The sound of horse shoes on asphalt and cars whizzing by are sounds Trent Peterson hasn't heard in a while. He's been living with the wind and a couple of wild mustangs for months, walking three miles per hour for 2,300 miles.
"At that speed, if you stay under three miles per hour, the things you can observe are far greater and you become part of the system. You're no longer above the system and away from it. The system being the world," Peterson said.
Peterson chose to adopt the mustangs and ride them to raise awareness about the wild horses. They're rounded up by the Bureau of Land Management and put in holding pens. There are thousands in need of new homes, built physically for exactly the adventure Peterson planned.
"Minaret" likes to take naps, but "Gary" stands at attention. He's named after a special man who once lost his ability to stand altogether.
"He came in and said I can't ever ride again. That's when it hit me. I realized the thief was starting to take hold and I call it the thief because it slowly over 18 years stole his life bit by bit by bit."
Trent's father, Gary, died of a rare hereditary disease called Ataxia. Because so few people are diagnosed, it doesn't get much attention. Like the wild mustangs, Peterson says, it needs an advocate.
Little did Peterson know, though, that Gary the mustang would remind him so much of his father.
"He's physically not able to walk up, so he drops to his knees and army crawls back onto the trail. He stands up and looks forward like, 'Let's go.' There wasn't a fuss with it. That was dad," Peterson said.
Peterson has had a lot of help along the way. Support staff, including his mother, brought supplies at rest points.
"It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," his mom, Cheryll Peterson, said. "But you have to live. You have to make a contribution to society. You have to be good. Step one foot in front of the other every day, get up and try to be positive."
Besides a rare horse and a rare disease, Peterson has a third message for all of us.
"This isn't to advocate for the PCT. The PCT is just a trail. Get out of the rat race and slow down. Pay attention to the little things, not just the big things, because it's the whole picture we need to be aware of," he said.
It's a message Peterson wants to live daily because he knows that someday he might also be diagnosed with the disease that killed his dad. He has a 50% chance.
And so, this is how he responds to what he hears most on the trail.
"'Man I wish I could do that. You're living the life I want to live,'" Peterson recounted. "But everybody can."
Follow Trent's journey and support his cause on his website TheWildInUs.org.
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