The White Mountains are widely recognized as the most challenging part of the Appalachian Trail. In the heart of the range stands Wildcat Mountain. Wildcat Mountain is one of the most well known ski resorts in New England. Its summit reaches 4,305 feet with sides consisting of ragged boulders and advanced terrain. Wounded soldier Danny Kennedy recently stood at the base of this mountain with a difficult decision to make. Should he risk severe injury by attempting to climb the mountain with only one good arm or do what most do and ride to the top on the provided gondola?
Most thru hikers opt out of the physical challenge and choose instead to ride one of the resorts gondolas to the top. They see the climb ahead and fear either injury or possible death from a slip or fall. Danny Kennedy is not your average hiker! Danny was given the choice to ride the gondola or to attempt the harrowing climb on his own. Without hesitation Danny chose to climb the mountain in spite of his debilitating injuries as a wounded veteran. We are thrilled that he not only made it to the top but that he made it look so easy.
During a critical section of the climb Danny turned on a GoPro camera. The following video gives you a first person perspective of what this experience was like for him. Hand over hand, boulder over boulder, he climbs to one of the most scenic views we've seen along the Appalachian Trail so far.
Danny Kennedy has been crossing over mountain ranges, surviving flooded trails, and persisting when others thought he would fail. He has made it out of the state of Maine and into New Hampshire. What is really remarkable is his determination to actually complete the trail the way the path was designed. While others go around the Mahoosuc Notch - Danny goes directly through it.
Coming soon is more images and footage of these incredible accomplishments of Danny doing things that others try to go around. Until then, check out this awesome time lapse footage of Bill and Danny scouting out the summit of Mt. Washington:
Danny Kennedy has been keeping up an impressively fast pace as he works his way down the Appalachian Trail. Danny passed through Andover, Maine where he hiked for ten miles. Danny is still in great spirits as he has now passed over Moody Mountain, Sawyer Notch, and Wyman Mountain.
Danny has continued another 20 miles down the trail. Facing him next is the most difficult, but reportedly most fun, part of the hike known as the Mahoosuc Notch. After he completes this rugged portion of the trail Bill will hook up with him again in Gorham, NH during a resupply stop.
President John F. Kennedy once said "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." Nathan Hunt and Danny Kennedy, wounded soldiers hiking the Appalachian Trail, have had many people and organizations step forward to help them. What is most inspiring his how many people they have uplifted and helped along the way as well. They aren't just hiking. They are hiking with gratitude.
In just one example, during a resupply stop in Maine, Danny was able to put his medical training to good use. He repaired the damaged toe of another hiker who was in need of help. In the following video you'll see how quick Nate and Danny are to thank and uplift everyone they meet along the way.
Although Nathan had to return home to recover from heat exposure, he is working hard to recover so he can join Danny or take on the trail in the future.
Words cannot describe the amount of determination and grit being shown by wounded soldier Danny Kennedy. Last week he lost his main hiking companion Nathan Hunt to critical heat stroke. Since then Danny has persevered against all odds.
During the course of this last week, Danny has reported back to us some incredible experiences. Keep in mind that Danny is doing all this with little use of his right arm and leg and internal permanent damage to his brain - injuries suffered after being ran over by a Hummer during a training exercise in the military.
For the last week there has been a constant downpour of rain on the Appalachian Trail where Danny is. Several sections of trail that would normally be easy were flooded with mud and water half way up to his knees. He soon came to a critical river crossing at the Pleasant River, but on this occasion it wasn't pleasant at all. Luckily another group of hikers came to the river and worked as a team to get across. After setting up a safety rope, the group set out across the river when suddenly the rope snapped! Several people fell into the water, but were quickly able to link arms with the others and form a human chain to complete the crossing.
Danny's life and health are dependent upon an electronic device that he recharges on a regular basis. His plan was to keep himself charged up using a portable solar device. With the constant rain and cloud cover he has not been able to do this and is in danger if he cannot find a way to recharge soon.
Preparing for any outdoor excursion requires careful planning and equipment checks. For the average day hike it might be as simple as deciding which jacket to wear and how much water to take. But when you are prepping for the Appalachian Trail you are staring at 2,180 miles and terrain variables that would make your head spin. When you total up the elevation gains over that distance it is equal to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times! Now imagine taking on that challenge without any legs. For Nathan Hunt that is a reality!
