Brother and sister Jacques and Michelle Revoir took off down the Yadkin River at Crater Park in Elkin Thursday morning in kayaks to continue their trek on the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The two started on Aug. 1 and will be continuing on until Oct. 23. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is 1,100 miles long, and the two are doing the whole thing as a through-hike. Thursday, they were in luck as they had a chance to give their feet a rest and paddle for a couple of days from Crater Park to Pilot Mountain. They were to camp in Rockford Thursday evening and then return to the foot trail at Pilot Mountain Friday.
Both Jacques and Michelle are combat veterans hiking to “walk off the war.” Jacques was an infantry rifleman in the Marine Corps for five years, and Michelle was an aerial combat videographer for 11 years. Both of them were stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military runs in their family as their father also served in the Marines.
“The hike is therapeutic for me,” said Jacques Revoir.
“The program is called Warrior Expeditions,” said Michelle Revoir. “It puts veterans on long expeditions to walk off the war so you kind of mentally get to deal with what you did in the military in a healthy way instead of drinking and being medicated. You get to be outdoors. The program is a nonprofit started by a Marine who didn’t know what to do as far as therapy so he hiked the Appalachian Trail and he realized how therapeutic it was. Since then he’s been putting veterans on the trails in 10 different expeditions across the country.”
There have been a lot of challenges along the way for the two hikers, including the weather.
“The weather’s got a lot better,” said Jacques Revoir. “It was wet for the first couple of weeks raining every day, but it’s been great lately. We’ve seen a lot of animals including three bears, snakes and deer all over the place. We also had to deal with a lot of blisters. When you’re hiking, you’re in a perpetual state of pain, whether it’s in the knees, the back, or the feet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When your body is in pain, your mind is free.”
Another highlight of the trip has been the people they have met along the way.
“I love the people,” said Michelle Revoir. “I’ve really learned a lot about how trails are made and maintained, and what it takes to really get a trail going. It’s really made me appreciate the trail system.”
While there were 10 different trails to choose from for the expedition, they chose the Mountains-to-Sea Trail due to their family history in the region and the diverse terrain experienced on the journey.
Both Jacques and Michelle have been doing a lot since leaving the military. Jacques does tree work as a residential tree climber and Michelle has been hiking ever since she left the Army and also does freelance video work.
“You have the opportunity to really clear your mind and process the things that you went through in the military,” said Michelle Revoir.
“I received a Purple Heart in Afghanistan and am now part disabled so it’s a good outlet to get of the house and be able to do this,” said Jacques Revoir.
The siblings hiked from Stone Mountain to Crater Park Wednesday after spending a night in the Stone Mountain State Park campground, and the feel of the trip has changed quite a bit as they venture out of the mountains.
“Yesterday was an interesting day, good and bad,” said Michelle Revoir. “It was mostly road walking. There was no cover so it was hot and there were a lot of dogs on leashes. It’s also a lot hotter down here. But we did cross two different stores so we had ice cream and hot dogs which we don’t get very often. We stayed at Suzanne and Bob Puckett’s place and got a shower last night and clean clothes which was nice.”
Both hikers also gave some words of wisdom to anybody thinking about hiking the trail.
“Be prepared to hike a lot,” said Jacques. “The mountain part was super stressful. It goes over the three highest peaks on the East Coast. Also remember the three main hydrates — pre-hydrate, hydrate, and re-hydrate.”
“Work out before you go and definitely do some actual hiking before hitting the trail,” said Michelle.
Joe Hicks, a member of the Elkin Valley Trails Association and a local veteran, has helped the two siblings out a lot during their stay in Elkin.
“We kept everything moving to get the boats here,” said Hicks. “Suzanne and Bob hosted them last evening and gave them a place to stay overnight. We also took them to a Rotary Club meeting last night and VFW donated $200 to them to use along the way. We got a picture with the whole crowd. Trail angels, they called some of them, I love working with them. I’ve worked with the last three groups who came through.”
The public can follow Michelle and Jacques’ journey on Facebook at Warrior Expeditions, which posts news on their veterans and their journeys every week.
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.