MILFORD, Ohio (WXIX) – A Milford man is going to use the next six months to raise mental health awareness as he hikes the Appalachian Trail.
Matt Noonan will begin hiking the 2194.3-mile distance of the trail on March 16. From there, his next six months will consist of living, breathing, and sleeping through the 14 states along the trail.
Noonan says hiking is something he does not do often, but this hike will have a special meaning.
Noonan went hiking in Red River Gorge a couple of years ago and got the idea to hike the AT. He says this is a way for him to spread awareness about mental health and the healing properties of the great outdoors.
“Yeah, I made a decision to try to hike through the Appalachian Trail based on a buddy of mine taking his life in 2017,” Noonan explained. “And I wanted a way to express my gratitude for the outdoors. Being able to go outside and even though I was feeling upset or uneasy, I could sit by the river and I could listen to the water flow and it brings serenity,” Noonan continues. “It would bring calmness to me. My message is to never give up. On a bad day, [put] one foot in front of the other and if you get the opportunity to go outside, literally go outside.”
Noonan will hike all, but the first 30 miles alone as he plans to make connections along the way.
“Every person that I can talk to, I’m going to talk to you. Every person that I can touch, I’m gonna try to touch,” explains Noonan, “If I can have one person to not be in the place where I was two years ago, I’ve done my job.”
He will hike an average of 11 miles a day but will start small and increase the mileage as his body adapts. He will also have food shipped to various drop zones along the trail.
Noonan knows there will be tough days, hard miles, and at times he may want to quit. But he says that’s when he will remember his own message: never give up and remember the people in your life that care so much about you.
“On the day when it’s raining, when your shoes are wet, your body is wet, you’re tired, you’re cold, in general in life to never give up,” says Noonan, “Because there’s somebody out there that cares and I’m one of them.”
Noonan has gotten a lot of help from the people at Roads, Rivers and Trails in Milford. Especially the company owner, Bryan Wolf, who has also hiked the Appalachian Trail.
Noonan says without his knowledge and advice, he would be at a disadvantage.
Noonan will post pictures and videos to his social media accounts as often as time and signal allow. You can follow along here.
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