After Paul Stutzman’s wife died, Paul quit his job to hike the Appalachian trail to give himself time to think and to heal. Hiking Through: Finding Peace and Freedom on the Appalachian Trail is his story.
We interviewed Paul to find out more about his spiritual journey. Enjoy!
Thank you for this interview, Paul. Can we begin by asking you what your life was like before your 2,176 mile journey and what it was like afterwards?
Paul: Like many folks my life was filled with job stresses, bills and the daily challenges of life. I left for work every morning at the restaurant I managed and in the evening when I returned the house was clean and the laundry was done. I took for granted that it would stay that way. Now I realize someone was actually cleaning our house and if I want clean clothes I need to do my own laundry. I had indeed taken my spouse for granted. It is so true, we don’t know what we have till it’s gone.
How long did it take you to prepare for your hike and what essentials did you pack?
Paul: It takes many hikers up to one year to prepare for a thru-hike. I only had two months to get ready. I sought the advice of a former thru-hiker who worked at an outfitter. His input on pack weight, sleeping bag, water filtration systems were very helpful.
Where did you stay the first night and how was that like?
Paul: I set up my tent in a small clearing in the woods called Horse Gap. It rained while I set up my tent and continued to rain all night. It was an emotional night with no sleep as I replayed event of my past that brought me to this clearing in the woods on the Appalachian Trail.
The next day you began the next stage of your journey. Where were you at that point?
Paul: Physically I was in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia, but emotionally my mind was still solving restaurant problems. Twenty five years in food service does not leave easily.
What was the last day like?
Paul: As I approached the sign marking the end of the Appalachian Trail atop Mt. Katahdin I was overcome with emotion. I had discovered peace and healing from the grief of losing my wife and now I was faced with another ending.
Was there any point along the way that made you go, “Forget this; I’m going home”?
Paul: There were several times I questioned my sanity of quitting a good job to be cold and wet and miserable in the woods. While hiking through Virginia my youngest daughter gave birth to my grandson. She wanted me to come home but I kept on walking. I knew if I went home I would not return to the hike and the book would not be written. Another time I found myself clinging on to a tree praying for my life while a vicious storm passed by uprooting trees all around me.
How has the journey changed you?
Paul: I no longer worry about too much. I am contented with what I have. We have way to much stuff. It just weighs us down on our journey through life.
Thank you so much for this interview, Paul, and I wish you much happiness!
Paul: Thank you. Enjoy the journey. The adventure is in not knowing what is around the next corner. Appreciate your loved ones. Don’t wait till tomorrow to say what need to be said today. Words have meaning.
To find out more about Paul and his book, visit his website at www.hikingthrough.com .