Late Alabama hiker inspires others to finish Appalachian Trail - Tucson News Now

Late Alabama hiker inspires others to finish Appalachian Trail

James Styles (Source: Family) James Styles (Source: Family)
James Styles' pebbles have made it to Mount Katahdin in Maine. (Source: Family) James Styles' pebbles have made it to Mount Katahdin in Maine. (Source: Family)
James Styles' boots contain pebbles for hikers at the Appalachian Trail. (Source: Family) James Styles' boots contain pebbles for hikers at the Appalachian Trail. (Source: Family)
MADISON, AL (WAFF) -

Down life's long and rocky road, you're bound to step on a few stones.

"See, I fall a lot. That's the reason probably I don't hike, if you want to know the truth about it," said Brenda Styles. "I have fallen, several times, broke both legs."

She sustained these injuries while she was with her husband, James.

"He loved waterfalls. I've got a lot of pictures and videos of waterfalls that he's taken on lots of his hikes," she said. "He wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. That was his dream. And unfortunately, his dream was cut short. He was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in September of 2014."

James passed away less than a year later.

"We were supposed to grow old together, but those stones come in our life," Styles said.

She remembers the biggest rock in her path by carrying around a few tiny pebbles.

"I brought them today, so they're hiking today on Monte Sano. He would like that," she said.

That gave her a bright idea. She took her husband's old hiking boots to the trail head of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia and filled them with pebbles.

"I thought if hikers would take one pebble and carry it along with them as they traveled the trail, it would be symbolic of him hiking the trail. So we did that. I put a little sign on the trail, on his boots, which told his story and his dream," she said.

Then James finally reached the end of the trail.

"I know of at least three different pebbles made it all the way to Mount Katahdin, which is the northern terminus of the AT, and that's in Maine," said Styles.

Hikers would send her pictures of how far they and their little pebble traveled.

"it's very easy to want to give up out there. And they'll look at it. They'll read James' story and they'll go like, 'I can do this. I can do this for me and I can do it for James,'" she said.

Pebbles have been photographed at all points on the Appalachian Trail and even reached the tallest peak in North America.

"Mt. Denali, which is in Alaska. So it's gone all the way to Alaska," she said.

The pebbles are so popular, Styles has had to fill up the boots three times.

"It's a four-hour drive, but it's worth it," she said.

And she can't wait to see where her husband's pebbles and the people they inspire travel next.

Styles is a nurse at Madison Hospital. She's just weeks away from retirement. She plans to write a book about her husband, his travels and the people he's inspired.

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