Articles, Blog

REI Presents: Paul’s Boots


I have two questions. What would you do for the
person you love the most? And what would you do
for a complete stranger? (birds chirping) Camera rolling. Recording. Three, two, one, go. [M’Lynn] Dear Editor, my
Australian husband of 17 years spent the last few months of his life polishing his old hiking
boots and salvaging tin cans in search of that one perfect size for his stove and backpack. Paul was completely drawn
in to the Appalachian Trail. Thing is, he had a bad heart, and while I suspect he knew
he would never make it back to the bush again, he took great joy in preparing for that one last hike. Paul died just two weeks
shy of his 54th birthday. As I look over at his
freshly polished boots, it makes me wonder. How good would it be for his
boots to make that journey? There are three pairs of quality, yet old and worn hiking boots, size 12-13. Whoever volunteers can keep them. All I want in return are
photos of Paul’s boots on the trail, and I know he would get such a kick out of knowing that his boots made it to the Appy Trail even if he did not. Sincerely yours, M’Lynn
in Ipswich, Australia. (nostalgic music) My name’s Alexander Newlon and I’m trhu hiking
the Appalachian Trail. Came out here last April. Got further than I thought
I was gonna make it. Got all the way up through Massachusetts, but I’m pretty excited to be back. I didn’t think I was
gonna be back this soon. When I found out about Paul’s story, that really got me to do it. Say (beep) it do the whole thing again. Don’t hold back ’cause
that was always my dream. What are those guys? Those are my medicine, that’s
my medicine for my epilepsy. So I gotta take, oh, this
isn’t even all of it. I actually just had a
seizure a few months ago, about a month and a half ago and they upped my doses to 750
at night and in the morning, so now I get two of these
guys instead of this one. This is an older one. Just a automatic reboot. So for me, I know it’s going
to happen sometime or later so whether I’m on the trail
or whether I’m at home. Could happen when I’m driving, so… I’m not gonna let this stop
me from completing my dream just ’cause I’m scared I
might get killed from it. Can’t live your life like that. (birds chirping) The first big challenge is
getting a driver’s license ’cause if I have three seizures in a year, they’ll take it away. Second, probably biggest
hurdle after that would be what I’m allowed to do and
what I’m not allowed to do in civilized society. But I got tired of being told no that I couldn’t do this
because of my condition. And I’ve always loved the outdoors and going hiking in Florida. I wanted to prove it to everybody else that I could do it. Seizures shouldn’t stop you from doing it. I get to do anything I want out here. Push myself as hard as I want,
go as far as I want to go, and do pretty much anything and nobody telling me that I can’t do it. (peaceful guitar music) (banjo music) Best part so far is definitely community. Basically a trail family
is just a group of people that you’re hiking with and you’re seeing them
day-to-day or every few days. It just really fun to have
people to hike with out here. Become friends with them. Two days, you’re pretty much best friends. I’m in a great trail family right now so I got me, Trail Name is “Daddy Longlegs” Pace is a former Marine. Mace got his name from spraying
himself with bear mace. Trail Mix is our trail family’s mom. And then we have a few more
people, like Avalon and David, Chef, Polar Bear, Gretel, and Hawkeye. So we’ve got a great family right now, just hiking up the trail. Doesn’t matter how fast you go. Last one to Katahdin wins. And you’ll make some
lifelong friends out here. You truly will. You’ll have some magical
moments out here, too. You’ll have some rough times, the trail never gets easier,
but it’s just simply beautiful. Just get out. Okay, I’ll talk to you guys later. Later in the day. – [Grace] I’ve always wanted
to make both mom and dad proud. Whether that’s volunteering or
hiking the Appalachian Trail with a pair of boots that
are four and a half pounds, by the way, I did weigh them. How are you feeling, Dad? I’m okay. You ready? Yeah. All right, we got Paul,
he’s strapped to my back. We’re going to do this. We don’t have these kinds
of mountains where I’m from. Yes, this is beautiful. Say “Hi”, pop. Hi I don’t think either of us
realized just the magnitude of the Appalachian Trail. [Marvin] It’s like the
whole world has been upset, and to get anywhere,
you have to go uphill. We got here in about, how many hours? About two? Two, three days I think, wasn’t it? [Grace] We are in the home stretch. We have probably just about a mile left and we know that it’s
gotta be straight up. – [Marvin] I had not eaten
much that day, if anything, and of course when you physically
exert yourself sometimes or over-do it, sometimes you just heave. We both look so lovely in the morning. Oh, excuse me. You got anything you want to say, pop? No. (laughter) Any words of wisdom? No. He’s a ball of laughs. I just wondered how you
were handling the fact that, looking at your father lagging behind. Sweating profusely. Well you know that’s part
of the reason why I did this. What, to punish me? No, because I am realizing
that you’re getting older and I just want to do
