A Trails of Resilience team hiked Mt. Philo on June 11 in memory of Chris Desjardin of Colchester. “There were so many smiles, and people came together to show their love for him. We talked and shared memories while making new ones.” Photo submitted by Megan Manley

Megan Manley | Trails of Resilience founder

We hiked Mt. Philo on June 11 in memory of Chris Desjardin of Colchester. About 35 of his friends and family attended. We took photos with the chair that is in his name, and we had a picnic while toasting his favorite Stella Artois at the top. There were so many smiles, and people came together to show their love for him. We talked and shared memories while making new ones.

One of our most important goals is to get the growing Trails of Resilience community to set up its own hikes and reach out to others. Whether it’s a memorial hike or a hike to battle a bad day, we want everyone to be involved. And we are here to help plan anything out. What we do is raise awareness of addiction, depression, anxiety and PTSD. We want to let others know they are not alone.

Trails of Resilience originally started with the idea of raising awareness for opiate abuse until I realized that it was much more personal for me than that and that there were many more people out there who could benefit. Laura Stull has been my biggest help through this entire project. There is so much I never would have been able to do without her help and support.

In June 2010 I married Chris Desjardin, a man who was funny, outgoing, energetic and who loved his family. He absolutely loved to be outdoors, especially hiking. And let me tell you, I hated it. The only way he could get me to go was to make a deal with me. If I went on 10 hikes, we could try for a baby! I got about three hikes in before my depression and his addictions ran their course on our relationship and we were apart within the year. The friendship we had never died, though. The love was always there.

In March 2014 we lost him to his battle with addiction, and I lost myself deeper into depression. With every loss it seems my depression would get harder, but with the loss of Chris, it was just too overwhelming. So I decided that I needed to grieve in a way that worked for me, and that was to do something that he loved. Hike. And so it began. I started hiking all the places we hiked and then some.

This is how Trails of Resilience came alive. If you’re feeling sad, reach out to someone in the community. Plan a hike! Get to the top of that mountain and conquer the day, those feelings, that loss. If you know someone is suffering, ask them to go on a hike. I know with every hike, Chris is with me. And even if it is only one day, it’s better at the top with a friend and a view than at your bottom, home alone.

For more information email trailsofresilience@gmail.com.