First and foremost, I’m a follower of Christ. Without Him, none of this would be possible. I am forever grateful and undeserving of His Grace and love. I give God the glory for all that I do.
I’m a bearded husband to Ashley aka my “Beautiful Bride”…… (and she really is). I call her this to remind her that she is as beautiful today as the day I married her. Ashley supports me and she lets me be me and lets me do what I do. I’m a proud dad to 5 (1 boy and 4 girls (God help me) and a bearded hiking machine….. Did I already mention bearded?
Ashley and I got married November 24, 2013. I would love to tell that everything has been unicorns and rainbows, but I’d be lying. Before Ashley and her daughters Melody and Maddie came along, it was me and Connor. I was an EMT, Rescue Diver, Firefighter, Swiftwater Rescue Instructor and more. I’ve seen more than my fair share of death. I was in the first responder fields for over 10 years. And it was another 3 years before I realized something wasn’t right. Triggered by a traumatic event, I began experiencing severe depression, anger issues and anxiety attacks. After Ashley and I got married it got worse….. much worse. Little did I know, I was dealing with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
WHY I HIKE
After a year of trying to manage my PTS and teenage girl drama, I realized I needed a break from everything and everyone. I felt like my mental health depended on it……. (REALLY) and the safety of everyone around me.. haha (not really…). Thats when I re-discovered hiking. I use to hiking a lot in my upper teens and twenties. I really enjoyed it, but with life changes and 2 failed marriages, I had gotten out of the habbit of it. So when I started hiking again it was like I was discovering me again.
My relationship with my beautiful bride and my children improved. The longer I would be out on a hike, the better our relationship got. I was able to de-clutter my brian, get away from all the noises. be surrounded in God’s creation and spend some one on One time with my Creator. Doing this gives me the ability to hit RESET and decompress my PTS symptoms, come back home after a few days, a week or months feeling refreshed and ready to take on the teenage monsters living in these pretty little girls…… haha
But don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love all of my children. I might not have helped create all of them and we might not all have the last name. But don’t doubt for one minute that I won’t claim all these kids as MINE. I’m blessed to be their “dad” and to be the one raising them.
I can say that hiking has made be a better husband, father and man. That is truly why I hike. Too bad it doesn’t make me any prettier, but that’s what the beard is for…… to hide the ugly..
My birth name is Benny Braden, but my trail name is “Plug-it In”. I was born and raised in East Tennessee. It’s where I’ve lived all my life and where I’m proud to call home.