How one hiker overcame cerebral palsy walking across the country on the PCT

Wesley Trimble blew us away with his video about CP and the PCT. Click the link and check it out on the main PCTA blog. We’ve been emailing with him since we saw it and asked him to write a bit about his own personal PCT journey on the story section of our Wild site.

I guess you could say I hike to the beat of a different drummer than the “normal” PCT thru-hiker, and I can finally say I’m ok with that. My right leg measures a quarter inch shorter than my left, so when I say I hike to a different beat it’s not a metaphor like Thoreau intended, I truly hike to my own awkward and unique cadence. My shorter right leg, my poor balance, and my lack of fine motor control on the right half of my body are all attributes of my mild cerebral palsy.


Many people can’t understand why anyone would hike from Mexico to Canada, let alone why a man born with cerebral palsy would attempt such an ambitious feat. When I reflect on the events that led to my PCT thru-hike, I inevitably think back to my first great physical achievement – summiting Mount Princeton. At age 9, I accompanied my sister and parents on a hike up my first Colorado 14,000-foot peak. I enjoyed the challenge of the ascent and despised the arduous descent across the talus slopes and boulder fields, and although I suffered, I loved the adventure and became hooked. I continued to summit peaks, which led to my Colorado Trail thru-hike in 2013, which escalated my passion and led to the PCT in Spring 2014.


For most of my life I attempted to blend into the crowd and limit attention to my cerebral palsy.  As a child I just wanted to be like all the other kids and I felt mortified when anyone called attention to my cerebral palsy. In fact, my embarrassment didn’t subside until after I reached the northern terminus of the PCT. Over the course of my 139 day thru-hike I gained deeper confidence in myself, I learned a lifetime of valuable lessons and I began to see my identity in a completely different light.

On the first day of my PCT hike, as I made final adjustments to my pack before beginning my trek north, one of my fellow hikers inquired about the condition of my right hand. I apparently never mastered the ability to hide my CP and instantly my excitement faded behind my growing anxiety. Perhaps my CP would finally catch up with me and prevent me from finishing the trail. After all, I suppose my condition only becomes a disability when it thwarts my ability to pursue my dreams.


As I hiked those first miles out of Campo, I told my story to the inquisitive hiker. I didn’t expect my story to make a lasting impression, but over the course of my hike I continued to find encouraging notes from the same hiker on message boards and many trail registries all the way to Monument 78 on the Canadian border. The encouragement I received from my friends, family, and fellow hikers helped push me through the moments when I thought my condition would turn into a disability. Strained muscles and persistent cramps almost ended my hike in Southern California. In the Cascades, my awkward balance turned some creek crossings into potentially deadly situations, but I rejected the possibility that my CP would end my hike.

The many difficulties I faced on the PCT helped transform my outlook on life. The trail reconfirmed the most important things in life are not only worth fighting for, but they require sacrifice from the very beginning. Often the trail felt harsh, yet the trail continually comforted me and nourished my soul. Hiking solo for a large portion of the PCT provided ample time to think and reflect on life. I often become caught up and distracted by the influences of society, but living on the trail simplified my existence. I gained a deeper clarity and a renewed perspective. The PCT opened my eyes to new possibilities in life. I didn’t need to settle for less, because I had what it would take to overcome the insurmountable, one step at a time.


Over the course of my hike, as I moved unsteadily towards Canada, I noticed I also made incremental steps towards seeing my CP from a different perspective. Slowly, as the trail miles accumulated behind me, the insecurity looming over me in the beginning slowly dissolved as my confidence flourished. Along the trail and in different town stops, when people brought attention to my limp I often claimed I just had a ”hiker hobble” but as I neared the end of my hike, I noticed my CP made my story unique and different from other hikers on the PCT and the other triple crown trails for that matter. For the first time I began to take pride not only in my accomplishments, but also in whom I became in spite of my cerebral palsy.

For most of my life I tried to match to other peoples’ beats, but the PCT taught me the value of living an unique life.

Watch Wesley Trimble’s video about CP and the PCT.


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