Borne the Battle #203: Army Veteran Erik Schlimmer, Serial Hiker, Author, Therapist


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Army Veteran Erik Schlimmer has camped over 1,000 nights, climbed over 2,000 summits and hiked over 15,000 miles. In 2010 he hiked the entire Trans Adirondack Route – which spans over 230 miles – over just a few weeks. Schlimmer believes that hiking is one of the best ways for anyone – Veteran or otherwise – to improve their health and their happiness.

After completing two years of military service and four years of college, Schlimmer chose to spend his twenties and thirties enjoying nature by working the hiking trails of the Northeastern United States. He worked seasonally as a trail-builder, ranger, and expedition leader, living simply and spending all his free time hiking. He currently works as a therapist, helping others to return the favor for all who have helped him in the past.

Erik Schimmer Tree Rub

Erik Schlimmer on one of his many hikes. (source: Erik Schlimmer)

After transitioning to civilian life, Schlimmer longed for the camaraderie he experienced in the Army. But he also loved the freedom and sense of personal accountability he found when being alone in nature.

It was his love of the Adirondacks that inspired him to found the Friends of the Trans Adirondack Route. His LLC works to ensure the Adirondacks remain free and open to the public, and promotes helping other people complete the trek themselves. He also founded his own publishing house, Beechwood Books, to publish his own books and materials on the Adirondacks.

Schlimmer funds his expeditions and raises money for Huts for Vets, an organization he works with that offers free hiking and camping trips for Veterans who have suffered trauma.

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Rob Laucius is a podcast intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He is an undergraduate student at Hillsdale College studying History.

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Comments

  1. Eric Bradshaw    

    I’ve been amazed at what hiking does for my morale, attitude and overall well being. I grew up in upstate NY and hiked and camped in the Adirondacks many times. But, it wasn’t until I reached my 50s that I became a hiking believer so to speak. I live in NE Ohio now and there are so many wonderful parks and hiking trails to explore – it’s a Godsend, it really is. My first year after moving here, a new friend (who’d just retired) from a new church here would take me to a different park/trail every week. It was great. I no longer have a day off during the week to go to a new park and./or trail every week but, I still hike/walk in my own neighborhood during the week and I can visit parks on the weekends. I’m working at home since Covid-19 (thank God I still have a job and *can* work from home), and I “hike” a mile up and down my own street – most every day – in the morning, before I start work, and during my half hour lunch – and a lot of times in the evening after work as well. It’s energizing. Real energy. As apposed to coffee (which I still drink). Hiking that one mile in the morning gets me energized for the day. Hiking that one mile at lunch gets me energized for the afternoon. And of course I still love to go on a “real” (longer) hike on the weekends at one of the local parks.

  2. Thomas jenkins    

    Beautiful story of this organization helping combat veterans, this video brought tears to my eyes for all these wonderful veterans, man and women who served our country to protect us. I’m also a Vietnam veteran non combat, but relate to them all as I am a veteran who experience m.s.t. In Vietnam. I’m getting help with my problem also with my local v.a. Nurse consultant. I’m glad these veterans have found these other veterans in the group to help each other and have them as their new friends. I will remember you all in my prays. God bless each and every one of you, stay safe, take care. Thomas Jenkins Vietnam veteran 1969-1971 USAD long bing Vietnam.

  3. Thomas Reigle    

    I am a noncombat veteran from my military experience of 1964 to 1968 as a Weapons Load Crew chief loading munitions on F-102A fighter interceptors in Germany. Accidents were many when, just in our armament shop, all of us had to work on our knees crawling under the bay doors to load munitions onto launcher rails or rockets into rocket tubes in each weapons door of the aircraft. Working bent over, or on one’s knees for extended periods, or wrestling 600 lb missiles off of the loading trailers and onto the launcher rails while trying to squat low enough to miss cracking our heads on some interior part of the bays while also lining up the missile lugs onto the rails on the launchers for accurate installation of the munitions can take a toll on one’s body when done daily for up to 6 sorties per day during a military readiness inspection or simply covering the added workload, Those squadrons, which took over the French sector of the “border” between Western Europe and the Communist countries east of that border, had a large added daily workload placed upon them when France pulled out of their NATO commitment in 1965. Along with the US commitment for flying the “Line”, we had to take up the slack of covering the French commitment also.

