PAUL'S BOOTS FILM is available to watch online (for free!)

Please visit the REI Co-Op Blog to watch the 36 minute film.


we got a call from Australia.

M’Lynn needed help. Her husband, Paul, was a big guy with a quick wit, a kind heart and a deep passion for the outdoors. When Paul was 42, doctors diagnosed his mother with Parkinson’s. He nursed her for four years until her death. His father developed Alzheimer's. The gaps between hiking trips grew longer and longer.

Paul’s own health began to deteriorate. By 2014, he’d suffered a series of debilitating heart attacks. Even as his body failed him, Paul started to pack for the trip he’d dreamed of completing but hadn’t gotten around to all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. He organized his food and gear. At night, he’d recount to M’Lynn all he’d learned in his research. His heart no longer allowed him to walk much further than the end of his block, but his soul was ready to go. Next to a full backpack, he left his three polished sets of hiking boots.

Last July, Paul passed away. He was 53. In the midst of her grief, M’Lynn had an idea for one final gift to her husband.


WE took those boots FOR A long WALK.

In his final year, The Dirtbag Diaries was Paul’s gateway into the world of dirtbags and thru-hikers. M’Lynn’s hope was that we could gather as a community to get Paul’s boots out on the trail. This summer, you — the outdoor community — made it happen. During our volunteer window this past spring, we received so many overwhelmingly beautiful messages. We heard from people who had already planned to hike the Appalachian Trail this year. We heard from people who had never thought of hiking, but were inspired by Paul's story. Thank you.

Throughout the summer on Instagram, we shared the story of Paul's Boots as they made their way along the trail. M'Lynn's wish that Paul’s story might motivate people to do the things they’ve always dreamed of doing came true.

the boots have reached mt. Katahdin

Think of this as a non-linear Olympic torch relay. We had three sets of boots and, throughout the summer, they were all on the trail at different points. Together, the boots and those that carried them, covered the length of the Appalachian Trail. 2,189 miles. Thank you to all of the amazing folks who volunteered. Along the way, we told a few of the stories from the trail. Over the next few weeks, we are going to be sharing the complete story of the boots and the hikers. A short film will launch online and in select REI Co-Op stores on Monday, October 10. 

Our friends at REI have been there every step of the way to make sure that this story gets told. Thank you. 2,190 miles. 14 states. 5 National Parks. Nice work, hiking community. You did an amazing thing for another human and for yourselves.


paul's protectors

Who carried Paul's boots? What antics did they get into? Before the Paul's Boots film launches on October 10, Instagram is the best place to experience the journey. Below is a running list of social handles for our hikers who carried the boots: Paul's Protectors.

Please explore the hashtag #PaulWalksOn.


Thomas Gathman / The Real Hiking Viking. Enough said. (Trail Name: Jabba)
Instagram: @therealhikingviking

Alex Newlon / NOBO thru hiker with a tight trail family (Trail Name: Daddy Long Legs)
Instagram: @noodles_apothecary

Grace White / Newly-hired Yellowstone NP Ranger hiking with her dad, Marvin. (Trail Name: Alley Cat)
Instagram: @gracie_omalley

Jamie Fisher & Davis Wax / Trail building lovebirds who met on the AT, were separated by personal adventures and miles, and are now being reunited to hike the New York section.
Instagram: @jamiecoreen and @aubainier
Facebook: and

Kai Nybro / Carries his dad, who passed away from heart failure like Paul did, wherever he goes.

Doug Zaleski & Katie Lindsay / A caretaker of other's happiness, Doug sometimes sacrifices his own dreams. His girlfriend Katie wrote to us to help get Doug committed to doing something he has always wanted to do.
Instagram: @klindsay311

Bonnie & Diana Elozory / A mother and daughter team from Florida who thru hiked in 2013 to heal their own family. Now they are hiking in hopes of helping heal Paul's family. (Trail Name: The Flip Floppers)
Twitter: @CoMOMdo

Matt Maszczak / REI employee and father who is planning (and training for) a 2019 thru-hike of the AT with his son to celebration of high school graduation. He hopes to send his son into the world with 2100+ miles of memories.
Instagram: @oneyearreset
Twitter: @rocknrollriter

Bill Whitehall & Brian Grundtner / Best Friends. Paratroopers. Climbing Partners. These guys met in Iraq in 2006 and have had each other's back ever since. They are hiking to celebrate life, bromance, Brian's MBA and their two weddings this summer.
Instagram: @shermush and @brianmn11

Chrissie Monaghan / Chrissie was a guide and outdoor educator in her 20s. Now, with a PhD under her belt and an office in Manhattan, she gets her daily run in at Central Park and dreams of trails and mountains. She hikes with her husband, Cameron, who is just back from deployment.

Tricia Nesser / A single mom whose daughter is finally old enough to stay at home alone, Tricia is starting to liver her dream, one step at a time.
Instagram: @tricianesser

Juan Garcia / School teacher, coach, dad, winning MMA fighter, ultra trail runner, Spartan racer. We can totally see why he calls himself The Cuban Threat. Juan and his two adorable kiddos, Isabelle and Alex, are hiking in Pennsylvania.
Instagram: @goruckgarcia

Brittany Leavitt / A Smithsonian educator and trip leader with Outdoor Afro, Brittany has been planning a group hike for this fall along a section of trail that Harriet Tubman travelled. In preparation for that adventure, she will be hiking with Paul's boots in West Virginia.
Instagram: @bleavitt8

Jim Parker / Over the last 20 years, Jim has lost two of his brothers to sudden cardiac death. He offered to carry Paul's Boots, along with the spirit of his brother Jeff and Will, through Vermont. Big thanks to his wife and cute daughters for loaning him to the cause!
Instagram: @ontheloosebrew

Stephen Conlin / When he was in his twenties, Stephen met his future wife on the AT. He followed love off the trail, leaving his thru hike unfinished. This summer, still happily married to that special trail lady, sixty-year-old Stephen returned to the Appalachian Trail for redemption! UPDATE: Stephen finished his thru hike of the AT on Thursday, September 15! Way to go Tick Tock.

David Hausman / Sometimes, all it takes is a best friend to motivate you. David was motived to quit smoking, lose weight and start hiking by his dog Rock. After Rock's all-too-soon passing, David found it almost impossible to get on the trail again. David, who identifies with Paul in personality and stature, hiked with the boots in New Hampshire. So excited that you are back out there, David. P.S. Don't worry about the boot's casualty. :)
Instagram: @david.hausman

David King / David and his two kiddos, Mariah and Michael, joined Paul's brother Arthur, The Real Hiking Viking, Fitz Cahall and Isaiah Branch-Boyle (both from Duct Tape Then Beer) on the final push with the boots up Mount Katahdin. Thank you for the mega summit party guys!



Please listen to M'Lynn and the story of Paul. If you've never heard of The Dirtbag Diaries, welcome. Founded in 2007, The Diaries is a podcast dedicated to the outdoors and the people who define the outdoor community. Outside Magazine named it the Best Outdoor Podcast and iTunes has selected the show as a feature podcast. It’s owned, operated and created by Duct Tape Then Beer.


Listen or subscribe via these clickable iTunes or Soundcloud buttons. 

thanks to our buds at Rei for helping this happen.

We all help each other achieve dreams.

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