Tag Archives: Springer Mtn

An Exception for SuperStacey!

imrs.php.jpegI’m wary of stories concerning people beginning AT thru-hikes (or in the process). Before I began my 1973 Maine-to-Georgia trek, I was approached by a reporter who wanted to do a feature on my planned hike. I demurred and asked her to wait until I finished. After I hit Springer, she interviewed me for a story that ran nationally in Grit.

I make an exception for Stacey Kozel who recently passed the halfway point of her NOBO thru-hike. Stacey has suffered from lupus for more than two painful decades. An attack a couple of years ago short-circuited her central nervous system and left her immobile. But refusing to stay down for the count, she labored mightily to regain control of her arms and upper body. Sadly, her legs remained paralyzed. Researching on her own, she discovered a microprocessor-enabled device known as the C-Brace. She battled the insurance people and received funding for two C-Braces at a cost of $150,000. Her ability to walk was restored, and she began practicing wearing a pack and walking on uneven terrain.

Then, she announced she was going to hike the AT in 2016.

Not only is she struggling mightily to make her enabling technology serve mile after mile, she is having to protect her hardware from the weather and other rigors of the AT. She is also serving as an ambassador for all people struggling with disabilities. If she can do this, she feels, she can inspire others. I only wish she had been among the Katahdin-bound thru-hikers I met this year near Springer Mtn. I would certainly have insisted on a hug.

So, I suspend my “don’t applaud until they are finished” rule for Stacey. I love her spirit, and I look forward to hearing what she thought about the rugged trails of New England after she triumphantly scales Katahdin later this year. Stay vertical, my hiking friends, and keep walkin’!




Hawkeye is the man!

Inspiration feeds on itself. Just days after putting out a post about the death of Bill Irwin, one of the most inspiring thru-hikers of all time, I was on Springer Mtn. There, I met a gentleman named Hawkeye. Let me tell you why Hawkeye is 2014’s Bill Irwin award winner. This 67-year-old NOBO was with his girlfriend who — amazingly — is also his kidney donor. Years ago, Hawkeye had a new kidney installed. He has also battled heart disease, but he seems oblivious to these problems. He was hugging his sweetheart goodbye and heading for Katahdin. She’ll support him along the way. Hawkeye is a tough hombre but also a very decent, gentle spirited man. I hugged him and his friend, wishing  them well. March 24, I hiked south from Woody Gap and ran into him again. He was in high spirits and ready to tackle the rest of Georgia. God go with you Hawkeye. You’re my favorite hiker this year.  Stay vertical and keep walkin’ all the way to the Big K!