Niki Rellon ~ Facing Life's Mountains & Valleys on the Appalachian Trail

Let's pretend for a moment that this is your story:

I was a triathlete, a paramedic, kick-boxing champion, solo Pacific Trail thru-hiker, ski instructor and climber.

On Friday, November 1, 2013, I fell while rappelling in Utah. I broke my pelvis, spine, and shattered my left foot. The damage was so severe they had to amputate my foot.

The pain and depression required medication. Then came the need for meds and the troubles that caused.

I am young. I am a woman.

My name is Niki Rellon.

Now what?

So. What will the next chapter of your life look like? Which exit or on-ramp do you take on the Road of Life:

  1. The Rocky Road of I Cannot
  2. The Dead End of I Will Not
  3. The Long Road to Recovery
Niki Rellon cannot be properly defined by the single word "amputee." Victor, perhaps, but not amputee. ~~ Photo from Nike Rellon's Facebook page

Niki Rellon cannot be properly defined by the single word "amputee." Victor, perhaps, but not amputee. ~~ Photo from Nike Rellon's Facebook page

Most of us cannot imagine the kinds of struggles that are Niki's.

We freak out when the refrigerator conks out, overflowing tubs leak into rooms on lower floors and when we can't find our car keys.

A few among us must cope with words like "lump," "overdue," "accident," "met someone else" or "cutbacks."

Hearing a doctor say you must have an amputation? That's got to be big-time difficult.

Niki Rellon -- against considerable advice -- decided to face her suddenly new life on the Appalachian Trail. With determination, hiking poles and one new leg.

Bionic Woman

Taking "Bionic Woman" as her Trail name, she headed north from Georgia's Springer Mountain and set her sights on Maine's Katahdin mountains, home of Baxter Peak, the end of the Trail.

Bionic Woman "only" hiked seven miles her first day on the Trail. As if that's something to be ashamed of because she "should have" done more while carrying a pack on her back with all her gear. Can you imagine?

Years ago I tried to talk my older brother, Jim, into hiking the AT. That's been a dream of his for most of his life. I think his reference to the Trail was my initiation into its existence. Jim is pushing 70, in great shape and really could make the trek.

Jim (I call him "Jimmy" of course) said he has bad knees and a pain here and/or there.

I smugly replied with advice that I would never accept for myself:

Pffft! You could make it! If you got into trouble, the blind hikers and the folks on crutches would help you, until the little girls and old men arrived to care for you.

Laugh, but that's true.

Great pain and great tragedies can birth great triumphs.

I marvel at the life and achievements of Niki Rellon -- when she had two good legs and now that she is the Bionic Woman.

If I understand correctly, as of the end of July, 2015, Niki has hiked more than 1,000 miles. She made it to Harpers Ferry, WV, then flip-flopped to Maine.

That's where hikers climb an almost-mile-high-mountain in order to begin to hike the Appalachian Trail southward to Georgia.

Here's the story of her descent from Katahdin posted at

There is good reason that the north end of trail closes early. On Niki's second day heading south, she learned firsthand how quickly the weather can change. As she was descending off Mt. Baxter, she was caught in a wet and windy storm with gusts over 80 miles per hour. She was literally being blown off the mountain. She had no choice, but to hunker down in her sleeping bag and call for help. A ranger came to her aid and the pair was able to escape to lower elevation. Unfortunately, the long wait in wet sub-zero temperatures resulted in frostbite to Niki's toes and fingers. She was forced to take yet another recovery break of several days.

She was literally being blown off the mountain.

Now (early August), Niki is back on the trail and making progress. Her sights are still set on becoming the first female amputee to finish the AT thru-hike. However she has already accomplished her main objective - to regain her strength and become med-free. Niki expects to finish in late October or early November.

In my estimation, Niki doesn't need to walk another foot to be my hero. She's done plenty.

Suzannah the Muse

When I told Suzannah (my muse) about Niki, she replied "Now, that's a story! Wow!"

And all Appalachian Trail hikers said, "Amen!"

Niki and You

What are you sure that you cannot do in life? What uniquely insurmountable troubles and woes whup your butt? What is too hard for you?

Does the fact that Niki is hiking the AT on one leg mean that your problems are insignificant? No.

Does it mean all your issues are easily overcome? No.

Niki Rellon hiking the Appalachian Trail after having one leg amputated does mean that we do not have to give up on life, crawl into a hole and have a lifelong pity party.

Cheer up! Life could be worse ... and if you life long enough it will get worse! It's all a matter of how you will deal with your life, wherever it leads.

I admire the way Niki Rellon tackles the mountains and valleys in her life. May God bless her.

You go, girl! Everything's going to be all right.

Click Here for Niki Rellon's Facebook Page

Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Hikers, and niki rellon appalachian trail

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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Hiker on Jul 30, 2015
This is a great story. That link you posted sounds a little exaggerated though. Sub-zero temperatures on Katahdin in July? Sub-freezing, sure, but I don't know about sub-zero.
Robert Sutherland on Aug 31, 2015

Katahdin, like Mt. Washington, is known for radical weather changes and extreme conditions.

Perhaps this link will help:

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dan vitale on Jul 30, 2015
Mt Baxter? Do you mean Katahdin? Anyway, thanks to Niki, I need some inspiration. I'll be following her progress.
Robert Sutherland on Aug 31, 2015

"Mount Katahdin" is the popular but incorrect name given to Baxter Peak on Katahdin.

Here is my source:

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Hope that helps.