It's official, our family just completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail this past September. To say this journey has been an adventure would be an understatement; mentally unpacking all that has happened along the way will likely take years.

One of the biggest impacts on our lives has been the trail community. We have met many wonderful people and made a pile of new friends - some for just a day, while others have been a part of our hike for weeks, months, and even the entire length of the trail.

One of the notable people we met on th e Appalachian Trail goes by the name of Smokin' Bear. We first met Smokin' Bear in Brown Gap where we and a glut(tony?) of other hikers were hanging-out taking advantage of some fantastic trail magic. What made Smokin' Bear so memorable to us was his story, his reason for hiking the trail, and his outlook on the short time we have on this earth. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, his wisdom, attitude, and reasons for embarking on a thru-hike of the AT have given us a lot to think about.

We saw Smokin' Bear many times after this and became friends along the way, but lost track of him somewhere after Pearisburg Virginia. We have no idea if he managed to finish his trek, nor do we know how his health has been holding-up.

Smokin Bear', if you are still out there somewhere (on the trail or otherwise), know that we still think of you often. You are an inspiration to us, and you left an indelible imprint on our family trail experience.

This post was contributed by Trail Ambassador Damien Tougas.