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Ken Chambless, Project Fit America National All Star Teacher and In-Service Field Trainer
with his sons to hike the 210 mile John Muir Trail in honor our 25 Year Anniversary
and raise funds to help other PE Teachers!

Ken Chambless and sons
Ken Chambless (middle) with sons Wesley and Cole

Ken Chambless writes . . .

I have always enjoyed hiking. Whenever I am on the trail I feel like I am a part of nature as opposed to just passing through it. Hikes provide me the opportunity to stop thinking so much about the ups and downs of life and helps me become more balanced. The fresh breath of life that is taken in during these adventures feeds my soul and connects me to something greater. Sometimes all you need to do is take an extra step.

John Muir Trail LogoIn 2008, while in California for a Project Fit America  in-service, I took the opportunity to drive over to Yosemite National Park. I’ve been to many beautiful places and seen many wonderful sites during my 44 years of life. I’ve been to nearly all of the Caribbean islands, Hawaii, all over Europe including the Swiss Alps, South America, Mexico, the Grand Canyon and 42 of our 50 states. To say I have been a blessed traveler is an understatement. If you were to ask me where the most beautiful place I have ever visited is my answer would easily and swiftly come off my lips. Yosemite. My first vision of the land was from Tunnel View on Wawona Road and when I say it took my breath away, I literally mean that I could not breathe. This view is like looking at the most beautiful painting you could imagine. It just couldn’t be real. But it is. I honestly felt like this is where God walks his own steps.

I could not wait to get a closer look at all the sites in Yosemite Valley. Half-Dome, El Capitan, Vernal and Nevada water falls were all there for me to see. All of it….amazing! I decided to hike up to the top of Nevada Falls where, upon entering the trail, noticed some thru hikers beginning their own journey. After speaking with them for just a few moments, my future plans began to change. Things I previously wanted to do, places I wanted to see all were instantly pushed back. I was thinking about taking an extra step.

The first time I had ever even heard of this John Muir Trail was just after my first question to this group of hikers. “Where are you hiking”? They were so excited to tell me the answer. I could see their eyes get wide and there body language made me jealous of what they were about to experience. “We are hiking 210 miles to Mt. Whitney. This is the start of the John Muir Trail.” My reply was what? You are hiking how far? How many days will it take? What will you eat? How heavy is that monster you are carrying on your back? At first my reaction was that I could never do that. I’ve hiked over weekends but most of my trips have been just overnight, 15 milers. This John Muir Trail was not for me. Or so I thought for all of 2 minutes.

From that day on, I have been planning my own JMT adventure, mostly in the back of my mind until recently. A few months after I returned from California, I did a little research on the John Muir Trail. I watched some JMT trips on YouTube and learned about the terrain, passes, resupply points and Mount Whitney. It looked like an awesome adventure but maybe not for me. I’m happy with my more common two nights in the wild before heading back to civilization. But the thought of doing it was always in my head. The trail would pop up in my thoughts and dreams every so often but I’d quickly move on to life’s other thoughts.

Kids at TrailheadAs my sons have grown up, I have introduced them to nature by camping and hiking. They both really took to the experiences and have enjoyed several adventures with me. I believe that they too understand and can feel how engulfing yourself in nature can be. They are now nearly 18 and 14. I have taken them on several hiking trips and each time, that JMT would be in my thoughts. I never spoke about it to them however; as I wanted them to enjoy and appreciate the woods we were currently in. If I began to describe Yosemite and the JMT to them, well, that would be like taking them to the county fair on the way back from Walt Disney World. John Muir Trail map

The day finally came when I began to speak of the JMT to my sons and family. Most of my family thought it was a crazy idea and simply asked why would anyone want to do this? Giggles and grunts were the sounds I heard, which, if you know me, is quite understandable. I was most curious as to what my sons’ reactions would be. They were teenagers after all and not having access to hot meals, soft beds, bathrooms and most importantly to them, electronics, for three weeks may cause an uninterested response. The words they spoke were not “wow, cool” or “sure let’s do it”. They did not ask “why” or snicker. Their response was more along the lines of “that is amazing” and “let’s go now”! It was at this moment that I knew I really would be taking this dream adventure and the bonus is that I get to experience it with my sons Cole and Wesley. We will walk our extra steps together.

