Scaling Mount Yonah

By Erik Swenson

It was day three of Wild at Heart Basic in White County, Ga. There was an open invite to hike Mount Yonah (Cherokee word for bear). The trek is 4.4 miles with just over 1,500 feet gained in elevation not nothing, especially for a novice.

During lunch, one man from our group stood to announce a plan birthed 10 minutes prior. For any willing to join, the aim was to get Jeremiah as far up the mountain as possible. Jeremiah Means is taller than any man who was there and weighs in at just over 200 pounds (mostly muscle mass). A brain injury 11 years ago impacted his sight, hearing and motor control in varying degrees. In his words, the incident took him from 6’4” to 4’2”. Jeremiah has massive upper body strength from manning a wheelchair for over a decade. He can split wood from a seated position. And his heart, intellect and will rival the power in his forearms. One discernible weakness (which is common to most men and which he is apt to admit) is a reluctance to ask for and receive help. But the challenge had been issued. Some of us were pressed to believe it would be possible to carry him that far (though we didn’t voice our doubts). And Jeremiah was being pressed to consent to being carried.

The initial suggestion was to attempt fireman’s carry and cart him up on our backs. What the proposal lacked in wisdom it made up for in zeal. Someone quickly offered an alternative plan. We would build a litter.

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