everything I can before you go. Well, honey, let’s not rush it along. Oh, we still got six days, so… But you’re not a disappointment. Well I just wish I
had a little more oomph. I’m just not used to carrying a backpack. I think pop is going to hang out here and I’m going to try my best
to continue on with Paul and the boots, to Fontana. The next few days doesn’t
look like much fun, but its the Appalachian Trail, so of course it’s gotta be fun. ♫ Just singing in the rain, ♫ What a glorious feeling, We’re like in the coldest,
I guess, May, ever? And I’m not used to this. But I’m so happy I’m full and warm-sh, or warmer than I was when I started today. Guess where we are. We are at Fontana Dam. We made it! Me and Paul made it! I’m really happy! Because its just, We made it! There were some downfalls and some unexpected twists and turns and rain and cold weather… We made it! We made it to Fontana Dam. [Tom] After four years
of active military service I was ready for something else and college didn’t really give it to me and I called my dad up,
and I was like “Hey dad, so I’m going to drop out of school and hike the AT next year” Within a year, I was
on trail, hiking north, by the halfway point, I knew that I was going
to do a lot more hiking and I got off trail for
a week in Pennsylvania and I moved every belonging that I owned out of the house that I was living in. Did not renew the lease, and put it in storage. I haven’t gone back to
that storage unit in years. My parents know me as Tom. The world knows me as
the Real Hiking Viking. My name is Jabba, and
it’s not just because I’m an intergalactic
crime lord slash gangster, I like to eat like one, too. When you listen to music
when you hike, man, you get moving! Love it, Paul! Good views this morning, Paul. What do you think of that, man? We’ve got about a 30 mile day ahead of us. I don’t know if you’re up for it, but you don’t get a choice. Ahhhh, nice and cold. Woo! Jamming to tunes. Woo hoo! Well, Paul, you get to go
through the guillotine. I call it the guillotine
because as you can see, this rock is just lodged and if it decided to drop
right now, well, Paul, maybe somebody would be
carrying my boots one day. I wasn’t sure, when I first head about you that I wanted to carry the extra weight. I’ve hiked thousands and
thousands and thousands of miles carrying nothing but
the things that I need. I just figured, this
is the least I could do to help somebody else out. I’m glad I did it, but
you are heavy, dude. That’s my confession. Glad you’re here, Paul! [Diana] There’s those
moments where you can like feel the tension in the air. I could definitely tell that
it was just wearing mom away and there were times where
sometimes I’d go to bed and I’d wake up and hear her crying. Momma. Hey, I’m feeling good today. I’m amazed at how good we’re doing. It was a complete collapse
of our family life. Our family business burned down, our house literally fell in and my oldest daughter,
one day she called, and she’d been sexually assaulted. That was it. I remember just falling on the floor and just saying I can’t get up. I had to put Cubby in the front, because I don’t want him
coming up behind her. Better I be bear bait than you. I have so much adrenaline pumping now, I just can’t stand it. And, eventually, I just got so depleted. I just kept trying to fix
and fix or put out fires and I couldn’t do it anymore. My husband said “you
ought to hit the trail”. That’s what drove us out
there, a lot of sadness. We came back with a lot
of joy, a lot of healing. There goes Cubby, hiking
towards our first blaze. Since we’ve been back, in three
years, this is my first hill and it’s only a hill and
I’m really sucking in air but I will get better
and I will get stronger. That’s one of the coolest things about the through-hiker culture is we all look out for each other, and you always have
miracle stories like this. Paul, you have some massive boots. Day in, day out,
living at three miles per hour where no one tells you what
to do but you, every day. It’s getting kind of real up here. I can’t imagine a freer life. I made relationships with people that will be my best friends
until the day that we die. Harvey, meet Paul! Paul, Harvey! I am from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He’s hiking the trail. So we’ve been getting creative
about how we see each other. Hikers crossing, because we, in fact, are wildlife. Woo! They’re on the trail!! I’m feeling good Just good company to keep us motivated for the last couple of days. I’m so happy that these guys came along because we had a moment of laughing, and then we just had our moments of uuugg just because of the heat. I’m hiking, I’m trying
to find myself again. We got a room Spoiling the boots tonight! Yeah I feel like euphoria. (classic rock music) There’s a lot of people
who read Hemingway and not everybody runs the bulls. Having ran the bulls,
I’ve seen it first hand. It’s a certain person, it’s a certain thought
process and mentality and I think that’s who Paul obviously was. Through him and by us, we’re continuing that type of mentality and
that love and that drive. Not only for Paul and M’Lynn but everybody who has ever
wanted to walk this trail and everybody who’s ever
