Why the purple bandana?

Most of the nation’s largest crisises have their own symbol that people recognize and use to show solidarity for the victims and their loved ones. Breast cancer has the pink ribbon, Product (RED) for HIV/AIDS, Live Strong for cancer and so many more iconic symbols of support.

Currently, there lacks a nationally recognized symbol for those struggling with opioid addiction and their recovery. The purple ribbon is, among other things, a symbol of overdose awareness. However, I want to have something more. A true symbol of solidarity for those on the road to opioid recovery, one of the hardest addictions to overcome. Something to show and represent to all those on this difficult path that we’ve got you, we are with you, we know this is difficult and we stand by you, without any judgement, only understanding of this challenge and the strength it takes to work day in and day out through recovery.

Finally, and closest to me, Matt always wore his purple bandana, the symbol is a reminder of Matt. Of this beautiful person who struggled every single day, a fight I could never even imagine. Someone who built a life from nothing, brought so much light into this world, a hole that will never be filled again. He represents how those struggling with opioid addiction are not just statistics, they are husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters and sons. And each of them has something beautiful to bring to this world and lives they can touch just as Matt touched so many, and changed so many lives.

Why the Appalachian Trail?

As a hot bed for opioid addiction, the Appalachian region accounts for 22% of opioid related deaths each year (wonder.cdc.org). As my journey seeks to hear stories, generate awareness but more importantly, compassion, I want to dip into these areas most deeply affected along this trek, making this coastal trail a perfect place to start for my pilgrimage of knowledge and understanding.

Where will any funds be going?

I have created a 501c3 recognized nonprofit in Matt’s name as the Matt Adams Foundation. This fund will go towards grants for those on their road to recovery to either attend rehabs, or equally important, transitional programs.

Learn More About the Epidemic: Resources

Here are some primary resources I suggest everyone read and understand when trying to understand the opioid epidemic. I will continue adding materials here but first I wanted to list out some staples so that we can address this issue as a culture  compassionately and educatedly.

Dreamland is an excellent exposé to learn about the roots and current landscape of the opioid crisis ravaging the US. This is the first book I’d start with when trying to understand on a mass scale how this is happening and the nature/beginnings of most opioid addictions. This book is the primary basis for my opinion that opioid addiction is not a result of individual poor choices as so many assume but rather those affected by opioid addiction are indeed victims of mass corruption and failed systems across the US.

Description (from Amazon): Acclaimed journalist Sam Quinones weaves together two classic tales of capitalism run amok whose unintentional collision has been catastrophic. The unfettered prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s reached its peak in Purdue Pharma’s campaign to market OxyContin, its new, expensive—and extremely addictive—miracle painkiller. Meanwhile a massive influx of black tar heroin—cheap, potent, and originating from one small county on Mexico’s west coast, independent of any drug cartel—assaulted small towns and midsized cities across the country, driven by a brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing and distribution system. Together these phenomena continue to lay waste to communities from Tennessee to Oregon, Indiana to New Mexico.

Introducing a memorable cast of characters—pharma pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, and parents—Quinones shows how these tales fit together. Dreamland is a revelatory account of the corrosive threat facing America and its heartland.

A comprehensive report of the science of addiction. For those who are not yet convinced, I encourage you to read through this to understand that addiction is indeed a brain disease as proven in the medical community. Click HERE for full report.

How Science Has Revolutionized the Understanding of Drug Addiction

“For much of the past century, scientists studying drug abuse labored in the shadows of powerful myths and misconceptions about the nature of addiction. When scientists began to study addictive behavior in the 1930s, people addicted to drugs were thought to be morally flawed and lacking in willpower. Those views shaped society’s responses to drug abuse, treating it as a moral failing rather than a health problem, which led to an emphasis on punishment rather than prevention and treatment. Today, thanks to science, our views and our responses to addiction and other substance use disorders have changed dramatically. Groundbreaking discoveries about the brain have revolutionized our understanding of compulsive drug use, enabling us to respond effectively to the problem.

