Earlier this year I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. I hiked it to challenge myself, to push myself to the limits. I did it for myself, for no monetary gain, or media attention. I did it because I needed to do it.
However, I did receive some flattering press after completing my hike, which while not sought, was greatly appreciated. I have, for many years, tried to raise awareness for research for Lupus, a disease that has left me paralyzed from the waist down. My efforts in this regard have included hiking the Appalachian Trail last year, working on a possible book proposal, and regularly speaking at events. In fact, I did speaking events during my PCT hike, which I publicized on my social media accounts (and so I cannot and have never claimed I completed the hike uninterrupted). Public speaking is not particularly easy or natural for me, as I by nature don’t like talking about myself. However, considering all I’ve gone through and overcome over the years from my initial Lupus diagnosis, it’s a challenge I’ve taken on.
Shortly after these positive articles were released about my hike, certain members in the hiking community began to challenge whether I actually did complete the trail. Unfortunately, what evidence I have is certainly not dispositive. I can answer questions, show photos, and discuss details. I can introduce you to my family, to my prosthetist orthotist, my friends. I can introduce you to all the people who have known me for many years and know my character, the numerous people who hiked with me on the AT. I can even tell you that I received no sponsorship or benefit from any company for my hike, and in fact actively chose not to seek such support. But the only thing that could quell all of these inquiries entirely is if someone hiked with me every second of every day, which did not happen. Not only did I want to do this on my own, I don’t know of anyone who would have the patience to stick with my slow pace.
As I said before, I don’t find it easy to talk about myself. Initially, when I first got wind of this backlash my first response was to go off social media entirely and take the high road, especially knowing that I could never provide the proof needed to answer all of these questions. I also needed some time to process all of this as well, as the comments have hurt me so much personally. I guess I even wishfully thought that perhaps this would just go away on its own.
But there’s unfortunately an assumption in today’s world that silence means guilt, as compared to dignity. So I will respond this one time in a public forum.
I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail.