Hiking has been a passion for Brooke Artesi for over 15 years – ever since her boyfriend (now husband ) Steve took her to the Bear Mountain portion of the Appalachian Trail. She fell in love with the exhilaration of the hike and the welcoming shelters along the way. In 2015, Brooke completed the 20 mile AT hike on the Shawangunk Trail in less than 8 hours, fast walking all the way. Her ultimate goal is to someday complete the entire trail – all 2,166 miles through 13 states! In the meantime, she hikes as often as possible, being a mother of 2, wife, and owner/Chief Prosthetist & Orthotist of Sunshine Prosthetics and Orthotics in Wayne NJ.
Brooke has been a right leg below the knee amputee since the age of 15, due to a train accident. Hiking was a challenge which she soon mastered. Having her first son, Nicco, didn’t stop her. While she was home with Nicco, she joined a group called Baby and Me Hike and carried him in a back carrier on every Tuesday hike.
AN INTERVIEW WTH BROOKE
How do you train for long distance hiking?
I map out a trail that’s about 10 miles and just go. Sometimes Steve will drop me off 10 miles away from home on the weekends and I’ll walk home through the woods on the trails.
Every run into any dangers?
Once I ran into a standing bear in the woods and immediately turned onto another trail. Luckily he didn’t follow me! Another time I had to be hospitalized for a reaction to a bee sting – now I have to carry an EpiPen.
What equipment do you carry with you?
I always wear hiking boots and have titanium hiking poles which Nicco kept wanting so I had to buy him a pair now that he’s walking with me and not on my back! Soon my second son, Giovanni, will be joining us and the back carrier will be in use again.
What’s in your backpack?
Always carry water and of course my EpiPen. I try not to take much because it gets heavy.
Who hikes with you?
Anyone who wants to join me! Friends, family and of course my new group “Sunshine Amputee/Adaptive Hikers”. We had our first hike on Pyramid Mountain Beginner’s Trail last month and it was so much fun that the members asked me to design a group hike there every month through October. I developed the hike for beginning hikers – amputees, those with assistive walking devices and their family and friends. It’s about a 2 mile hike but as the group progresses, I can change the trail and distance. It’s a great opportunity to try hiking and, at the same time, be surrounded by people with similar challenges.
How does one join the hike?
The new dates we set up are April 22nd, May 20th, June 24th, July 22nd, August 26th, September 23rd and October 28th. If people want to join us, they can email me at Brooke@Sunshinepando.com
What’s the most enjoyable part of hiking?
Seeing the same trail offer something different each time – changes in seasons, weather, wildlife, flowers and trees. There are always new challenges and beauties.
What’s your favorite trail?
The Appalachian Trail is my absolute favorite – it goes on for over two thousand miles, through different states. You meet people from all over the world along the way and there are trail shelters and guest houses and log books to sign. There are mountains and rock formations to climb, rivers to cross, mud, stones, a total challenge physically and mentally but it’s my dream to conquer the whole trail!
What makes a hike difficult?
Carrying a child on your back in the summer heat certainly is hard. So are bad weather conditions, hills, wet leaves which become very slippery and can also sometimes hide mud and rocks. But I love the challenge and the exhilaration at the finish and I also love seeing people who never thought they could do it find that they are stronger than they thought. That’s most exciting to me.
If you want to find out more about the Sunshine Amputee/Adaptive Hikes, visit our web page https://sunshinepando.com/adaptive-hikes/