Hiking for a Cure! An Adventure Seeker Takes on the Appalachian Trail

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By Willow Bolton

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

That quote by Hellen Keller is one of my favorites. For starters, I love anything with the word ADVENTURE in it. And two, it’s a perfect depiction of life for what it really is, an adventure.

Willow and her aunt checking out the white markings on a tree along the Appalachian Trail, which help guide hikers on their journey.

My parents taught me to take every set back or challenge as an adventure. My momma was born in Panama City, moved to Hawaii, then Oklahoma – all by the time she was four. Now, that’s normal for a military family, but what she learned in that time she was in Dibble, Oklahoma made her who she is. So, when she went into labor two months early on a Tuesday in January the real adventure began.  When I was born, it was a shock to everyone except my momma.  That girl from Dibble took me everywhere, setting the perfect example for how I would handle adversity in the future.

You see, I was born two pounds seven ounces…with hydrocephalus. Even though none of us knew what that meant at the time, we took it in stride. While I only had minor learning disabilities, school was not fun for me. I struggled with learning new things year after year, and tried multiple schooling methods including public, private and even home school. I eventually graduated high school with straight As, and went on to college. However, my learning differences and eating disorders that had laid dormant for years reared their ugly head, and I proceeded to drop out.

We’re taught that you graduate high school, move on to college, and graduate from there. You get a great job, get married, have a few kids, retire…but not for me. I struggled with this because when you have a neurological disorder, there is no “normal,” no matter how badly you want to fit in. Whenever I was asked to present anything unique about myself, I would always mention my hydrocephalus. I got teased A LOT, but I always kept my head held high because this made me different, and I was proud of it.

My mother took me everywhere with her. My first camping trip was when my mom was five months pregnant with me. I joined the venture crew in high school, because I loved camping so much and soon gained a new-found love for hiking too! Later on, a friend recommended that I read a book about a woman whose life went up in flames and decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I could relate to the woman in the novel because after dropping out of college I too felt like my life was going down in flames. The book inspired me to start over fresh. So after some research on popular trails in the U.S., I discovered the Appalachian Trail and fell in love with it right away.

I presented my mother with the facts and information about the trail, and she agreed it would be a great endeavor to take on. A co-worker of hers who had just started his own cross-continental trek for Parkinson’s disease gave me some ideas and with that Hike4Hydro was born!

On March 4, I began my hike along the Appalachian Trail starting at Clingmans Dome in Tennessee. For this adventure, I’ve teamed up with the Hydrocephalus Association to raise funds and awareness about this condition. I hope my Hike4Hydro helps to bring more attention to this condition and to encourage people to donate to the Hydrocephalus Association. Visit my Hike4Hydro fundraising page where you can make a donation to the Hydrocephalus Association.

I’ll be posting updates along the way on my social media channels. Please follow my Hike4Hydro Facebook group. You can also follow me on Instagram @in_the_willows. Stay tuned for the adventure to come! I’ve been in contact with neurologists and hiking experts to ensure my safety. For those of you who are worried about my journey, just know, “There ain’t nothin that can’t be done by me and God. Ain’t nobody gonna come between us.” Thanks again for all of your support!

Editor’s Note: Want to start your own personal challenge to raise awareness and funds for the Hydrocephalus Association? Visit HA’s Just Giving page to get started!

1 Comments for : Hiking for a Cure! An Adventure Seeker Takes on the Appalachian Trail
    • Kayleigh Brodeur
    • March 19, 2019

    I just love this so much. When our son was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus, at first. All we could see, were doors closing. Will he be okay? Will he ever play sports. His father is a marine. He will never join the military. Oh! Wait now! He will never join the Marines! He will never die in war. He will never box. What CAN he do? It became our favorite game. Thank you for helping us add hiking the Appalachian trail to the things he, can, do💙

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