TEAR it up for CP

By Jake Arens

My Activity Tracking


My target 4000 mi

I'm completing my challenge for CP research!

As someone with Cerebral Palsy I'm not supposed to be able to walk well. Through hard work and lots of support I've become an avid hiker. 

In gratitude for the sacrifices that were made for my own treatment, I walk long distances over mountains with my life on my back. 

After completing all 2194.3 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 2022, I've decided to put my hiking skills to the test. I'm using my next adventure to raise money and awareness so that others just like me have the opportunity to live their dreams the way I have.

I believe wholeheartedly in pushing the boundaries of what we know about Cerebral Palsy as well as how we treat it. 

I also believe in pushing my own limits. 

In support of both goals I will be hiking over 4000 miles across Europe, from Spain to Bulgaria and the newly mapped Trans European Alpine Route (TEAR). I will be using this adventure and any attention it brings to raise money for Cerebral Palsy Research.

Any contribution you make will make a difference. Your gift will support:

  • Studies focused on unlocking movement for people with CP — from holding their head up for the first time to taking steps in ways they never have before.  
  • Technology that makes it easier for people with CP to grasp and grip items they need.
  • Research into the chronic pain that affects 14.5 million people with CP.
  • Innovation that makes it possible for people with CP to access and control their personal technology with voice commands, facial expressions, body gestures, and more.

If you love hiking, care about making a difference in this world or just want to support a fellow human taking on a monumental task, I'd appreciate your support. 

Together, we will change lives and move CP research forward.

Thanks so much for your support! 

My Updates

TEAR Progress Update

Tuesday 26th Mar
I'm out here doing it!

I landed in Spain 27 days ago, and since stepping off 26 days ago time has flown by! 

I've been having a good time overall and Spain has been beautiful. 

I've had a few physical challenges related to Cerebral Palsy. 

I've developed sciatica on my left side, which is a big more spastic than the right. This has been coupled with some pain in both knees, but more severe in the left. 

I've been working with a Dr of PT who is also a long distance hiker. She understands that "just rest it" doesn't work for hikers, and that stretching isn't always the best course of action for issues with CP...and sometimes it is. 

As anyone with CP or parents of children with CP can atest, adhering to a PT schedule can be difficult, especially when ove got somewhere to be! 

I'm try to set a good example by being diligent and know that doing my exercises is going to help keep me on trail, keep my moving and help me get stronger and faster. 

My intention with this walk is not to show what I can do. It's to show what WE can do. This is a wild undertaking but people need to know that CP people can aspire to and accomplish more than just a "normal" life. 

In a week I'll be finished with 600 miles of trail and will be moving on to Bulgaria, my second country! 

Cantabrian Mountains

Tuesday 26th Mar
I've nearly finished with the first leg of the TEAR, the Camino de Santiago. The Spanish countryside is gorgeous.

It's Finally Happening!

Wednesday 28th Feb
I'm frantically typing this update from the Roanoke Airport after a whirlwind few weeks. 

I'm flying out to A Coruna, Spain where I will take a bus to Finisterra and begin my journey!

To say I'm nervous would be an understatement. I'm terrified, but excited. I'm feeling really uncertain about a lot of things related to this journey, but I'm committed. 

After a little warm up hike in Georgia last week my hip started hurting in the same place it did in 2021 when I aborted my Appalachian Trail hike. 

I'm not going to let this pain stop me. I've reached out to Dr. Morrigan Brosnihan DPT and put together a protocol for addressing that issue while still hiking. 

It may effect my pace in the early days but if I have to go slower to stay on trail, so be it.

The fundraiser sits at an incredible $8,539! That leaves $31,481 to hit our 40,000 goal! 

We're still working on getting the word out and getting eyes on this project. Its a lot of work to be done, but I know together we can make a difference! 

Thanks everyone for your help and support
Jake "Sidetrack" Arens 

$1000 dollar update!

Monday 27th Nov
Super excited and grateful to have raised $1000 already! 

Its still over 90 days before I set out on the trail and already the outpouring of support has been incredible! Thank you to everyone who has donated!

That said this process is more difficult than I expected in a few ways. 

1.Social media growth is tricky
 I never realized how much effort it took to do well in social media. Partly because I didn't care...I never had a reason to. Now I'm trying to get eyeballs (and dollars) on a worthy cause and I'm finding it very challenging. 

In the past month I've posted more than I have in the last two years at least and seen very little growth. It's discouraging. In the difficult moments it makes me doubt myself and my own worth. 

But I'm motivated by something bigger than me, so I'm not giving up! I'm going to keep the pressure on! I'm going to keep learning! Progress will come! 

2. Corporate sponsorship is a complicated process. 

It's been tough just getting responses. These companies are so inundated with influencers asking for freebies, let alone some guy with 660 followers and a dream. I'm hoping to craft a better pitch and get some big players on board to help me really accelerate this thing! 

3. Life still happens in the background.

I've had some mold issues at my apartment that have left me temporarily homeless, restoring to couch surfing or sleeping out in my hammock on these chilly Vermont nights while things get fixed. 

