WINDHAM, N.Y. – The Adaptive Sports Foundation (ASF) took four wounded veterans backpacking and camping in the Northern Catskill Forest in this week’s Warriors in Motion® event from June 20-22.
“The last couple of days were a great experience for me,” warrior Erik Morales-Goroshko said after returning to ASF after the three-day excursion. “I saw the challenge again from the military where it brings physical and mental challenges back together, but having the camaraderie helped and it was just a great experience.”
The four veterans met with program manager Tony Vasile and the rest of the ASF staff on Tuesday afternoon at the Gwen Allard Adaptive Sports Center at noon. They were treated to a lunch before Vasile showed the participants where they were heading on the three-day trek and how to properly pack their backpacks. After everyone’s bags were packed, the WIM group was dropped off at the Batavia Kill Trailhead and began the 1.75-mile hike to the lean-to. The rocky and rooted trail didn’t stop the warriors, as they made it to the lean-to where they set up camp.
After a night around the campfire and listening to the owls hoot and coyotes howl, the WIM group rose out of their tents, packed up and hit the trail by 8 a.m. The veterans and Vasile set off from the Batavia Kill lean-to and began their climb up the back of Blackhead Mountain, a notoriously challenging 1,000 ft climb over a 0.9 miles stretch of trail. The equally steep descent led the group over a smaller mountain, Arizona, before the veterans began their descent from the peaks and made their way to Colgate Lake via Dutcher Notch, arriving at the lake’s primitive campsites and setting up their dwellings for the evening by 3 p.m. Day two’s hike covered a distance of seven miles, and the group had more time to bond at the campsite on the longest day of the year.
Two warriors had to leave early Thursday morning to get back to their homes, so they packed up and left at the crack of dawn. The remaining two warriors and Vasile packed their bags and tents and took the ASF shuttle bus back to Windham to indulge in a well-deserved breakfast at the Windham Diner. They returned to the ASF lodge with full stomachs to shower and say their goodbyes.
“I’ve been looking forward to this trip all season,” Vasile said. “We worked hard; we did some serious hiking yesterday. The community journal at the lean-to said, ‘whatever you do, don’t climb Blackhead Mountain’ and we did it with packs on our backs and got back to our campsite to enjoy a fire. I enjoyed getting to really spend time and bond with the participants. I can’t wait for next year.”
The ASF’s Warriors in Motion program provides participating injured United States servicemen and women with a basic knowledge and practice of wellness and the importance of lifelong healthy living. Each event includes adaptive sports and nutrition instruction, as well as other healthful practices such as yoga and stress reduction techniques. ASF views the time that veterans spend together as an essential part of their healing, so the foundation makes sure that there are periods of downtime that the participants can use to connect with each other. All WIM programs are goal-oriented and empower the warrior to take charge of their own fitness and wellness.
The ASF’s next WIM event will take place next week from June 27-29 when eight veterans visit Windham for the hiking program. Thanks to generous donations given to the organization, the Adaptive Sports Foundation will be able to provide equipment, water bottles, all meals, snacks, water, sports drinks, sunscreen, bug spray, ponchos (if necessary) and trail maps.
If you’d like to donate to the Adaptive Sports Foundation’s Warriors in Motion program, or any of the other programs the ASF has to offer, click here.
Watch the video below to hear Erik Goroshko-Morales and Tony Vasile describe their experience backpacking through the Catskills!