Exploring the therapeutic benefits of time spent outdoors, from the perspective of outdoorsman
and Iraq War veteran Brandon Kuehn as he attempts to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
When the traditional methods of coping with trauma don’t work, what options do you have left? Brandon Kuehn, an Iraq War veteran, believes the best way to face a range of trauma is to reach for literal, physical summits- and he isn’t alone. Ecotherapy is a hugely growing field that is proving to help people like Brandon who struggle with post traumatic stress disorder. From the perspective of his journal entries, Constant Thought is an intimate portrayal of Brandon and his attempt to walk the 2,600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. It also underscores how stress, of any kind, can be soothed by both using and preserving the lands Brandon fought to protect.
Brandon Kuehn is a 30 year-old Army veteran currently living in Oregon with his wife and son. Shortly after returning from combat in Iraq, Brandon was medically discharged for injuries he sustained overseas. Upon returning to “civilian” life, anxiety, depression, and anger issues lead him to abuse drugs and alcohol, culminating in a suicide attempt in 2014. While in the ICU, Brandon was forced to put a name to his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and subsequently began the long and arduous task of healing.
While in the throes of this challenging process, Brandon started spending more time in quiet outdoor spaces, noticing that prolonged time immersed in nature helped reduce the symptoms of his PTSD. Since then, outdoor adventure as therapy has radically changed his life as exemplified in his blog, Ginger Beard Outdoors. Beginning on April 2nd, 2018 Brandon will attempt to hike all 2,600 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, in an attempt to find out if nature can truly help people who have experienced trauma heal.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650 mile trail stretching the West Coast of the United states from the border with Mexico to Canada. Ranging in elevation from sea level to 13,000 feet, the trail passes through arguably some of the most scenic portions of the West Coast. The trail winds through deserts, mountains, and forests. Due to the diversity of these climates, this hike is uniquely difficult, and requires months of training and planning.
In order to film Brandon and follow him along his path, we will be meeting up with him at strategic meeting points along the route. Brandon will continue to write and vlog throughout his hike during the times we aren’t with him, sharing those insights on Gingerbeard Outdoors.
Through his blog, Gingerbeard Outdoors, Brandon will be chronicling his hike in written and video form. Leaving your family behind to hike 2,650 miles over six months is no easy feat, especially as a veteran diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. Additionally, having had a broken back, Brandon is concerned about his physical ability to complete his journey.
The goal of Brandon’s trek, and our film, is to see if prolonged periods of time outdoors can really help heal a person from trauma. With that in mind, it’s quite possible the often harrowing conditions of the Pacific Crest Trail may leave Brandon, and us, at odds with our goal.
Follow along on Brandon's journey by getting caught up on Gingerbeard Outdoors.