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Appalachian Trail 2014

 

Rugby (Callum)                  BigTex (Paul)

On Franconia Ridge in The White Mountains of New Hampshire

In 2014 my son and I hiked the Appalachian Trail. We started on February 28th and finished August 4th and had an amazing adventure. Although I had served 22 years in the British Army nothing could of prepared me for this challenge. With our over weight packs, too much gear, naive expectations but determined attitude, we left Springer Mountain on a cold but dry day and headed north. Over the next 5 1/2 months we faced the challenges of injury, illness, snow, sleet, rain, heat and humidity, the Virginia “blues”, snakes and bugs! But despite all the hard times there was so many great times. Friendships that will last, views that are burnt into our memory and accomplishments over adversity. I am blessed to have shared this experience with my son and hope one day to take on an adventure with him again.

The trail folks called me “BigTex” even though I was happy with my real name “Paul”. I was named by trail friends after a long days hiking followed by a long night at a “hostel” (it was actually a store in the middle of nowhere Tennessee) who were high on sugar filled sodas. I finally gave in and adopted the trail name “BigTex” and now, as they say, the rest is history!

Callum was named “Rugby” due to his continual talking about the game.

CALLUM

“Rugby”IMG_4782

 

 PAUL

“BigTex”

IMG_4681

Hi. My name is Cal, I’m 24 and I have very virtually no serious experience in hiking, camping or the outdoors. Sure, I’ve bumbled my way around Mt. Snowdon and done some rambling in the British countryside for a few hours but honestly, I’m far more comfortable somewhere with four walls and hot running water.So naturally, when my Dad told me his intention to walk the 2168 miles, mountainous Appalachian trail, I immediately offered to accompany him. “Doing a bit of walking? I do that almost daily! How hard could it be?”. Although I’d like to think this was at least partially due to bravado, the truth is that it was probably more to do with a great deal of ignorance.After a short amount of time and a small bit of investigation it became apparent that what I had signed up was going to require a greater amount of commitment and effort than I had originally thought. 5 months was a long time. 2168 miles is a long way to go. 3,129 miles is far from home… and hiking is hard.However, I am never keen to take back something back once I’ve said it. No matter how ill conceived or poorly informed. Besides, there will be no better time to attempt a challenge such as this. I have yet to establish a serious career, start a mortgage or have any children; all of which may prove problematic if you intend to disappear into some woods in the US for half a year. Plus, with my dad living abroad I have not had the opportunity to spend as much time with him as I might have liked and it would be nice to have the chance. On a personal level I’m thinking my life could use a little direction or inspiration and maybe stepping out of my comfort zone and tackling a challenge is exactly what is needed. If nothing else it gets me out of working for a few months.It was decided; I am walking the Appalachian Trail.In addition, we will be doing it for a great cause. Help for Heroes is a great charity that supports those who have made huge sacrifices and endured greater trials than I can possibly imagine. Growing up in a military household as well as being lucky enough to have many friends who have or are currently with the armed forces has left me with a profound respect for those individuals who serve. The support that this organisation gives to injured veterans and their families has a massively positive effect on many lives and is something that I am definitely passionate about. With this in mind, we are hoping that we will be able to raise enough money for Help for Heroes to make some difference.And so… I’m travelling half way across the world, away from the people I love, hot food and an easy life to do far more exercise than I’m used to. I know that it’s going to be a rewarding experience, that I’ll enjoy myself and that it might be something I remember forever. If not I know watching me suffer will at least be a source of entertainment to those who know me best.Thanks for reading.   Having served over 22 years in the British Army I retired to take a job in the United States of America. Initially for a one year contract……..that was 9 years ago and I have been working ever since. Having gained promotion and positions within companies here I am now in a lead management job, which comes with its usual requirements of long hours, working weekends, sat in the office, meetings and stress. The result; I gained over 40lbs (3 1/2 stones), need tablets for stress related acid reflux, tablets to sleep and unsatisfied with the challenges in my life. The answer; walk 2168 mile of the Appalachian Trail, reset my body, lose weight and decide what’s next in my life. Next year I will be 50 years old and working is not my life, work is a means to live.A few situations occurred recently that confirmed to me that life really is too short. Two friends died, both of brain related tumors, both my age, and my own ailing health and lack of stimulation meant things needed to change.I missed a lot of my sons teenage years and this has been a real regret from me. When I asked him if he would join me on the challenge he jumped at the opportunity. Being joined by Callum has really boosted my anticipation of getting on the trail. Being able to share the experiences with him and go through something like this is really important to me. I know it is something few fathers would get to do with their children and sharing this adventure with Callum is just the icing on the cake.Help for Heroes was our chosen charity, there are plenty of charities we could have chosen, some closer to home than others. Having served around the world with the British Army, losing colleagues, team members and friends, seeing the effects of a blast bomb on one of my soldiers faces….it wasn’t a hard choice.And so here it is, the challenge, the chance to reset my life and experience something very few people in the world do with my son. A 2168 mile hike along the Appalachian mountain range, living in the wild, being eaten by bugs, eating reheated pouch meals and drinking warm water, the constant threat of Lyme’s disease, Gardia, bear attack and rattlesnakes……..did I mention the bugs?!?