Oct. 9, 2012 — As Morehead attorney Michael Campbell and his wife, Sheila, stood atop the 5,800-foot tall Mount Katahdin, looking out over the entire state of Maine and parts of Canada, he saw himself in a different light.
He also saw something change in his wife.
“I watched her face light up,” Campbell said.
The 50-year-old is back in the real world now, practicing law at Campbell, Rogers, and Hill in Morehead – a firm he started in 1991.
Campbell took a break from work back in April to hike the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, which extends from Springer Mountain, Ga. to Mount Katahdin.
The AT passes through New Hampshire, Virginia, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina.
“Folks who take a trip like that, sometimes have people say, ‘Oh, that’s amazing,’ and then they’ll turn their backs and walk ten yards, and go, ‘I can’t believe this guy did something crazy like that,’” says Mike Campbell.
Thru-hiking is not a new thing for him. He backpacked three times, “rim-to-rim”, in the Grand Canyon, once at Glacier National Park, on part of the Florida Trail and Sheltowee Trace.
He came back from the Appalachian Trail as a stronger person, physically and spiritually, he says. Hiking the AT helped him truly understand the “highs and lows of life.”
After two years of planning for the five-month adventure, Campbell was able to make his dream come true.
Most of the planning was geared toward making sure his legal cases were taken care of. Then, there was preparing for “food drops.”
“I had eleven food drops where my wife would mail boxes of food that I dehydrated and we prepared ourselves,” he says. “She would mail those to me in locations where it might be ten, twelve days between my being able to get to a town that had food other than Vienna sausages.”
Campbell often would get “blessings,” like the time he found a Milky Way bar in the wilderness.
He calls this “trail magic.”
“People who live in more rural areas know where the trail is and leave things behind.
It’s kind of funny,” he says.
Campbell and four other men walked together. One day someone left a cooler full of soda and apples close to a road.
People always shared and helped each other, he says.
“There’s no doubt that we would have a better community and a better society if we all treated each other the way that we did on the trail,” he says.
The biggest blessing he received was warmth, home-cooked food and rest.
One of his hiking partners received a phone call from his mother saying a relative lived nearby and wanted to invite the group to her home.
She and her husband are what Campbell calls “trail angels.”
“We wound up being picked up by Joe and Diane,” he says. “They took us to their home, all five of us. We did laundry, she cooked us a meal, we ate, and slept inside, in a house.”
“We got up the next morning, they took us to the trail. We walked 27 miles, they picked us back up after we walked the 27 miles, took us back to their house where she had another meal ready for us. We slept again, woke up, she’s fixing us breakfast.”
The group did some yard mowing and tree trimming, and hit the trail again.
Some nights were cold, wet, miserable and foggy. There was plenty of time to put his life into perspective, Campbell says.
“You’ve heard absence makes the heart grow fonder? Well, being away from Sheila gave me the opportunity to really see how important she is to me,” he says.
He realized sometimes people overlook those they love the most.
He says he also came home with a different outlook on the importance of his parents.
“As I walked I could see just how important they were to my entire upbringing and making me who I am today,” he says. “Also my law firm, I could see just how important those people are.”
Campbell’s wife, Sheila, hiked the last 52 miles of the trail with him. After seeing her face light up on top of Mt. Katahdin, he believes she will one day complete the entire trail with him.
“The question is whether the real world will let you go,” he says.
Nicole Sturgill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 784-4116.