The Appalachian Trail runs from Georgia up to Maine; these former Marines are hiking it to honor their comrade who died in combat in 2008 and raise money for rehabilitated veterans.
Only about one of four people trying to finish the Appalachian Trail are successful. It usually takes five months or longer to complete the 2,180-mile trail that runs through 14 states and over the Appalachian Mountain range. Former Marines Jeff Fowler and Don Nguyen have set out, currently in their third week, to conquer the trail to honor their fellow Marine Jason Karella, who was killed in a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2008 and help raise money for individuals, including veterans, with disabilities.
Fowler and Nguyen are raising money for the nonprofit Higher Ground Sun Valley which hosts adaptive sport and therapeutic recreation activities for individuals with disabilities, including service men and women.
Fowler and Nguyen met on their tour in Iraq in 2007. When Fowler returned from service he noticed the alarming suicide rates of soldiers returning from the Middle East and decided he needed to bring attention to this issue. By hiking the trail, the money donated will go directly to Higher Ground Sun Valley and hopefully help soldiers returning from overseas.
They are averaging about 12-15 miles a day and stop ever three to four days in towns along the trail for supplies. Their goal is to reach Mount Katahdin in Maine by Sept 1. Because it is early spring, they are still coming across ice and snow in the higher elevations, as well as cold temperatures. The weather for the past month has not been kind; the hikers haven’t seen the sun in three weeks.
“You realize pretty quickly it’s mostly mental,” Nguyen added. “You can’t change the rain, you can’t change the mountains, but you can change your attitude.”
All photos via Knox News