This short film brings together the beauty of the outdoors and power of paying it forward.
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How far would you go to help fulfill a dream?

Paul Evans from Ipswich, Queensland in Australia, always dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail. In fact, he had a full backpack and three polished pairs of boots ready to go. Sadly, he passed away before he could ever take that first step. His wife, M'Lynn, was devastated, but that wasn’t going to stop her from making Paul’s dream a reality in her own special way.

She asked for the help of strangers, wondering if anyone could take Paul's boots with them on their own journey on the trail. All M'Lynn asked for in return were photos of the boots along the way.


Nothing, however, could prepare her for the overwhelming response she received from hikers all across the country.

See for yourself just how powerful the kindness of strangers can be:

We accomplish our dreams when we work together. Paul passed away before completing the Appalachian Trail, but thanks to a few good Samaritans, his boots made the journey.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The short film, aptly titled "Paul's Boots," follows different hikers helping M'Lynn realize Paul's dream by carrying a pair of his boots through the Appalachian Trail.

Mind you, this is a 2,189-mile excursion that stretches from Georgia all the way to Maine. For even the most experienced hikers, it's a trip that can last between five to seven months. It requires planning, patience, and precise packing — such that carrying a four-and-a-half-pound pair of hardy footwear makes a difference.

All images via "Paul's Boots."

But you know what? All of them were happy to have Paul keep them company. And what's even more amazing is how each hiker had their own special reason for joining this incredible cause.

A few years after completing the trail, Alex Newlon was inspired to do it again because he knows just how special this dream is.

"When I found out about Paul’s story, that really got me to do it," says Newlon. "Don’t hold back 'cause that was always my dream."

Tom Gathman, also known as The Real Hiking Viking, simply wanted to pay it forward.

"I've hiked thousands and thousands and thousands of miles carrying nothing but the things I need. I just figured, this is the least I could do to help somebody else out," says Gathman before cracking a joke. "I'm glad I did it, but you are heavy, dude."

The trail even inspired Jim Parker to sing a touching little tune.

He sings, "Always boots too large to fill. Really lets me feel my heart. And the love is moving still. When you open up your heart. Good old Paul was way too young. But in our hearts he will remain. These old boots keep moving on. Up from Georgia, clear to Maine."

No matter how different each hiker's experience was, what connected all of them was a shared love of the great outdoors and the desire to help fulfill a dream.

Laurie Potteiger of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy paints the picture beautifully, saying, "Who you are back in your other life doesn't matter. People just relate to each other as human beings and that's one of the most wonderful things about it. The trail will provide."

Paul's boots joined hikers ranging from 8 years old all the way to over 70, all bound together by the desire to do something bigger than themselves and by the beautiful experience of opting to go outside.

Will you #OptOutside with them?

Watch the full film, "Paul's Boots," on the REI Co-op Journal.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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