Cover image: Easter R&R in Erwin Tennessee with trail family. Images: Nick Myers
I founded TrailVets after becoming a believer in the power of wilderness therapy.
It wasn’t long after I completed my first thru hike of the Appalachian Trail that I was approached by several veterans expressing their own desire to complete the 2,189-mile effort from Georgia to Maine. On my own pilgrimage to Mt. Katahdin I had noticed that a large population of thru hikers were fellow veterans experiencing the healing effects of the mountains and expansive vistas that make up The People’s Trail. It helped me after my service. I wanted to share.Kory enjoying the peace and solitude of trail life on Watauga lake.
Peace on the Trail
Whether it was PTSD, social anxiety or any number of service connected disabilities, we found the peace that we were looking for—at least for a few months. I wanted to spread the word about my discovery. To shout from the tops of mountains: Victory was mine!
Spreading the Word
And so I did. I talked with men and women that had walked in the boots that serve our country, and we all felt the same thing: our brothers and sisters in arms needed to breath in the freedom of the wild. To inhale deep breaths of the clean, refreshing liberty of forest air and exhale the conflict in our minds.
I resolved to bring more of us out there. Even if only for a weekend or a short day hike. The idea was to get them hooked on a natural way of dealing with their personal conflicts. Of course I don’t want to clash with the opinions of doctors in regards to diagnosis and treatment of mental health, rather supplement efforts to curb the symptoms associated with them.
On the way to the summit of Roan mountain, one of the highest on the AT at over 6,200 feet.
The Mountains are Calling...
So, almost immediately after my trek, I embarked on another. An old friend from the Marine Corps cashed in on my promise to hike the trail with him if he ever had the opportunity. Organizations like Warrior Expeditions and Veteran Outdoor adventures inspired us to reach out to vets in South Carolina.
At first our focus was on those who had experienced trauma while serving in the military. But why exclude civilians who had suffered in their own lives? Alcoholism, depression, addiction and a multitude of afflictions that lead to an unhealthy and crestfallen life are an enemy for so many. As a way to reach out, we created TrailVets.
It’s simple, we post the location of our hikes on social media and we practically beg for new members to join us. We’ve accumulated basic gear items for those that need it with generous donations and our own retired pieces. Let’s leave them with no excuse, we say. Everyone is invited.
While on a recent jaunt back to South Carolina, word got out among the Marines at a yearly reunion about our grand idea. Their support was overwhelming and even if only one of them joins us, our mission was successful. It’s a mission that our little group is happy to accept.
Find us on the trail! We’re currently headed north on the AT.
Facebook Group page: TrailVets