By Bryan Wish
How many of you would be crazy enough to take a stand for a cause you were committed to changing by walking the whole section of the Georgia Appalachian Trail? … Especially when for the entire 79 miles, the special person you are raising awareness for had to be carried on your shoulders.
This special person is Carden Wyckoff, former University of Georgia student and current professional at Salesforce, who battles FSH Muscular Dystrophy. Simply, Muscular Dystrophy is a long term physical disorder that deteriorates the strength of the skeletal muscles.
So how did this crazy idea come together in the first place? Athens based startup Vestigo (hyperlink) works to empower the outdoors by inspiring local trips for outdoors guides to take people in the community for an experience that will challenge and push you outside your comfort zone. When Marshall heard about Carden’s condition, there was nothing more he wanted to do than to help through a mission he works to serve everyday. But Marshall believed he could do something extremely special and meaningful which led to the idea to embark on a crazy adventure. After 3 months of planning, working with partners, and helping Carden and her brother Spencer get ready, the significance of this event became even bigger. They realized they were fighting for a cause bigger than any one person, but for an entire community of people who battle FSH Muscular Dystrophy every single day.
The Piggyback Adventures began on a blistering cold Saturday morning on October 22nd. First day trek: 7.4 Miles. It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit with wind gusts up to 25 mph. Not your ideal conditions to begin a 79 mile adventure. Like the weather, Carden’s brother Spencer Wyckoff seemed a bit uncertain but said with uncanny confidence, “I was nervous, uncertain, but ready.” Since 2014, Spencer has been carrying Carden on his back in various events such as Tomorrow World and Spartan Races. But this adventure was different. Hiking and camping for 9 straight days would be quite the test. While Spencer has been the main person carrying Carden on his back the past two years, he realized that he would need to place trust in the other team members to carry his sister to the finish line.
Within the first two miles of the adventure, four different people had to carry Carden on their back. Little did they know how hard it would be to support Carden on the harness that was custom built just for this trip. Carden’s sister, Virginia Wyckoff said, “the hardest part about day 1 was getting the harnesses set, so much stopping and starting, figuring out how to make the towels work to make Carden more comfortable and adjusting as we went. Before long, we figured out how to make Carden more secure against our back by using a bungee cord that wrapped around Carden’s back so she didn’t flop around.” Simply, there was not so much a plan for how this was going to work or even if the harness would hold up. You would think with Spencer being a Georgia Tech graduate, he would have lined up some mechanical engineers 3 months ago … but felt it would be best to build an MVP prototype first, and then have his friends help :)
While the group got off to a rough start the first two miles, the group was propelled by when Carden’s sister Virginia marched forward with Carden on her back for almost a mile. This was a big confidence booster to all the boys on the trip. What followed was Marshall putting in the headphones and carrying on for almost a mile. Spencer’s mindset gained a big mental boost from watching this unfold before his eyes and truly stepped up to the plate next. Carden’s father also played a big role carrying Carden and made a big push for about 30 minutes. This was a team effort and no one was backing down. Before they knew it, the group entered the camp site around 7pm on a high … perhaps the first high of the day.
While the day started with the team having no idea how they were going to carry Carden on the trail, they had such a strong reason why. This greater purpose has been pushing them towards an end goal bigger than themselves. At the end of the day, that is what mattered. This is a special group and they are making history step by step.
7.4 miles down, 71.6 miles to go.
Please contribute, we are halfway to our goal of $10,000
Special Thanks to the Day 1 Crew:
Spencer Wyckoff, Carden Wyckoff, Virginia Wyckoff, Sarah Isabel Walls, Marshall Mosher, Dad, Ben, and Chris
This trip wouldn't be possible without our proud partner, Vestigo.co. Marshall Mosher and his team have been incredible and we are so fortunate to work with them.