How hiking with my autistic son reminded me of the best of WV

By Scott Finn

It started out of desperation.

Winter is a hard time for my son, Max. He has autism, which means he hates any break in routine — and winter has a knack for screwing up schedules.

And not unlike most 10-year-old boys, Max is a tightly-wound ball of kinetic energy. He literally bounces off the walls during the winter. Sometimes, we get in the car and drive around, just to get out of the house.

So last January, I signed us up for the 100-mile hiking challenge in the New River Gorge. I thought hiking 100 miles over the next few months would be a good way to kill time.

I didn’t realize how the experience would change me. It reminded me what I love so much about West Virginia — its unique history, natural beauty and authentic people.

Hiking with Max became a metaphor for how we can approach the challenge of living here. I learned that our so-called weaknesses can be turned into strengths.

All it takes is the willingness to look at things in a different way.

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