wanted to get off the bus. Oohh, I ran with the bulls. Hashtag humblebrag. How do they feel? They feel pretty good. Let’s get some miles on them. I think this is an old either Boy Scout or Native American trick. I don’t know which one. If you’ll notice, race
fans, his altered gait, commonly known as monkey butt, chafing, I would assume that it
probably hurts pretty bad. It’s probably pretty hot. Nylon shorts are probably
melted to his legs. It’s starting to rain on us. You’re not going to notice,
we’re already soaking wet. This is torrential. Really uncomfortable right now. It’s stanky in here. I mean, its like, five days, no shower. A lot of miles a day stank. Three days of rain really
dampens sh*t, doesn’t it? Not a lot of space. Be really comfortable with one another. Yeah. Great bachelor party. About to drink the rest of this bourbon so I don’t have to carry it out tomorrow. How you feeling, Brian? I don’t know if you want to know. It’s been raining, my air mattress popped, so I’m feeling wet and I have a sore back. I’m hungry and I want a cup of coffee. Recurring theme of my life. How are you feeling, Bill? I feel like a champ. When the trail says
there’s a view, you go find it. I think if Paul was here right now, he’d be really having a good time. Having a little nip or
bourbon now and then and just talking about
all the days on the trail that we’ve all had. Coming up on one of the most famous and scenic portions of the AT. It’s called Interstate 84. It’s loud and obnoxious. Man, Paul would love this. I want to get back in the woods. Listen to this. Nothing. Nothing unnatural. This is why I hike. I think it’s raining! When people ask, I tell them that I’ve lost two of my
brothers to sudden cardiac death. Both when they were 18. Rainy morning on the trail. When I was 20, I got a
phone call from my dad. He told me that my
brother Jeff passed away running onto the lacrosse
field to start a game. Eight years later, almost
to the day, my brother Will, he died just getting off his bike. After Will passed away, my brother and I were both outfitted with an ICD, which is an Internal Cardio Defibrillator. It’s basically like having the paddles like you see in a hospital
show, but planted inside you. I went back home and just
laid in bed for a while and started to think about
what I had left behind. Not only had I lost my brother, but I lost the capacity
to create joy for myself. So it’s the middle of the night, it’s been raining like crazy. I don’t know if you can see it, but the water is like six inches… I decided that I would do
my best to make memories with Will, with Jeff,
that were worthy of them. Back in the bag or try to
go out and drain the sucker. (Bleep) (Bleep) When I got on the trail, I just invited Paul along for the ride. Ahhh… ♫ Always boots too large to fill ♫ Really lets me feel my heart ♫ And the love is moving still ♫ When you open up your heart ♫ Good old Paul was way too young ♫ But in our hearts he will remain ♫ These old boots keep moving on ♫ Up from Georgia, clear to Maine ♫ These old boots keep moving on ♫ Up from Georgia, clear to Maine. Can you just give me a big smile? Hey! That was amazing, man. Man, I love life now. I’ve been on top of summits
that I used to just read about. Look at this view, holy sh*t. I’ve been underneath waterfalls, I’ve watched sunrises and sunsets from the most mindbendingly
beautiful places. To be able to have that and to know that there’s a piece of
my brothers along with me, it’s really shaped my life for the better. Last night on the trail with Paul. A meaning feeling reaffirmed that the path
I’ve chosen is creating joy. Not only to myself,
but to those around me. The most powerful message
I’m taking with me, is it happiness, joy, stoke,
whatever you call it, has the power to heal the soul. My goal now is to spend more time highlighting the joys in life
than the petty inconveniences. Thank you, Paul, for dreaming big and for bringing joy to
the people in your life. Your dreams helped me
find the joy in myself so I can share it with the world. Hey, baby! I missed you! I missed you, too! Say goodbye to Paul here. You need to take the trail one step at a time. You think you can just conquer it, but it has a way of wearing people down. My love of the trail
is closely intertwined with my relationship with my wife. When I hiked when I was younger, I had only been on one date with her. We wrote back and forth as I was hiking and started to fall in love
through a series of letters because in those days, that
was how you communicated. She came to meet me, then I decided to give
up the hike at that point to go back to Boston with her and I’ve been with her ever since. Was it worth it? Yes, oh yes, absolutely yes. To cut that trip short, it was
the right thing to do, yes. So I’ve talked about it
on occasion in the past, wouldn’t it be nice to go back
and I felt too responsible. Still have the mortgage, still
have all sorts of commitments so I said it doesn’t feel right. Anne is the one that said,
“No, all of those things, we can manage. This is your time.” So I wasn’t sure my body
was going to hold up for the whole thing. I had long-standing issues, like my knees were always
giving me problems. Even though I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to do it, the stars had aligned, in a sense, for me to try it this one time. When I was in the first stage of my hike, I was very goal-oriented:
