew rolled into Neel Gap late in the afternoon and took up camp in the hostel. They took a zero day the next day resting up and waiting on a spare tire for the TrailRider if the one should blow. They cooked hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill and hung out all day in the temperate weather somewhere between Summer and Fall. We snuck down as many times as we could just to hang out with them. We caught them in conversation anytime they came into the shop. It was just too great to have a group of such happy and fun people around!


But alas, the show must go on. O’Ree and the crew rolled out this morning. We can’t wait to continue watching them hike north!

By The Way:

When O’Ree isn’t out chasing after his dreams in the wilderness of North Gerogia, he works for a nonprofit in Columbus, GA called Access 2 Independence. He also sits on several boards and committees throughout the community to represent the disabled demographic. If you’re looking for inspiration to live a purpose and meaning filled life, look no further than O’Ree Crittenden.