On July 6, his birthday, Johnson will continue his fundraising for TASP by hiking 440 miles on the Colorado Trail from Denver to Telluride. Since he began his “Gohwkeye” fundraising campaign in 2007, Johnson has raised a total of $35,000 for TASP programs. Five adaptive athletes will join Johnson at different stages of the trail. He hopes to demonstrate backcountry accessibility for people with disabilities as he guides these athletes on foot, bicycle and horseback.
Johnson plans to end the journey by hiking down the See Forever Trail at the Telluride Ski Resort to the TASP office in Mountain Village on Aug. 21. “I just hope I’m there in time for the Sunset Concert Series!” Johnson said.
Filmmaker and TASP volunteer Craig Stein will produce video segments of Johnson’s trek, which can be seen at www.gohawkeye.com. In the first episode, adaptive cyclist Steve Ackerman, an accomplished hand-cyclist, will join Johnson by pedaling along unforgiving, rocky trails.
Athletes Jake O’Conner, the subject of Stein’s film Off the Hook, Kevin Foster, Jeff Badger and Miracle Sickles will also join Johnson at various points throughout the 440-mile journey. A visually impaired athlete will accompany Johnson as they attempt to hike to the 14,000-foot summits of Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive.
Johnson, a former prison guard, enjoys the freedom of the outdoors and the thrill of each hike. “For me, bringing people places they thought they couldn’t go is such a liberating feeling. It’s something about helping people smash barriers and realize that anything is possible that keeps me going back to these kinds of hikes,” Johnson said.
“Having worked with TASP for going on 14 years I’ve realized I need to do what I can to make sure the program is available to anyone who wants to get out and enjoy the outdoors. Working with TASP each year is more fulfilling than the last.” Johnson added that he pays for all of his expenses himself. All the money raised, he says, goes directly to TASP.
“Teaming up with all these athletes is always such a treat. I hope everyone, disabled and able-bodied people alike, can watch and enjoy these videos and learn that it’s a wide world out there. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it.”
Johnson has hiked over 16,000-miles and twice earned the “Triple Crown” of long distance hiking: hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. With fewer than 200 recognized Triple Crown hikers, Johnson is almost certainly one of very few who have twice completed this achievement.
Donations can be made at www.gohawkeye.com/donate. Donations fund TASP scholarships, new equipment purchases, athlete sponsorships and TASP’s Disability Awareness Program.