From 1990 through 2016 we have donated to over 1000 schools in 300 cities and 46 states!!
IN EVERY WALK WITH NATURE ONE RECEIVES FAR MORE THAN HE SEEKS … John Muir
Ken Chambless, Project Fit America National All Star Teacher and In-Service Field Trainer
Ken Chambless writes . . .
I have always enjoyed hiking. Whenever I am on the trail I feel like I am a part of nature as opposed to just passing through it. Hikes provide me the opportunity to stop thinking so much about the ups and downs of life and helps me become more balanced. The fresh breath of life that is taken in during these adventures feeds my soul and connects me to something greater. Sometimes all you need to do is take an extra step.
In 2008, while in California for a Project Fit America in-service, I took the opportunity to drive over to Yosemite National Park. I’ve been to many beautiful places and seen many wonderful sites during my 44 years of life. I’ve been to nearly all of the Caribbean islands, Hawaii, all over Europe including the Swiss Alps, South America, Mexico, the Grand Canyon and 42 of our 50 states. To say I have been a blessed traveler is an understatement. If you were to ask me where the most beautiful place I have ever visited is my answer would easily and swiftly come off my lips. Yosemite. My first vision of the land was from Tunnel View on Wawona Road and when I say it took my breath away, I literally mean that I could not breathe. This view is like looking at the most beautiful painting you could imagine. It just couldn’t be real. But it is. I honestly felt like this is where God walks his own steps.
I could not wait to get a closer look at all the sites in Yosemite Valley. Half-Dome, El Capitan, Vernal and Nevada water falls were all there for me to see. All of it….amazing! I decided to hike up to the top of Nevada Falls where, upon entering the trail, noticed some thru hikers beginning their own journey. After speaking with them for just a few moments, my future plans began to change. Things I previously wanted to do, places I wanted to see all were instantly pushed back. I was thinking about taking an extra step.
The first time I had ever even heard of this John Muir Trail was just after my first question to this group of hikers. “Where are you hiking”? They were so excited to tell me the answer. I could see their eyes get wide and there body language made me jealous of what they were about to experience. “We are hiking 210 miles to Mt. Whitney. This is the start of the John Muir Trail.” My reply was what? You are hiking how far? How many days will it take? What will you eat? How heavy is that monster you are carrying on your back? At first my reaction was that I could never do that. I’ve hiked over weekends but most of my trips have been just overnight, 15 milers. This John Muir Trail was not for me. Or so I thought for all of 2 minutes.
From that day on, I have been planning my own JMT adventure, mostly in the back of my mind until recently. A few months after I returned from California, I did a little research on the John Muir Trail. I watched some JMT trips on YouTube and learned about the terrain, passes, resupply points and Mount Whitney. It looked like an awesome adventure but maybe not for me. I’m happy with my more common two nights in the wild before heading back to civilization. But the thought of doing it was always in my head. The trail would pop up in my thoughts and dreams every so often but I’d quickly move on to life’s other thoughts.
As my sons have grown up, I have introduced them to nature by camping and hiking. They both really took to the experiences and have enjoyed several adventures with me. I believe that they too understand and can feel how engulfing yourself in nature can be. They are now nearly 18 and 14. I have taken them on several hiking trips and each time, that JMT would be in my thoughts. I never spoke about it to them however; as I wanted them to enjoy and appreciate the woods we were currently in. If I began to describe Yosemite and the JMT to them, well, that would be like taking them to the county fair on the way back from Walt Disney World.
2015 will be a year full of accomplishments and events to celebrate. I will graduate with my master’s degree, Cole will be graduating high school before heading off to Georgia Southern University and Wesley will begin his freshman year of high school. We will hike the trail to celebrate life and all that we have accomplished this far. In addition to these events, Project Fit America will be celebrating its 25th year of providing an awesome fitness program to thousands of kids across our nation. Thus, the timing of this JMT adventure could not get any better. We have chosen to hike in honor of PFA to celebrate all of the wonderful things PFA gives to children every day. But we won’t stop there. We are taking the extra step.
The endeavor is a huge undertaking. I have already been planning all the specifics of the trip for the last 9 months. Permit requests, itineraries, resupplies, equipment research, and countless other things to consider. We will be on the trail from 3-4 weeks as well as driving the 2500 miles each way to California! This is a long time away from home and I would be negligent if I did not mention the support and love of my incredible wife, Deecie. She has giggled more than a few times at all my planning but she is so gracious to support this undertaking. Even though she may think I’m crazy, she understands this calling. I will not miss technology, television or even baseball while we are gone. I will, however, greatly miss her and my other children, Gray and Mckinley. I love them very much and will look forward to reuniting with them.
It is our hope to seek out donations for Project Fit America in order to sponsor and support schools in need of a quality fitness program. We will hike as an example of what going “beyond” can accomplish. Our goal is to raise enough money in order to provide schools with much needed fitness equipment as a part of the Project Fit America curriculum.
I often go to sleep at night, all cozy in my soft bed, imagining I was in my sleeping bag near some mountain pass on the JMT. My heart rate slows; my breathing gets shallower as I reach such a peaceful place in my own mind. If simply thinking of this place….this adventure….this walk…can be so good for my soul, imagine how actually placing my feet in the dirt, streams and grasses of the JMT could affect me. What I seek will pale in comparison to what I will receive as I take the extra step. The adventure begins June 30, 2015.
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