Peter Conti - A Healing Journey on the Appalachian Trail

Peter Conti - A Healing Journey on the Appalachian Trail

Peter Conti has always liked a challenge, but a major injury suddenly thrust him into a world of chronic pain with no end in sight. You'll be intrigued, amazed and inspired as Peter uses his determination, creativity, and wry sense of humor to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles during his healing journey on the Appalachian Trail. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, Only When I Step On It.

Please give us a short introduction to what Only When I Step On It is about.

It was two years after my injury and I was suffering from chronic pain with no end in sight. Then I had an idea, “If I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail then my leg would HAVE to be better.” The resulting adventure includes my search for healing, hilarious situations, and overcoming mental anguish. Readers have told me this is “The most inspiring book I’ve ever read.”

What inspired you to write this book? Was there anything that made you want to tackle this?

It was the night when 15 medics came to rescue me at Deep Gap Shelter from a possible concussion that I decided “This is definitely going into a book.” From that point on, I took careful notes when facing challenging situations or meeting wacky characters, each time thinking, this could only happen on the Appalachian Trail.


Why did you decide to go on a massive hike like this on your own?

After two years of trying everything else, I felt like I was out of options. I knew that I didn’t want to continue to live in pain and once I got the idea in my head, I stubbornly stuck to the idea that hiking the Appalachian Trail would heal me.

What drew you to the Appalachian Trail, specifically?

Many years ago I had read Bill Bryson’s book about the Appalachian Trail called, A Walk in The Woods. I thought that hiking the entire trail sounded like fun but didn’t think I would ever have the time or opportunity to actually do it.

Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?

I come up with crazy ideas for seemingly impossible problems. Most of these ideas are worthless, however, I can sometimes come up with creative solutions as a result of listing out ideas without thinking too much about what might actually work.

Cool cover - tell us more about how it came about.

The photo was taken by another hiker on McAfee Knob, the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. A few moments after he took the cover photo, I crept up to the edge and sat down with my legs dangling over the precipice. When I tried to push myself back, my pack caught on the rock behind me and I couldn’t move! Fortunately the hiker came over, grabbed the back of my pack and pulled me to safety.

Your book contains a lot of humor. Why did you write it this way?

While struggling along the trail I had to come up with way to keep from being miserable. I thought, “this is really tough to go through but if I can look for things that are funny along the way; situations, people I meet, and exploring the mental gymnastics I went through, then perhaps the retelling can put my suffering into a new light.” My hope was that by doing this it might bring me further along my healing journey along with a way to rework my memories into a more enjoyable experience.

What was the most difficult moment on your journey?

Wow… what a great question. There were so many very difficult moments, but one stands out. My amazingly supportive wife was struggling with being all alone while I was gone. The moment when I walked away and left her crying in the airport as I got on a plane to head back to the trail after attending my daughter’s wedding was horrible. I knew that she was seriously hurting yet also knew that I had to finish this thing so that I could get my life back.

You had a lot of health challenges going in - how did this affect your journey?

The health challenges from my injury took me to a point where I didn’t feel like I had any other options. Hiking the trail was the only way that I could see to find my way out of a life that had become unendurable. This made the journey something that I HAD to do no matter what.

Each chapter starts with a quote. How did you pick these quotes?

Each shelter along the trail has a log book, usually a simple notebook similar to what I used when in school. Inscriptions by hikers include notes to buddies who are a few days behind, “I was here and I’m going to Katahdin” statements , poems, advice about the best gear to use or where to find water, and occasional quotes that made their way into the book.

What do you hope readers will take away from this?

First off, I want to provide gentle encouragement to anyone who’s been injured or struggling with chronic pain. My belief is that if you have hope, you can endure anything. I was surprised when readers started telling me that if I could go through all that I did, they were inspired to try different ways to overcome their own challenges.


Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?

I like to go to my local coffee shop and write each morning. However, my real secret to getting books done is to force myself to write 500 words (or more) every single day. I tape a calendar on the fridge and mark an X on each day I write at least 500 words. Once I get a streak of X’s going, I make sure that I don’t ever miss a day. I knocked out a quick 500 words 45 minutes before my son was married when I realized I wouldn’t have time later that day.

What are you working on right now?

I’m always updating and creating new training lessons for my commercial real estate consulting business. I’m also writing an updated version of Commercial Real Estate Investing for Dummies which a partner and I published with Wiley in 2006.

Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?

I hope to be able to get out and promote Only When I Step On It, do podcast interviews, and accept invites to do keynote speeches. My consulting business keeps me pretty busy plus I travel to spend time with my four kids and six grandkids. I can be reached at [email protected].