It is hard to believe that the time has finally come.  It has been over a year and a half of ups and downs, uncertainty, and a whole slew of small successes and failures as we have all worked around the clock to get Hope on the Horizon: An Expedition for ALS off the ground.  There have been points when doing so seemed far more insurmountable than the forty-eight White Mountain Peaks we are only days away from attempting to climb.

The swirl of last minute packing, planning, and preparation at last gives the sensation that we are indeed leaving, and that the mountains lay just ahead.  It is a good feeling, familiar to any outdoorsman or adventurer that has finally found themselves upon the door step of a long sought challenge.

Bob, Josh, and the Great Range

Usually well composed, even I admit that I have begun to itch for what I know is just ahead.  Yet the excitement is different this time, for with it comes a new and unique perspective.  On Sunday, September 23rd we set foot into the White Mountains of New Hampshire for far more than just fresh adventure.

Our mission to climb the forty-eight peaks is dedicated to raising awareness and assisting the patients and their loved ones who are battling with ALS.  On behalf of the 501c3 HARK Inc., it is our goal not only to reach the peaks, but to film our efforts to do so in hopes that the nation might be inspired by the resulting documentary, and join us in our efforts to help better the world for these individuals.

Kirk and the Devil’s Path

Much like the mountains ahead, the path to this moment has been steep and rocky.  Injury has deprived Team Horizon of its youngest member, Mike.  HARK was formed and dedicated to the memory of Mike’s grandfather Charlie, who passed from ALS in 2009.  Mike’s goal to complete the forty-eight for his grandfather was suddenly and sadly sidelined when he tore his meniscus in training.

Yet despite his newly acquired leg brace, Mike is far from out for the count.  Instead of climbing, he will continue his efforts by assisting project film maker Alex Williams in filming the upcoming documentary.  Alex, who will be joining Team Horizon for sections of the overall expedition, will be journeying around the US interviewing and filming the lives and experiences of various ALS patients and family members who have become involved with Hope on the Horizon.

Mike’s Brace

Fundraising to support our cause and efforts has been no easier.  Troubles in this area have more than once brought the project uncomfortably close to further postponement.  Even today, HARK and the members of Team Horizon are still actively searching for the much needed support to help continue our efforts.

Thankfully, we have had the example of those who must face ALS each day to inspire us to continue our efforts.  Their incredible resolve has fueled ours, and through it Hope on the Horizon has persevered, in hopes that our efforts and eventual documentary will inspire and rally the support yet to come.

Kirk and the Devil’s Path Mist

Also much like the mountains, there has been moments of great reward amongst the difficulty.  To focus only on setbacks would be to ignore all the great individuals and experiences that have come our way as well.

Training Team Horizon for the forty-eight has taken us to countless incredible locations throughout the Northeast; ranging from the misty, rattlesnake filled valleys of Pine Creek Gorge, otherwise known as the PA Grand Canyon to the epic views of the Adirondack High Peaks.  A dry summer found us triple treating water from a small, bug filled puddle in the rock of an Adirondack summit to prevent going the night without water to drink and rehydrate our dinners.

Josh on the Devil’s Path

Torrential rainfall followed us up and down the slippery, hands and feet verticals of the Devil’s Path in the Catskills, reputed to be the hardest hiking trail in the Northeast.  An unintentional swim in a large patch of strange plants gave me a hands-on education in Japanese Knotweed, not to mention the intense sting it brings to unexposed skin for about ten minutes.

Despite another large, trail hogging rattlesnake, little could compare to the quiet serenity of a sunset over Sunfish Pond on the Appalachian Trail.  To some this perhaps sounds terrible, but anyone fond of the mountains knows that the adventure begins when the plan ends.

Even more incredible have been the strength and inspiration we have seen in the countless examples of ALS patients and their loved ones.  Their battle each day with an unstoppable enemy repeatedly ignites our drive and motivation.

Now, a summer filled with incredible backcountry experience and the inspiration of the ALS community is past.  One journey is suddenly behind us, and the next is just ahead.  In a matter of days, the dream of climbing the forty-eight White Mountain peaks as a stand against ALS comes full circle.

Kirk and the Great Range

The allure of the mountains, and the adventure that waits amongst them is about to begin.  Forty-eight summits await Team Horizon, challenging their abilities and will to endure.  In between those forty-eight summits lie 250 miles, 75,000 feet of elevation gained and lost, and more footsteps than can be counted.

Each step taken will hopefully serve to take the challenge of the backcountry, the challenges of ALS, and inspire others to follow in our adventure by taking their own steps towards helping HARK help those battling it.

Hope on the Horizon’s final summit is still a ways into the future; yet we have reached our basecamp so to speak, one major step closer to attaining our final goal.  There is still work to be done.  HARK has far higher to climb.

So with that in mind, we will appreciate that we can still climb, for we are fortunate enough not to have ALS.  And so we will continue to climb in honor of those who do, beginning with the forty-eight and on, as far and as high as we must in order to bring a nation behind them.

If you are interested in joining us, learning more, donating, or becoming otherwise involved are invited to visit www.harkinc.org to do so.

Editorial: SBM has partnered with Hope on the Horizon and will publish their reports from the trail. Stay tuned as they set off. Best of luck to everyone on the Hope on the Horizon team!

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