getting to a particular place, getting to a particular place sooner, and then I had this moment
when it dawned on me that I was hiking my hike the
way that I had lived my life up to that point in time. I realized that this was my opportunity to do things differently. Mentally I changed the approach that I’m going to enjoy each day not matter how many miles I hike. I hope it is the start of a
new way of approaching life. So this time, every step I take is a step in the right direction and I’m not going to worry
about how far I have yet to go. I’ve been given this opportunity that a lot of people don’t have and it’s just incredible. Sort of the general
definition of steepness, is if it climbs a thousand feet in a mile, this one is definitely that. Hard to call it a hiking trail. You have to climb over that. I don’t have a miraculous story. I’m 51 years old, and I’ve been
a single mom my whole life. Now that my daughter is old
enough to stay home alone. I’ve decided it’s time to
start living out my dream and passion for hiking,
one step at a time. This is what we’re embracing today, yesterday, tomorrow, beyond. Let’s do it. (upbeat electronic music) (laughter) We did it! How are you feeling? Fantastic. At this point, a little beat up, but overall
we’re feeling pretty great It’s been too short of a
trip, but it’s been amazing. Hey, Tick Tock here. I have made it to Maine. The sign behind me is not as
dramatic as you might like, but I’m here alive to tell
about it, so it went fine. So of all of the sort of
handful of sections of trail that really looked intimidating
to me before I started there is only one left. The one that’s left is Katahdin itself, and I’m getting closer to that every day. So, I’m looking forward to it. Last time I
was in the United States was December 30, 1998. What are you most excited for? All of it! I’m excited to go on the trail, I’m excited to go see the people who are doing this with Paul’s boots. I’m really excited about the whole thing (phone rings) Are you guys all ready to go? Yes, you believe me right? Yes, I do, hopefully you are. A few months after my brother’s passing I got a phone call from
my sister-in-law, M’Lynn with a proposition of flying
with her over to Maine to do the final trek
with my brother’s boots up to the top of Mount Katahdin
in Baxter State Forest. We’re at LAX. A bit tired, but excited, a bit nervous. This is my first time
overseas, or anywhere, it’s great to be in the US. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. I told you I knew what my surprise was. How are you? Oh, god! So good to meet you! So good! We’re going to Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of
the Appalachian Trail. We’re going to the base of the
mountain in Baxter State Park to meet the King family,
David, Michael and Marayah, who got a pair of Paul’s
boots waiting for us to team up with Arthur,
finish the objective, get Paul to the top, the end of the trail. All the hard work of everyone. Major storm hitting
the mountain right now. When it clears, we’re
going to get after it, we’re going to take Paul on top
and finish what was started. Is it your birthday today? Perfect, it is. Thanks for reminding me. Is today your birthday? Yeah, it’s my birthday today. Happy birthday, dude, jeez! He was a fantastic brother. Normally did a lot of camping. I saw a different side of my brother then. He really, really enjoyed
talking with others. He’d make friends wherever he went. You carrying Paul’s boots? Yeah. They feel heavy? No, they’re fine. We’re off again. How’s it going? It’s tough, very tough. Slowly, we’ll make it. This is ridiculous. Bad? Yeah. When I started cramping up scrambling over those
unrealistic boulders. Honestly, is this the trail? I could hear him in the
back of my head saying, Arthur you have to do it, you have to get there. It’s fantastic. (indie rock music) Paul would have loved to see
the impact that these boots and his story has had on others. Hi Paul! Woo! Me and Paul made it! So much positive coming out of this and it’s not finished yet. There’s always going
to be another dish to wash or a bed to make or laundry to do but your time with people is short and our time here is limited. I lost sight of that
with Paul, we both did. It’s really important to get out there and do the stuff that feeds your soul that feeds your brain, that makes you feel this
is what life is all about. I’m stoked about the whole
thing, even with the pain. I wrote a letter, I asked someone to help me find a hiker to
wear my husband’s boots. And it mushroomed. I am so grateful. They’re not just boots anymore and they’re not just my
husband’s boots anymore. They’re just a whole new thing. This is why we can’t have nice things. Hey, keep it down! You can hear me all right? So, when you go poop, make sure you’re pretty far
off the trail, dig a cathole, bury it about six inches. Keep your headphones out of your ears so you can hear people coming up on you because you don’t want
that to happen to you. I wasn’t sure if I was
going to share that or not but Paul thought it was pretty funny so… It’ll be a real fun ride. A rock, already! M’Lynn, thank you so much for sharing Paul’s dream with us. Alright, love you guys, thank you, bye.

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