A Life Defining Journey on the Appalachian Trail

The Doctors planned and they, along with many Christian friends prayed. The next 10 months would hold MRI's, CAT scans, surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy, emergency room visits and extended stays in the hospital. It also involved the funeral of another young cancer patient who lost his battle. The Doctors told Jon to stay home and rest on the couch. He was a difficult patient! After enduring 6 weeks of radiation treatment he told his parents that he was not going to sit on the couch and die. He rejoined his dad building cabins in the Smoky mountains of Tennessee. He would work until exhausted and then huddle in a chair by a heater until he regained his strength. He would be working up on scaffolding and become sick to his stomach. His dad would throw a pile of sawdust on it and they would go back to work.

After nearly a year of treatment and sustained by God's grace his cancer was gone. He had beat the 90% chance that cancer was going to kill him. Jonathan believed that God had other plans. August of that year he married his sweetheart in a celebration of life. Even his Doctor attended.

They hiked apart for the 1st time in 45 days and 572 miles. As Mark approached a forest road where he would walk out of the woods he saw Jon waiting for him. He told his dad, "We started this together and we will finish together." They came home and resumed their "normal life".  2 months later while at a routing eye appointment, it was discovered that Jon had dangerously high pressure behind his eyes and the cause must be determined. By that evening they were meeting with a Neurosurgeon looking at a CAT scan of a large tumor on his brain stem. It was stage 4, inoperable brain cancer that had spread in his brain and spinal column.  He was given less than a 10% chance of survival.

The Long Way Home

In the spring of 2002 McGuyver & Aslan (Their Trail names) set out to hike all 2,176 miles of the A T. This dream was birthed in Jonathan and gifted to his dad who willingly embraced the idea. The A T runs along the crest of the Appalachians from Mt. Katahdin, ME to Springer Mt. GA. Most will hike from south to north because the weather allows for an earlier start. Many who start will quit in their first week and only about 20% actually finish. Hikers use nicknames while hiking known as their trail name. Jonathan was named Aslan by his girlfriend Betsy because his hair reminded her of the lions mane in The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. They had hiked into their third state when Mark contracted an intestinal parasite from drinking bad water. After struggling for a couple weeks he informed Jon that he was going to quit and go home to recover. They took one last picture together before exchanging some gear and saying a tearful goodbye.