    I was an outdoorsman since my early childhood, I felt at home in the woods and mountains of the Appalachians, where I was born, and spent as much time camping, hiking, and teen level exploring in those old mountains as I did around the home where I grew up. My dad and I would take a couple of weeks off each summer to fish and camp, sometimes just north of home in the Appalachians or further up into Maine and over into northern Canada. We were always active and outdoors and I was able to keep up with the adults until my teens when I usually became the “leader” when trekking into some backwoods stream or lake in search of native trout or other fish and wildlife and exploring new lands.

    I have never applied for VA disability or asked the government or the Veterans Administration for any compensation or care through much of my adult life. Now, at age 77, I find that my joints, particularly my shoulder, hip, and knee joints have gotten to the point where I am in daily pain and have to walk with a cane to cover the distance from the parking lot to any store entrance. I was talked into applying for disability by an old friend, who served around the same time as my tour in the military ,so I sent in an application for those parts which were failing me at the time. This was in 2012 and it didn’t take long for a reply back from the VA that I had been denied on all 9 concerns of my application for disability, with the exception of the “granting” of “0% disability” for a scar incurred after a 7′ fall off of an icy access ladder during munitions preload checks in the cockpit, as part of my crew chief duties, during a freezing rain storm. Back in those days, many falls and other minor injuries were “diagnosed” and handled in-house with the injured airman being sent home to “rest and take aspirin”. In my case, that was the diagnosis and by the next morning I was in such excruciating pain that my buddy hauled me to the base infirmary and where they found that my appendix had ruptured during the fall and infection had spread all over my midsection area. They immediately transferred me to the nearby Army Medical Center where I was promptly prepped for an operation which was just hours away from being a terminal situation!! If my friend hadn’t taken me for help when he did, I wouldn’t be here to write my story.

    Bottom line, if you WANT help, it is out there for you and any Vet who will ask for it. Just returning to a “normal” way of living will work wonders for an otherwise dismal life after discharge. I got help and returned to my normal activities until I reached my sixties when things started sliding “south” for me and my joints started to become a concern. I am now in my 2nd year of re-applying for disability, with the help of a law firm who specializes in nothing but Veteran cases of disability which were initially denied. They are to the point of doing personal interviews of friends and of co-workers of mine from those days gone by and they are confident that I will have some medical help within the coming 6 months or so. It won’t bring back all those years I spent in pain while trying to keep my own businesses alive and successful but it may ease the final trek I am making down that path on which I have found myself from childhood to that final end of the trail when I can ease up and enjoy what will become my real eternal “home”.

  4. JKNCal    

    It’s a wonderful thing Erik does. I find it helps me to get out into nature to get back to myself. Especially alone or with my wife. I may have nightmares or feel stressed out and this gets my head together. I don’t want anyone around. It’s the best thing I can do for self therapy. I learned this from a Vietnam Vet who I consider my big brother before I went into the service myself. He would give me a hint and I would understand what he needed to do. Good job Erik. I can’t thank you enough for what you do.

  5. Jim Rossetti    

    Thank you, Erik!! Thanks to Huts for Vets!! I too find hiking,solitude and nature healing. I served as a combat medic with the 25th Infantry Division,Vietnam, 70-71. Hiking is my refuge. (Unfortunately,solitude is becoming harder to find.)

  6. Rex Harold    

    I would say the organizers and participants of these treks need to seek out Combat Vietnam Veterans that are still surviving. The stories and personal experiences you have included on this video documentary sound a lot like a LOT of combat Vietnam Veterans I have counseled as an outreach PTSD counselor at the Vet Center I worked at. Myself, I was a platoon medic and senior aide medic in 1968 in Vietnam in the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, at the peak of the Vietnam war when more injuries and more deaths and more agent orange was used than any other year of the Vietnam war. Yes, I’m disabled, I’m decorated, I spilled blood and I wrote up 77 Purple Hearts in a 7-day period, but not my own PH. I’ve suffered since Vietnam with PTSD, bi-lateral hearing loss, bruxism, chloracne and now Parkinson’s like symptoms but I’m still alive and I have helped many to understand their personal traumas and to learn to live with their injuries, physical and mental over the 52 years since my experience in combat. Young Veterans should find a Vietnam combat Veteran and take notes on how to survive with their new identity: combat a Veteran.

    1. Jim Rossetti    

      Thanks for sharing your legacy and helping others with the trauma of war.

  7. Mark H. Gallant sr    

    Hikeing would be nice if my lungs and legs worked.

Comments are closed.