Nathan lost both legs in 2008 when a roadside bomb tore through his vehicle during a route clearance mission. Like other honorable wounded soldiers before him, Army SGT Nathan Hunt has not let his disabilities interfere with his life. In just a few weeks Nathan and his good friend Danny Kennedy will set out to complete the entire Appalachian Trail. Nathan is taking on this challenge hand over fist in a very literal manner. He will cover each mile of difficult terrain using just his arms to propel himself.
Preparing equipment for the months long excursion has been no simple feat. Nathan has spent a lot of time adapting his gear to give him every advantage possible. He will have to protect his hands and arms just like another hiker would with their feet and ankles. Just to take care of his hands he uses knuckle reinforced combat gloves, neoprene wrist braces, and a set of hand sanding tools which will act like the rubber soles on a pair of boots.
But the innovation doesn't stop there. Using rope and a modified off road skate board Nate will help his hiking partner Danny literally pull a pack of gear across sections of the trail when possible. All of Nate's pants and thermals are modified to eliminate drag and to fit properly. None of these modifications slow down or inhibit his ability to cover ground and survive in the wild. Nate is capable of setting up and climbing into his hammock in less than two minutes!
With way points designated on average every five days, the two man team will cover between 40-60 miles between each resupply spot. Waiting for them at these way points will be food, batteries, water and other essentials to keep them going. Several sponsors have stepped forward to donate critical supplies. Outersports has contributed a solar charger, rope, carabiners, 2 body harnesses, clothing, Merino Wool thermal underwear as well as cameras and important camera equipment to record their journey.
Throughout their travels we hope to bring you regular updates regarding their progress as they set out on the Appalachian Trail. To show your support, Nate & Danny would like all contributions to benefit other wounded soldiers through Ride 2 Recovery.
The Appalachian Trail spans over 2,200 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Out of the dozens of people who attempt to hike it in just one season – only 15% ever make it. Tell that to Nathan Hunt and Danny Kennedy and they’ll just smile. Challenges like this are nothing compared to what they've already been through, and they hope it will inspire thousands of fellow veterans to overcome obstacles associated with their injury and pain.
In 2008, Army SGT Nathan Hunt was escorting a convoy searching for roadside bombs during a Route Clearance Mission when an explosion erupted beneath his vehicle. The bomb hurled him across the vehicle in a flash of light. Nathan remained conscious throughout his evacuation as he was transferred to the nearest aid station and then finally, by helicopter, to a nearby hospital. Nathan lost both his legs above the knees in the explosion. Moving from one hospital to the next he spent a year and a half rehabilitating. Nathan started hand cycling just four months after his injuries and has since become a national spokesman for Ride 2 Recovery and is an inspiration to everyone he meets, but especially to veterans whose lives have been dramatically changed by battlefield injuries.
Nathan Hunt and Danny Kennedy have developed a close bond in the recent years. Danny suffered tremendous injuries during a training accident in January 2008. Danny was assisting a man going into cardiac arrest, by rendering first aid, when an armored Humvee weighing over 5,000 pounds accidentally ran over him. Danny’s spinal cord was severely damaged resulting in partial paralysis on the right side of his body. His injuries also damaged the frontal lobe of his brain resulting in blindness in one eye, impairment of his five senses, and major hearing loss. Danny had to learn to walk, talk and live again. He struggled through a period of homelessness, addiction, and thoughts of suicide. Danny overcame these difficulties and has since rehabilitated to the point of longer needing a wheelchair. Not long after he started rock climbing, bike racing with Ride 2 Recovery, and even triathlons.
Danny and Nathan have recently announced that they will be the first ever wounded soldier team to complete the Appalachian Trail in just one season. In March of this year, together they will attempt to cover ten miles per day through rocks, mountain ranges, and eight river crossings. Nathan will be completing the journey using only his hands and arms to propel him across the vast distance. Danny will take on the trek being partially paralyzed, while carrying both he and Nate's gear on his back.
The staff at Outersports.com has been so inspired by Nathan and Danny that we're sponsoring the duo with thermal underwear, clothing, specialized harnesses, rope, and other equipment to aid in their journey. They will also be provided with waterproof cameras. Outersports will be tracking their entire hike and updating regularly in the form of blogs, maps, pictures, and even exclusive video content. You will be able to follow their experience as they set out to complete every stage of the Appalachian Trail.
Danny discusses the Appalachian Trail:
If you would like to support Nathan and Danny, and other wounded soldiers, you can do so through donations to Ride 2 Recovery.