For some long distance hikers, trekking close to 500 miles in a season is a heck of an accomplishment. But for a Colorado man with a degenerative nerve disease, hiking that many miles falls into the realm of the unbelievable.
Last month Matthew Bogue, who is legally blind and was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1996, finished hiking the 471-mile Colorado Trail with his friend Krisann Knish. The journey took them 47 days. They averaged about 10 miles per day while crossing six wilderness areas, eight mountain ranges, and five river systems. They encountered heavy downpours, hail storms, lightning, and altitude of 13,000 feet.
But the curves the weather and wilderness threw at them were nothing compared to the physical challenges Bogue faced daily.MS attacks the central nervous system and affects vision, walking, coordination, and balance. Eventually, the disease can lead to total debilitation.
“I have no control over what’s going on in my body from one day to the next,” he said. “I’ve always been pretty fit, but now walking can be a problem. I have very little vision, problems with balance and bladder control, and numbness in my hands and feet.
“It becomes a mind game, more mental than physical. At the Jimmie Heuga (MS) Center, I talked with other people with MS, and they said that simply getting out of bed in the morning can be the day’s first mountain to climb.”
At the center (founded by Olympic skier Heuga) in Edwards, Colorado, Bogue learned a “can-do” approach to MS. Since his diagnosis, he’s surfed in Bali, skied on Mount Kilimanjaro, and trekked amidst volcanoes in New Zealand. His recent Colorado Trail undertaking was designed to further prove that having MS doesn’t mean life stops.