As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.

Despite these advances, many people today do not understand why people become addicted to drugs or how drugs change the brain to foster compulsive drug use. This booklet aims to fill that knowledge gap by providing scientific information about the disease of drug addiction, including the many harmful consequences of drug abuse and the basic approaches that have been developed to prevent and treat substance use disorders. At the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), we believe that increased understanding of the basics of addiction will empower people to make informed choices in their own lives, adopt science-based policies and programs that reduce drug abuse and addiction in their communities, and support scientific research that improves the Nation’s well-being.

Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse”

Estimated Itinerary

Add a two days to all dates after 4/15, add another 5 days to all dates after 7/27 and another 7 days to all dates after 8/2 (the itinerary software was not recorder new date for some of the zero days as you will see)

AT Thru Hiker Registration and Itinerary

Trail Towns Passing Through or Near

If you are near or know of someone near these trail towns who would like to meet with me to discuss your personal or professional experience with the opioid epidemic please contact me HERE.

Gainesville, GA
Waleska, GA
Jasper, GA
Chatsworth, GA
Ellijay, GA
Dahlonega, GA
Cleveland, GA
Toccoa, GA
Blairsville, GA

Franklin, NC
Robbinsville, NC
Waynesville, NC

Maryville, TN
Alcoa, TN
Walland, TN
Pigeon Forge, TN
Gatlinburg, TN
Morristown, TN
Greeneville, TN
Erwin, TN
Johnson City, TN
Bristol, TN
Mountain City, TN

Abingdon, VA
Marion, VA
Elk Creek, VA
Wytheville, VA
Bland, VA
Pearisburg, VA
Pulaski, VA
Blacksburg, VA
Salem, VA
Roanoke, VA
Blue Ridge
Parkway, VA
Fincastle, VA
Bedford, VA
Forest, VA
Lynchburg, VA
Lexington, VA
Waynesboro, VA
Staunton, VA
Charlottesville, VA
Harrisonburg, VA
Culpeper, VA
New Market, VA
Warrenton, VA
Winchester, VA
Bluemont, VA

Bluefield, WV
Princeton, WV
Union, WV
Charles Town, WV
Harpers Ferry, WV
Charleston, WV

Frederick, MD
Hagerstown, MD
Thurmont, MD

Gettysburg, PA
NW of Chambersburg, PA
Mount Holly Springs, PA
Carlisle, PA
Shermans Dale, PA
Harrisburg, PA
Campbelltown, PA
Lebanon, PA
Pine Grove, PA
Pottsville, PA
Tamaqua, PA
Northampton, PA
Nazareth, PA
Tannersville, PA
Matamoras, PA
Twin Lakes, PA

Washington, NJ
Buttzville, NJ
Great Meadows, NJ
Newton, NJ
Vernon, NJ

Monroe, NY
New Windsor, NY
Yorktown Heights, NY
Carmel, NY
Paterson, NY
Poughkeepsie, NY
Kingston, NY

Bethlehem, CT
Litchfield, CT
Torrington, CT
Winsted, CT

Barrington, MA
Pittsfield, MA
North Adams, MA

Marlboro, VT
Rutland, VT
Killington, VT
Randolph, VT
Barre, VT
Williamstown, VT

Hanover, NH
N. Haverhill, NH
Littleton, NH
N. Conway, NH

North Woodstock, ME
Mexico, ME
Wilton, ME
Farmington, ME
Skowhegan, ME
Sugarloaf, ME
Dexter, ME
Patten, ME

Upcoming Mail To Location

Many of you amazing people have offered to send treats etc along my hike. Here is where you can see the next place(s) to ship to. Please contact me if you’re sending anything to trail to make sure I’ve received.


ETA: 5/5/18

Heather Starbuck
9151 Hwy 19E Roan Mountain, TN 37687
Please hold for AT Hiker ETA May 5th, 2018