AT 2014 and My Hike for Autism

Posted by on November 1, 2014

It seems so long ago now that I stood on top of Springer Mountain, Georgia. As I watched my wife drive away into the fog just 20 minutes earlier, I stood there for a moment thinking about what I’d already been through just to get to this starting point, a feat in itself. How so many had already dropped off in their own struggles to get where I stood on Mar 12th 2014.

What was I thinking? Is this just crazy? Probably in some sense. But now, as I look back I realize there was no way this attempt would not happen. It was just a dream for so many years, one that would nudge me relentlessly and quietly for decades. I wasn’t getting any younger and the built in flexibility of my job allowed me to juggle the time off….. I’m going!!

There are so many reasons we all do things….big things, little things, difficult things and sometimes things that seem impossible. For me, at that moment, I took my first steps of what was to become one of the most amazing, incredible experiences I’d ever know. I had no illusions about the difficulty that was in store for me and it didn’t take long for those tests to begin.

We are never given more than we can handle, even though the outcome may be different than we planned for. I held on to that each night in my little nylon one man sanctuary in the few moments of quiet before sleep would rush over me and allow me to forget how totally exhausted I was.

I have to be honest and say that in the first week as we ( I mean me) struggled against the snow and ice with temperatures getting down to 12 degrees….while I shivered in my sleeping bag with every stitch of clothing I brought on…. I had thoughts of quitting. I was too cold to get my stove out and cook anything…. I had been hiking with my first group only a couple days and they just prepared some hot soup and gave it to me…. I’ll never forget that moment. It was their kindness and thoughts of the children that I was hiking for that got me through that night. That was the only time the thought of failure would enter my mind.

The days became weeks and the weeks became months…. We had awesome weather and we had terrible weather. We had climbs that sometimes that were so difficult that you would barely move one foot past the other…the death hike! We had downhills that pounded away at your knees for miles and the rocks!!! We had fantastic views and times when you couldn’t see anything. But, the people were unbelievable! The best part of the trail was always the people…. so kind, so honest, and so helpful. It didn’t matter what age you were. We were all family! There are so many people I could name here but you know who you are…. Thank you, I will always remember with such kindness.

Unfortunately for me, due to injury, I fell a little short. When it was time to walk away, I thank God that I was provided a way out in an area that is very difficult to get out of when injured. I will return to the trail in April/May of 2015 to continue as a section hiker. It stings a little not to be a thru-hiker anymore but I will finish the trail and I’ll be in awesome company just the same. The feet are 90% back as are the knees and the ribs have healed well….. I’m ready for more.

In closing we raised over 11 thousand dollars to help children with autism through the Brent Woodall Foundation in Dallas TX….. I’m very proud to have been a part of that and thank all of you that stepped up to make a difference. Count the blessing in your lives…sometimes it’s easy to forget how fortunate we are!!!

p.s. I will continue with my journal as I section hike the rest of the AT…. I hope you will continue to follow me along… I loved your comments….Thank You!

With Love,
Chris…… Tank : )

(Left to Right) Carley Waltenburg - Director, Chris (Tank), Tracy Bender - Executive Director

Left to Right Carley Waltenburg – Director, Chris (Tank), Tracy Bender – Executive Director

Left to Right Carley Waltenburg - Director, Chris (Tank), Tracy Bender - Executive Director

This painting was done by Brent Woodall staff and students as a way to say thanks!.

4 Responses to AT 2014 and My Hike for Autism

  1. Mark

    Fantastic story. I look forward to reading the conclusion next spring. Great job Chris.

  2. Steve and Babs Gorey

    Very well presented Chris. We will look forward to the continuation of your journey. You did good kid!!! Stay well. Babs and Steve Gorey

  3. Trolley Stop

    Well done Chris. Not only won’t you lose any followers but many more will join as you finish your trek. You’re a special guy…not only for hiking the AT but for making a difference at the same time for all those kids helped in the process. Look forward to your 2015 section hike.

  4. max1038

    May God bless you & your family , I look forward to your post as you finish your dream.

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