2015 will be a year full of accomplishments and events to celebrate. I will graduate with my master’s degree, Cole will be graduating high school before heading off to Georgia Southern University and Wesley will begin his freshman year of high school. We will hike the trail to celebrate life and all that we have accomplished this far. In addition to these events, Project Fit America will be celebrating its 25th year of providing an awesome fitness program to thousands of kids across our nation. Thus, the timing of this JMT adventure could not get any better. We have chosen to hike in honor of PFA to celebrate all of the wonderful things PFA gives to children every day. But we won’t stop there. We are taking the extra step.

The endeavor is a huge undertaking. I have already been planning all the specifics of the trip for the last 9 months. Permit requests, itineraries, resupplies, equipment research, and countless other things to consider. We will be on the trail from 3-4 weeks as well as driving the 2500 miles each way to California! This is a long time away from home and I would be negligent if I did not mention the support and love of my incredible wife, Deecie. She has giggled more than a few times at all my planning but she is so gracious to support this undertaking. Even though she may think I’m crazy, she understands this calling. I will not miss technology, television or even baseball while we are gone. I will, however, greatly miss her and my other children, Gray and Mckinley. I love them very much and will look forward to reuniting with them.

It is our hope to seek out donations for Project Fit America in order to sponsor and support schools in need of a quality fitness program. We will hike as an example of what going “beyond” can accomplish. Our goal is to raise enough money in order to provide schools with much needed fitness equipment as a part of the Project Fit America curriculum.

I often go to sleep at night, all cozy in my soft bed, imagining I was in my sleeping bag near some mountain pass on the JMT. My heart rate slows; my breathing gets shallower as I reach such a peaceful place in my own mind. If simply thinking of this place….this adventure….this walk…can be so good for my soul, imagine how actually placing my feet in the dirt, streams and grasses of the JMT could affect me. What I seek will pale in comparison to what I will receive as I take the extra step. The adventure begins June 30, 2015.


Click on any image to enlarge or begin slideshow.

(L-R) Cole, Wesley, Ken Chambless


Cole Chambless writes . . .

Hi, my name is Cole Chambless. When I was younger, I had the benefit of participating in my dad’s PE program and Project Fit America. I really enjoyed all of the incredible lessons PFA introduced and it really got me hooked on fitness. I am now 18 years old and will be attending Georgia Southern University (Hail Southern!) in the fall to pursue my dream of becoming a P.E. teacher like my father, Ken Chambless. I have known for a while now that I have wanted to be a P.E. teacher, but I was truly "hooked" when I traveled with him to New York on a PFA trip and got to see my dad work in the different schools. Seeing the best P.E. teacher in the world work has definitely inspired me and I now have a goal to (somehow) become a better P.E teacher than him one day. My dad is also the person who found and introduced me to the John Muir Trail.

When the John Muir Trail was first brought up to me, I thought it sounded really cool. And then I heard that it is over 200 miles long. But after researching it, I realized that I can definitely do this. I saw the pictures of the JMT and was just saying WOW. This is the one of the nicest trails in the world and I am going to be able to hike it. Anyone able to do this trail and doesn't take the opportunity would be crazy. I have thought about the trail every single day and am absolutely excited to go.

Hiking the JMT to end my summer before going to college is going to be amazing. Being on the trail for 20+ days with my dad and my brother Wesley should be great, even though they are known to irritate me occasionally. This is the ultimate trail for hikers like us, and we could not be more thrilled to go.


Wesley Chambless writes . . .

My name is Wesley Chambless. I am 14 years old and will be entering my freshman year of high school in the fall. The things I love most are playing lacrosse, learning guitar and hiking. My dad has taken me hiking since I was very young and I am excited about our upcoming adventure on the John Muir Trail!

My dad taught me PE when I was in elementary school. He made PE fun even though we worked very hard. It’s all because of Project Fit America. I loved all of the lessons especially Double Track Cup Stack and all the challenges. All of my friends still talk about how much fun they had in PE back in elementary school. Project Fit America got me moving and taught me to love fitness which I still do today.

When dad starting talking about hiking the JMT, I wanted to do it. At first, he was just going to hike it alone. Then my brother Cole wanted to get involved. Well, I know I’m younger but there is no way I’m letting them do this without me! I’ll be taking the trip with them and I hope that we can spread the word about all the awesome things PFA is doing for kids just like me! It will be a tough journey but in the end, we will have had the greatest adventure ever! Happy 25th Anniversary Project Fit America! Keep up the good work.


Cole and Wesley Chambless as young hikers


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