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Hiking Through - One Man's Great Adventure on The Appalachian Trail

Hiking Through - One Man's Great Adventure on The Appalachian Trail Read Transcript

WENDY GRIFFITH: Paul Stutzman lived a great life.

Happily married, three children, and a great job

managing a large restaurant in Ohio's Amish country.

Then in 2002, doctors diagnosed his beloved wife, Mary,

with breast cancer.

Although they did everything they could, and believed

God would heal her, Mary passed away four years later.

This devastated Paul, leaving him consumed with a burning

question for God.

Where were you when my wife died?

WENDY GRIFFITH: A year after Mary's death,

and still with no answer, Paul knew

he had to do something different.

PAUL STUTZMAN: just felt God saying it's time.

Give it up, go on the trail, and I'm going to meet you there.

WENDY GRIFFITH: So Paul quit his job

and started his journey on the famous Appalachian Trail,

nearly 2,200 miles of rugged wilderness that

begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia,

and passes through 14 states, ending

in Mount Katahdin, Maine.

INTERVIEWER: What was going through your mind

those nights in the shelter?

PAUL STUTZMAN: first night on the Appalachian Trail,

I'm in my tent, and I'm laying there.

I can't sleep because it's raining

and I just gave up a good job to be out here

in the woods getting rained on.

And so I just sort of reflected back on my life

and how I'd grown up, and I just told God that night,

you're going to be my hiking partner.

And I want to know some--

I want answers.

And I want to know more about grace.

INTERVIEWER: How long did the journey take you?

PAUL STUTZMAN: had planned on six months.

But growing up the way I did, Amish and then Mennonite, we

have a strong work ethic.

And so I'd get up early in the morning,

and I'd just hike all day.

And I ended up doing it in 4 and 1/2

months, which is pretty fast.

What did you average every day on the trail?

My average on the whole hike was 17 and 1/2 miles a day,

but that includes eight days where I took

a 0 day, which means a day off.

INTERVIEWER: Everybody on the trail has a trail name.

What was your trail name?

I picked the trail name Apostle, and I took that name--

obviously, my name is Paul, so I was the apostle Paul.

And 500 miles up the trail is Damascus, Virginia.

So I was Apostle Paul headed to Damascus.

[LAUGHING] What was your favorite state?

PAUL STUTZMAN: I enjoyed Virginia, especially.

Virginia's the longest state of the states, probably

about 600 miles.

But it's not quite as difficult as perhaps Georgia

or New Hampshire and Maine.

But the scenery, coming over the Shenandoah National Park,

the scenery is just gorgeous in Virginia.

WENDY GRIFFITH: During his first month on the trail,

Paul lost 30 pounds and got in the best shape of his life.

But the average person burns 2,000 calories a day.

A hiker on the Appalachian Trail burns 6,000,

so you can't eat enough.

And so about once a week, I'd hitchhike into town,

because I had food boxes sent to me about every 100 miles.

So I'd go to a post office and get my food box.

And then since I'm in town, I'd go to a restaurant,

and hopefully they have a buffet.

Because, oh, you can just eat and eat and eat and eat.

And then get a motel room and get a shower.

And a shower and a warm bed is such a luxury

after you've been out in the woods for 10 nights,

sleeping in a tent in a sleeping bag.

INTERVIEWER: Paul, how did walking in the woods day

after day, sleeping in shelters, getting rained on,

going hungry sometimes, how did all of that help you heal

after your wife died?

I was exhausted.

My body was exhausted, but my mind

was becoming very sharp and in focus.

And as the farther I would hike, and the more tired I got,

the more clear my mind became.

And I started seeing a purpose in what God was

doing as I'm meeting people.

WENDY GRIFFITH: Day after day, Paul cried out to God.

Then on a Sunday morning, somewhere in New Hampshire,

he finally got his answer.

He took me on my face in tears when He revealed to me

why I was on this trail.

And God said, you're writing a book.

Put this message in the book.

WENDY GRIFFITH: While it wasn't the personal message

he was hoping and expecting, Paul saw it as a word

for everyone.

Jesus is coming back.

PAUL STUTZMAN: What I heard was that I had to take your wife

to get you out here in this mountain side

to hear that message.

And tell people that I am coming back.

I am in control.

I know what's going on.

INTERVIEWER: And what would you tell

people that are, maybe even now, going

through the loss of a spouse?

It does get better.

It takes time, and with time, the healing comes.

And I think it's good to know, though, grieving

means we loved somebody.

The only way not to grieve is not to love.

Our loved ones want us to go on with life.

They've got it made.

They're in heaven.

They're just having a ball.

But they want us to enjoy life, and there's a lot to enjoy.

INTERVIEWER: And you actually thought

about what would be on your tombstone

at the end of your life.

PAUL STUTZMAN: Would I just want it

to say, I worked all my life at a restaurant and passed away?

Or would I want it to say, he took a chance.

He took a risk, and he quit his job,

and he hiked the Appalachian Trail?

And I decided I want it to read that way.

WENDY GRIFFITH: Wendy Griffith, CBN News.


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