Discovering Strength and Healing on the Long Path

May 13, 2024
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Discovering Strength and Healing on the Long Path


Shaun’s journey of recovery and self-discovery has been closely tied to the trails he’s hiked. Struggling with addiction and depression, Shaun’s life felt like an endless winter — “an ongoing darkness where every task felt like climbing a mountain” — until he found solace in the wilderness. Shaun completed a recovery program for addiction in 2015 and, inspired by stories from the Appalachian Trail, set out on teaching himself how to hike, embarking on a journey of healing and empowerment.

Hiking became more than a pastime for Shaun — it was a lifeline, a way to reclaim his self-worth and redefine his identity beyond addiction. Since completing the recovery program, Shaun has hiked more than 10,000 miles on long-distance trails across the country, including the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, as well as the Long Path — three times.

Shaun set out on his most recent trek of the Long Path, an end-to-end hike this past winter, to challenge himself yet again and bring attention to one of New York’s “most underrated trails.” He says: “The Long Path is unique from other trails because it goes from New York City, the largest city in the country population-wise, to the Adirondacks, the largest park in the continental U.S.”

Despite gear failures and unpredictable weather conditions, Shaun is appreciative of the opportunity  the Long Path gave him to learn how to hike long distances in cold temperatures, while also standing as a reminder of his resilience and how far he has come since 2015. “Something simple like brushing my teeth used to feel like climbing Everest. So now, camping on a trail in the cold feels like a cakewalk. It made me feel alive, like I’m living my life to the fullest, and that I can do anything.”

Reflecting on his journey, Shaun emphasizes the profound impact of trails on his personal path to recovery. “The Long Path has been such an epic journey. I was emotional when I got to the end point. It’s a huge milestone to finish in the Adirondack Park. But hiking, for me, is more than ‘peak bagging’ or collecting patches. It feels like coming home. It’s where I can take the mask off and truly be myself. Trails shouldn’t be an individual’s only form of recovery, but they can help.” 

Shaun’s experience has inspired him to volunteer with the Trail Conference, wanting to give back to the trails that have given him so much. As he continues to explore new trails and share his story, Shaun encourages others to explore the Long Path and support the Trail Conference, recognizing our organization and our “army of volunteers” as the backbone of the trail. 

The Long Path, a signature project of the Trail Conference, is a 358-mile trail that extends from New York City to the Adirondack Mountains, connecting many of New York’s parks, preserves, and state forest land. It is lovingly cared for by hundreds of Trail Conference volunteers. To learn more, visit

Shaun's story is published in the Spring 2024 edition of Trail Walker, the official magazine of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, featuring news about trails and public lands in our region and the people and agencies who build, maintain, and protect them. Trail Walker is published twice a year and is distributed as a benefit of membership in the Trail Conference. Get your copy!