Paul's Boots

Last year, Paul passed away before he could make his dream reality. But that’s not the end of this story – it’s the beginning. This is the story of how we all help each other achieve dreams.
Paul's Story
Paul was a big guy with a quick wit and kind heart.
He wore size 13 boots. Despite a job as draftsman in the big city, he was happiest out on the trail. When Paul was 42, doctors diagnosed his mom with Parkinson’s. He nursed her for four years until her death. By that time, his father developed Alzheimer’s. The gaps between hiking trips grew longer and longer. By the time his father passed in 2011, Paul had two heart attacks. His love for the outdoors never diminished.

Even as his body failed him, Paul started to pack for the trip he’d dreamed of completing—all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. At night, he’d recount to his wife, M’Lynn, all he’d learned in his research.
His heart no longer allowed him to walk much further than the end of his block, but his soul was ready to go. Next to a full backpack, he left his three polished sets of hiking boots. Last July, Paul passed away. He was 53.

As M’Lynn moved through the stages of grief, it came time to tidy up Paul’s gear for a trip he wouldn’t take. She had an idea—one last gift to the man she loved. She needed help. Could we and our greater outdoor community get these boots out on the trail?
Paul's Story
2,190 miles.
14 states.
5 National Parks.
And a lot of rad hikers.
Let's do this. Follow along. #PaulWalksOn
Fitz Cahall, creator of the 9+ year running podcast The Dirtbag Diaries, shares his sentiments on helping M’Lynn with her mission:
“I wish this wasn’t a story we had to tell. I wish M’Lynn had never had a reason to reach out. I wish Paul was putting the final preparations to launch out on the trail this March. Unfortunately, this is a sad story. But it’s a story that M’Lynn, that the crew at The Diaries and our extended community is bent on making as positive as possible. The fact that we can all come together to write a different conclusion to Paul’s story, that’s what makes us a community. I feel lucky to be involved. We get one crack at this. It’s incredible to see everyone get behind it.”
Episode 1: Paul's Boots
Episode 2: On the Trail
In January 2016, we partnered with Dirtbag Diaries to tell Paul's story and asked the outdoor community for help carrying his boots the length of the Appalachian Trail. Out of the hundreds of people who volunteered we narrowed down the logistics to a couple dozen groups. These are some of the hikers who will carry Paul's Boots.
Thomas aka The Real Hiking Viking
Trail Name: Jabba. South Bound Thru-hiker was the first to hike with Paul boots. "...Tucked into the straps on my backpack. I'll be sure to see that they get just as dirty. It's an honor to shoulder the load so that Paul walks on."
Trail Name: Daddy Long Legs, is a NOBO thru hiker with a tight trail family and carrying Paul’s boots the length of the Appalachian Trail.
Trail Name: Alley Cat, is a newly-hired Yellowstone NP Ranger and is hiking with her dad, Marvin. Since she was a tiny kiddo, she has been giving her time to our National Monuments and Parks, working her way up from junior grom ranger, to volunteer ranger, to intern.
Jamie & Davis
Trail building lovebirds who met on an AT trail crew and are hiking New York section. “My twenties have felt like a series of mazes and mirrors and dead ends and epiphanies, many of which have taken place on paddling trips, hikes and adventures with friends."
Kai’s dad introduced him to the outdoors as a kid: summers camping, hiking, and canoeing in upstate NY. His dad also had heart problems like Paul. "I carry my dad with me wherever I go, but I’ve got the strength to carry more. It would be an honor to carry Paul’s boots."
Doug & Katie
Katie wrote to us to help get Doug committed to doing something he has always wanted to do: "It isn't lack of commitment that leads Doug to put his AT dream on the back burner; it's quite the opposite. Like Paul, Doug is the type of person who inherently prioritizes others above himself."
Bonnie & Diana
Trail Name: The Flip Floppers are a mother and daughter team from Florida who thru hiked in 2013 to heal their own family. Now they are hiking in hopes of helping heal Paul's family.
Matt is a REI employee and father who is planning (and training for) a 2017 thru-hike of the AT with his son in celebration of high school graduation. He hopes to send his son into the world with 2100+ miles of memories.
Bill & Brian
Bill and Brian are best friends. Paratroopers. Climbing Partners. These guys met in Iraq in 2006 and have had each other's back ever since. They are hiking to celebrate life, bromance, Brian's MBA and their two weddings this summer.
Chrissie was a guide and outdoor educator in her 20s. Now, with a PhD under her belt and an office in Manhattan, she gets her daily run in at Central Park and dreams of trails and mountains. She hikes with her husband, Cameron, who is just back from deployment
Tricia is a single mom whose daughter is finally old enough to stay at home alone. "I don't have a miraculous story. I'm 51 and have been a single mom for a lot of my life. Now that my daughter is old enough to stay home alone, I’ve decided it's time to start living my dream."
Brittany is a Smithsonian educator and trip leader with Outdoor Afro, Brittany has been planning a group hike for this fall along a section of trail that Harriet Tubman travelled. In preparation for that adventure, she will be hiking with Paul's boots in West Virginia.