The Numbers Game
Two people - me and Maury. Four legs - mine and hers. Six months - May through October 2012. And a grand total of 5,360 miles (2,650 x 2) to walk from the Mexican Border on into the Canadian Wilderness.
Some might think that our goal of raising $10,000 for the Myelin Repair Foundation is dreamy or perhaps that our six-month trek is a bit extravagant, but we believe that when speaking about a disease like Multiple Sclerosis, one needs to reach and strive and not sell the possibilities short.
Just today, I was reading some inspirational stories about long-distance hikers who didn't let Multiple Sclerosis stop them. Surely Bob Barker (note: not the TV show host), who hiked the 2,176 mile Appalachian Trail three times during the 80s and lived with MS, sometimes needing crutches to help him over the mountains, would never have let big numbers scare him.
Pack-weights back then - before our new, ultralight Cuben Fiber and Sil-Nylon fabrics existed - could reach 70 and 80 lbs. I can't begin to imagine hiking with the much weight on my back, much less doing it with a motor-skill impairing disease. But that's the power of the human mind. It propels us to do big things, and in the case of MS, big things need doing.
Multiple Sclerosis' Kinship with Long-Distance Hiking
You know, speaking of Bob Barker actually makes me feel like a dwarf by comparison. Maury and I will be hiking with much smaller packs (probably around 30 lbs. each), and we'll have our health and youth to propel us, but sometimes, I think that part of the appeal of a long-distance trail is the near certainty that most people have that you'll fall short.
When we hiked the 2,176-mile Appalachian Trail in 2008, we stepped through 14 States. In towns along the way, and there were many, we were met with a mixture of awe and skepticism from the locals, despite the fact that since Earl Shaffer first thru-hiked it 60 years' earlier, there had been over 10,000 people to hike over his steps. You think people would get used to the idea that people want to go walking in the Woods ...
I think in many ways, this is the same way people reacted to my mother when she told them she had MS, or perhaps when she explained to them what symptoms she had. There was a silent apprehension, as if what she was explaining to them - despite it being so documented and widespread - was actually some charade to squeeze out a unique benefit from her employer - wheelchair access, for example.
Multiple Sclerosis' landscape is a lot like the Wilderness, too.
Both are vast, diverse, superficially mapped yet easy to get lost in. Living with MS can sometimes feel insurmountable in the same way that staring up at a ragged, 12,000 ft. snow-covered mountain can. You know that each footstep will be labored. You know that your feet will be numb from the get-go, and yet, you also know, you simply have to keep moving, one step at a time, if you're going to get to the following day.
Chin Up & Feet Pointed Northward
Did you know that if walked to the Fridge and back 65 times in the last month, you've already walked one mile or more, just for the sole purpose of snacking?
Think about that. Maury and I do. We think small while we're backpacking - "that next pass. That next rock." And slowly, but surely, all of the miles add up. All told, Maury and I've already accumulated over 10,000,000 steps (5,000 miles) of shared hiking and backpacking experience. That's a lotta walking.
I think that for us, there is no difference in the 30 steps it takes to walk to the refrigerator and back from the seemingly-grander 5,300,000 steps on the Pacific Crest Trail. It's all the same. One foot in front of the other. Yet, for people with Multiple Sclerosis, those 30 steps are damned hard. Every step is labored, so I sincerely hope that you join us in 2012 as we walk for a cure. From Mexico to Canada, taking pictures, conducting interviews, writing blogs and working hard to drum up support for the Myelin Repair Foundation along the way.