I was working two jobs to save the funds for this trip, and that left nearly no time for work on the fundraiser, the living situation or just daily life tasks, so I quit that. 

Living with CP has taught me how to handle hard. It's taught me how to live with feeling inadequate. It's taught me how to just keep going. I know that I'm going to get there! 

On the bright side....

I've recorded two podcasts in the last two weeks

I'm in conversations with at least two major brands about partnership (fingers crossed)

I'll be getting a set of exoskeleton legs from the folks at Bio-Motum soon...that's going to be amazing! 

I got to hike in the White mountains with some of my good friends a few days ago and felt great! 

I found some pretty cheap flight options to Spain! 

Things are moving. They're moving faster than my partners expected. Perhaps slower than my ambitions would like, but they're moving, thanks to people like you!

My Why

Tuesday 17th Oct
When I tell someone I plan on hiking 4000 miles across a continent with y entire life on my back, the first question I get is often "Why!?"

I hear the same question when I tell people I walked from Georgia to Maine in 2022. 

It seems crazy. Why would anyone want to do that? It'd be much easier to buy a EuroRail pass. If I wanted to see Maine so badly, why didn't I just drive? 

The short answer is: I'm doing it because I can! 

That may seem like a terse response, a cop out, the knee jerk argument of someone who hasn't really thought this through. It's not. 

Let me unpack that. 

I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in November,1996. I was 9 weeks premature and things were dicey in the beginning. 

My umbilical chord had been wrapped around my neck, and I had a grade four brain bleed. I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'm told at grade five the process would have been to puncture my soft skull with a needle and pump in air, expanding my head and giving my brain room to swell...not great. 

The oxygen deprivation and the other brain damage affected my brains control over my muscles, resulting in Cerebral Palsy. CP happens to be the most common physical disability in children, and is broad in its symptoms and severity. 

My CP was relatively mild, but when the doctors diagnosed me at two years old there was a list of "expectations" given to my parents. Having read the list, it's more like a set of limitations. 

Jacob will likely struggle with fine motor movements. 
Jacob will likely find walking difficult. 
Jacob will...

It's more like a list of wonts and shouldn'ts. 

Thankfully my parents didn't show me that list, or speak to me in those terms. 

My CP was seen as an extra challenge, but not a limitation. There wasn't a discussion of what I could and couldn't be, just that it might be harder for me than for other kids.

At 4 years old I was enrolled in a type of therapy called Conductive Education, which was developed in Hungary specifically for children with CP. We were the first official cohort in the United States. This early intervention changed my life. 

Sure, I was teased as a young child for the way I walked and the braces I wore to keep from toe-walking, but by Middle School I was considered "normal". 

I wrestled and played football until Junior year of Highschool School when concussions forced me away from contact sports. I might not have been the most athletic.. maybe not even in the top 50%, but I was on the team. That wasn't on the "Jacob will" list. 

I went on to attend Michigan State University, and graduated near the top of my class in 2019. 

Afterwards, through a series of unfortunate events I found myself with no job and little sense of direction.

I was lucky enough to have no debts and a part time job as a janitor. I lived cheap, saved money for a few months, sold all my possessions and got in a flight to Asia, with plans of vagabonding and picking up work on the road.

"Ok, but what does this have to do with hiking?"

Don't worry, I'm almost there. Just hang with me for a second. 

So Asia...

I find myself in Thailand, at a Muay Thai kickboxing fight camp, training in one of the worlds most violent sports, with people I would respectfully describe as freaks. 

I just wanted to learn how to throw a good leg kick... supplement my wrestling with a little striking. 

My CP had other plans. I strained an adductor, one of the muscles in the inner thigh. This shouldn't have been a surprise. Those muscles are very tight due to my CP, and lifting my leg to kick hundreds of times a day had taken it's toll. 

My fighting dreams shattered, my pride wounded, I sat in the bed I'd rented and sobbed. Maybe I should just go home. Maybe I was stupid to chase a life of adventure. 

Then it hit me.

A voice as if outside myself said "You're not even supposed to walk well, and you're upset because you trained with top level athletes and got hurt?" 

My self pity suddenly shifted to tremendous gratitude. I wasn't "supposed to" have done most of the things I'd taken for granted. 

"What other awesome thing could I do?" 

I should raise awareness for CP! I should do something totally nuts. Something definitely not on the "Jacob will" list. 

My first thought was marathons but running really sucks, so I picked an easier task. I'd walk nearly 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. Simple really.

I set up a call with a CP organization and talked fundraising. We had big plans for 2020. I'd get sponsors, we'd fundraise, I'd hike in 2021, and we'd change some lives. 

Then Covid hit.

In the chaos I lost touch with my contact, but I decided to hike anyway, if not for others, than for myself. To prove that I could.

My 2021 attempt failed after only 200 miles. In 2022, I successfully walked all 2194.3 miles from Georgia to Maine. 

Because I could. 

