After losing 160 pounds through better diet and exercise, Neil Brennen hoped he could inspire others to reach their health goals. He began a blog called A Taste For The Woods "for people who want to experience the outdoors despite challenges."
Through his blog, Brennen, 48, has been documenting the exploits of a man named Adam, who is hiking the Appalachian Trail despite battling Multiple Sclerosis.
"He's a decade younger than me, half my weight," Brennen says. "A soldier. Outdoorsman."
Adam was diagnosed with MS a decade ago, but he just climbed Mount Washington in New Hampshire, the tallest mountain in the northeastern United States and has hiked more than 700 miles, a third of the total distance of the Appalachian Trail. Adam suffers from some neuropathy (nerve pain) in his legs from MS, but he was determined to continue.
"He's had to give up his career since his symptoms come and go, and he can have a very bad couple of months at any time," Brennen says of Adam. "When he is feeling good, he still has to think about the disease -- for instance, hot weather can bring out the worst in his symptoms. He's been hospitalized repeatedly and at one point was so bad doctors suggested he prepare his will."
Instead Adam showed his willpower. He told Brennen that the Pennsylvania section of the trail "is like a walk through a mall" compared to Vermont and New Hampshire but it was good preparation.
The portion of the Appalachian Trail from the Wind Gap in Pennsylvania to the Delaware Water Gap at the New Jersey border is considered to be one of the toughest stretches. Adam had a flare-up with some symptoms that prevented his continuing past Wind Gap, but he covered all but 16 miles of the trail in Pennsylvania.
After New Hampshire, Adam will attempt to his finish his journey in Maine by climbing Mount Katahdin. If he makes it, he will plan to celebrate the way he usually does, by rewarding himself with a big steak dinner.