Outdoor Community Rallies to Bring Appalachian Trail Dream to Life in Paul’s Boots

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REI debuts inspiring film across the nation; chronicles how one man’s outdoor goal was achieved after he passed away

What does it take to fulfill one man’s big dream? For Paul, it took 40 hikers, 2,189 miles, 14 states and a pair of boots. Paul’s Boots tells the moving story of how, following her husband’s untimely death, a woman in Australia appealed to the outdoor community to help fulfill his lifelong dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Presented by REI and produced by Duct Tape Then Beer, the award-winning team behind The Dirtbag Diaries podcast, Paul’s Boots is a 37 minute film, available now on REI.com. It will premiere to sold-out shows in Washington, D.C., Portland, Ore., Atlanta, Georgia and Seattle, Wash. in the coming weeks. Each screening includes a Q&A session with the hikers that made this journey possible. REI will donate the $5 entry fee at all live screenings to support maintenance on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails.

The film tells the story of how a collection of gritty volunteer hikers helped achieve one man’s lifelong goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Paul spent months preparing for the trip of a lifetime, but his health deteriorated rapidly. After Paul passed away last July without reaching the trail, his wife M’Lynn contacted Duct Tape Then Beer and asked if they could help realize his dream by carrying Paul’s hiking boots the length of the trail in his honor.

“When M’Lynn reached out to us, her request was simple and heartfelt. I couldn’t read it and not think, ‘What can I do?’ As a team, we were each compelled by the story, and the potential for the story to catalyze others to get out on the trail. I’m always looking for ways to build connections between the digital and real life outdoor communities. Asking the hiking community to carry Paul’s boots seemed like an easy thing to do. I had no idea we would receive such a positive response from hikers volunteering to carry Paul’s boots,” said Fitz Cahall, co-founder and creative director at Duct Tape Then Beer.

“We were deeply moved by Paul’s story and his dedication to hike the Appalachian Trail and love for the outdoors. The response from the REI community was equally inspiring. Hundreds of people volunteered to carry his boots along the trail. Everyone involved in the film shows what we mean when we talk about the magic of a life lived outdoors. It is heart wrenching that Paul didn’t get to do the hike himself, but we are honored to have been a part of this and to share the story with our members,” said Ben Steele, REI’s chief creative officer.

The Journey of Paul’s Boots
In the January 22 episode of The Dirbag Diaries, Duct Tape Then Beer and REI put out the call for volunteers to carry Paul’s boots the length of the Appalachian Trail. More than 400 people from the outdoor community stepped forward. Ultimately 40 different hikers, between the ages of eight and 70, were selected to carry a pair of Paul’s boots over every section of the world’s longest hiking-only footpath.

Along with the boots, shipped all the way from Ipswich, Australia, the hikers received cameras to document their journey. The crew from Duct Tape Then Beer caught up with hikers along the way and Paul’s brother and wife were even able to join for the final leg of the trip. Hear directly from M’Lynn about her husband and this project in the January 22 and September 16 episodes of The Dirtbag Diaries.

About REI
REI is a specialty outdoor co-op, headquartered near Seattle. The nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI is a growing community of more than 6 million active members who expect and love the best quality gear, inspiring expert classes and trips, and outstanding customer service. REI has 146 stores in 35 states. If you can’t visit a store, you can shop at REI.com, REI.com/Garage or the free REI shopping app. REI isn’t just about gear. You can take the trip of a lifetime with REI Adventures, a global leader in active adventure travel that runs 170 custom-designed itineraries on every continent. REI’s Outdoor School is run by professionally-trained, expert-instructors who teach beginner to advanced-level courses about a wide range of activities. To build on the infrastructure that makes life outside possible, REI invests millions annually in hundreds of local and national nonprofits that create access to–and steward–the outdoor places that inspire us.

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Mike Ferris
Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
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