Now I'm taking on a more formidable challenge. The Trans European Alpine Route is nearly twice the length of the Appalachian Trail, with similar average elevation change. 

I'm doing it because I'm so grateful that I CAN. 

Out of that gratitude comes a need to pay that forward. Without the therapy I had, without the support, the foot braces, I wouldn't have the life I have. I wouldn't be able to do this thing that I love. 

I'm partnering with Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation to help other children who are just like me turn their list of limitations into a list of accomplishments. Together, we can. 

To help us on that mission, please donate. 
If you would like to know more about this adventure and how to support us, email me at  arensjake2@gmail.com

To follow along, @Sidetrackhiker on Instagram and Jake Arens on Facebook. 

Thank you to my Sponsors


Lin Arens

So incredibly impressed with your never ending willingness to continue to chalk yourself past what some think is impossible. I am honored to be your family. I love you so much, Jake and know you will keep stretching past the limits. Live your best life.


Kaushik Sridasyam


Biomotum, Inc.

From the Biomotum team - we are rooting for you!


Mckenna Beshada

You got this Jake! It’s so wonderful what you are doing!


Stacy Sutton

What a wonderful journey you have set out on. Best wishes!


Lee Corkhill

Inspired and awed by you, Jake! - Lee (Charlie G's mom)


Dorothy & Bill C

Truly moved by your chat with Charlie on his podcast, Jake. No matter how far you go, you're an inspiration and making a real difference. Bill & Dorothy Corkhill, Charlie G's grandparents


Eileen Chamberlin

Best of luck, Jake, on your trek!!


Jake Arens


Arens Group


Disco + Sprite

You are an inspiration. Looking forward to following your journey for a great cause. We believe in you Sidetrack!



You've got this, Jake!


Carol Williams

Good luck and fair winds on your travels.


Beth Calhoun

Merry Christmas Jacob I thought this would be more meaningful than a gift. Love you, Gmom


George Glessner

Proud of you, buddy! Good luck!


Beth Calhoun

I will be praying for you. You can do this. Grandmommie


Marcella And David Scott

May this trip be your best ever! We love you, and are inspired by your adventurous, generous spirit.


Bald Chief

You can do this!


Shannon Arens

So proud of you! I know you can do this!! Love you!


Emilee And Ariel Arens

Your the best!! Love you Uncle Sidetrack!



Those boots were made for walking...


Laura Duran

Enjoy your walk! It's quite a challenge.


Happy Camper And Sensei

You are an impressive and amazing person! Can’t wait to see you do this thing. Sensei and I will be cheering you on from nahampsha. 💜



You’re an inspiration Sidetrack! Really proud of what you’ve accomplished and excited for the trail adventure ahead. Love you brother!



I believe in you!!!



Wishing you the best of luck!


Kathryn Diebel


Elissa Sagoskin

Thank you for all you are doing to raise awareness for CP! Get it! 💪


Marcus Knopp

Go Jake! I love hiking and am a parent of a kid with CP, so you got all my family support!


Dawn Bina

You are an inspiration! Your story is so very similar to my daughter’s birth injury, diagnosis and growing up…. but she graduated from Wisconsin in 2020 (yep, no ceremony). We need more adult treatments for CP, and so I am supporting your efforts. Good luck!!


Arnie Slater

CP is a Speedbump brother. It may slow you down...but it CANNOT Stop you. Go be a badass!


Megan Weatherly


Rachel Barrett

Wicked Pissah says Get It!!


Out N About

Good luck sidetracked!!! ❤️ can’t wait to follow along. - Out N About / Andrea 😊


Jim Austin

Good luck my friend!



My grandson was born with CP. With early intervention, great teachers, specialists, and heavily involved parents he is doing great. Thanks for your time in bringing CP to the publics attention. Have a great time!


Marcella And David Scott

Merry Christmas


Katy Gaastra

Rooting for you!



Day one! Hope you have a great hike! You are doing something really wonderful!!



Keep on truckin'!


Rachel Holzwart

Good luck! AT ‘22 4 eva


Maxine Lubow

Your story is so inspirational. Wishing you the best. I'm just a random 81 year old Facebooker.





Wow! Excited for you as you prepare for this hike! I am one of your mom’s long time friends and your grandmother is one of my bonus moms!


Paul & Carolyn Fetters

Go Jake!



Looking forward to following your trek!!


Wilder Wing


Ang | Detour

Good luck out there! XO detour



So impressed with your effort and dedication!!! sorry I can’t donate more 🧡 keep up the good work 🧡


Jared Bryce

Good luck on your hike man, I will be following along via The Trek; crush it out there!



Your hard work is paying off. Congratulations and keep showing the world that CP does not need to be eliminating.





Good luck, Jake!! Super inspiring what you’re doing and I’m looking forward to following along with your journey!


Eddie Leedham

Greetings from the UK, Your pal you met in Chiang Mai 3 years ago. You were telling me you planned to do this back then, now you're doing it! Love you man and best of luck! Eddie