This February, I have been given the distinct honor of showcasing a great man. Henry Rorie is a 68 year old outdoor enthusiast, and USMC Viet Nam Veteran. He served his country for three years, including a full year in Vietnam. He then went on to work with the US Department of Transportation and the Washington, DC Police department, respectively. Henry served the city of Washington, DC for 21 years, starting as a patrol officer and advancing to Sergeant, Patrol Supervisor, and finally, Emergency Response Team Leader (ERT/SWAT). After his retirement from the Police Department, Henry became a nationally certified home inspector, holding several positions there.
As you can gather, Henry is no stranger to hard work and discipline. This is quite evident in his love for endurance and exploration. After years of running marathons and various other races, Henry inevitably suffered from back issues. I guess you could say it was somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as this led him into a passion for outdoor exploration. In his 15 years of hiking, Henry has seen the most literal highs and lows a person could imagine. He has pushed himself to great lengths, not just on the trail, but in life as well. He had several issues along the way that seemed to keep Henry from completing his goals.
In 2008, he took on the Grand Canyon, down to Phantom Ranch, where he stayed two nights then hiked back out on Bright Angle trail. 2009 comes, and Henry is back to face the Grand Canyon, but this time it was from Rim-to-Rim, all in one day; 21.5 miles from south rim to north rim. Next, in 2010, Henry traveled to Wyoming to add the Teton Crest trail to his book of adventures. The plan for 2011 was to do a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Unfortunately, adversity struck and he was diagnosed with Head & Neck Cancer. His plan, for two years, had suddenly come to a screeching halt. Henry underwent chemotherapy and radiation to combat this diagnosis. These took a toll on his body, so the Appalachian Trail had to wait. Again, adversity hits, when in 2014, a severe spinal column compression left him unable to stand or walk for long periods of time. A major surgery to relieve the nerve impingement meant that Henry was facing another long recovery period, with extensive therapy, much of which requires learning how to train your body to walk normally again.
Finally, its 2016, and Henry is ready to begin reaching his goal. He began his Flip-Flop thru-hike at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. He had made it to New Jersey, after having an amazing time traversing the trail, when he started to notice a potential issue arising. Upon reaching New York, Henry realizes he’s dealing with a hernia, but decides to push on. In that time, the pain was increasing and he knew, by the time he reached Kent, Connecticut 42 miles later, it was time to seek medical attention. Once again, Henry was told he needed surgery. The surgery needed to be done as soon as possible to avoid a potential life threatening situation. He decided to heed the doctor’s advice, and forego the rest of his hike, again.
2017, February 15, time to tackle a second attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Starting in Pennsylvania, onto Virginia, then catching a train to Georgia, where he began walking north from Springer Mountain to the Smoky Mountains. April approaches, and Henry has to inevitably step of the trail to face another surgery on April 12. He had to have his mandible (lower jaw) removed, and replaced it with a reconstructed version made the fibula from his lower left leg. Henry stayed in the hospital for eleven days, 5 of which he was on a nasal feeding tube. He then faced 10 weeks of recovery, with extensive rehab. And once again, even without a bone in his lower leg, Henry was back on the trail, starting back in Pennsylvania.
He then made his way from Pennsylvania to Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine; Mt. Katahdin being the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Astoundingly, on September 14, 2017, 1:42 PM, Henry summited Mt. Katahdin, touching the iconic sign that marked the end of his 2,191.1 mile journey of the Appalachian Trail. Henry finally accomplished his goal of hiking the entire trail within one years’ time. What could possibly come next?
After hearing Henry’s story, and being blessed enough to put his amazing life into a few short words, I can truly say it is an honor to articulate the life of such a true survivor, and a man with a heart of gold. Even when life seemed to push him back, Henry always stuck to his roots and fought with the determination of a marine, of a police officer, and most of all, of a man we all strive to be. Thank you Mr. Rorie, for the honor. Semper Fidelis.
*If you would like to look deeper into the day to day details of Henry’s hiking adventures, please visit his journal at www.trailjournals.com/vietnamvet.