In 2015, the Dirtbag Diaries, a hikers’ podcast, received and podcasted a letter from M’Lynn Evans, an Australian housewife. Evans related the tale of her husband, Paul. Paul loved the outdoors and dreamed of hiking the Appalachian trail, but died before he could turn his dream into reality. She asked the podcast to help her find a hiker who was willing to bring Paul’s boots on the trail along with them. She found not just a single hiker, but a whole community willing to help her see Paul’s boots make the journey.
According to M’Lynn, Paul was a big guy with a big heart and a love for the outdoors. He spent the last decade of his life caring for his mother, who was suffering with Parkinson’s disease, and his father, who developed Alzheimer’s disease. Paul’s time outdoors dwindled and before he could get back on the trail, he suffered several debilitating heart attacks.
Though his health was declining, his love for the Appalachian Trail remained strong. Even though he could no longer hike, he still prepared for his grand hike on the Appalachian Trail. He listened to the Dirtbag Diaries podcast, packed his bag, searched for the perfect stove, and even polished three pairs of his favorite boots for the hike. When he died just shy of his 54th birthday, the polished boots sat next to his full backpack, ready to hit the trail.
While grieving the loss of her husband, M’Lynn had the idea of finding someone to portage her husband’s boots for the entire 2,189 miles. It would be her final tribute and gift to the man she missed so dearly. More than a dozen hikers volunteered to carry Paul’s boots along with them on the trail.
REI Co-Op and Duct Tape Then Beer helped film the endeavor and have shared some of the stories of the boots as they made their way from Maine to Georgia. The highlight of the trip was the final ascent up Mount Katahdin in Maine, where Paul’s brother had flown in from Australia to carry them to the summit, and M’Lynn was there to see the boots off at the base of the trail’s final peak. It’s a heartwarming story that’s worth an hour of your time.