Crucible Long Distance Hikers Raise $12K for Charity

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By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Area hikers put their legs to good use this past May 7. The grueling event, aptly named “The Crucible,” is designed to challenge your inner fortitude while supporting a local cause.

The Crucible is a strenuous 23-mile trek beginning and ending at Portage Lake at the western end of the Waterloo-Pinckney Trail. The fun event is the brainchild of husband and wife team Juston and Carrie Schotte.

“It’s Michigan’s largest endurance hike,” explains Juston. “There are a lot of races and events for bikers and runners, but not many things for hikers. But The Crucible isn’t a race. It’s a personal challenge. And, we get to support a local charity.”

This year’s charity was Blue Star Service Dogs out of Pinckney. Blue Star Service Dogs provides military veterans diagnosed with PTSD and TBI with the healing that comes through service dogs. Veterans can provide their own dogs. Or, Blue Star will provide one that has been trained in the organization's prison training program.

Juston reported that donations coming in after the event put the total up closer to $12,000. (L-R) Carrie Schotte, Christine Myran from Blue Star Service Dogs, and Juston Schotte

While Juston and Carrie originally conceived the event as a way to let hikers challenge themselves, The Crucible has also provided a means for people to connect around a shared activity. There’s the support of a charity. But the Schottes have also found people connecting through the event in profound ways.

Juston tells of people hiking in honor of fallen military heroes. Others take it on together to push back against aging. This year’s event saw a lot of mothers and daughters hiking the 23 miles together in celebration of Mother’s Day.

The camaraderie doesn’t stop there. “We have people from the politically conservative side of the spectrum mixing with those with a liberal worldview,” says Juston. “It’s very cool to see everyone helping and cheering each other on regardless of their stance on this or that.”

It’s a figurative breath of fresh air while you’re getting your literal fill of fresh air hiking the Waterloo-Pinckney route.

When it comes to camaraderie, Juston salutes the volunteer team. “Hikers may approach a checkpoint about to give up. The volunteers begin cheering for them and encouraging them. I’ve seen many hikers straighten up, smile, and continue on. These volunteers are absolutely amazing, and many participants have commented on how the volunteers helped them push through.”

Of the 178 people who hiked this year’s event, only eight didn’t finish. The majority of hikers are in their forties, fifties, and sixties. The average time to complete the route is nine hours.

“When you push yourself to the point you don't think you can't quite go any further, you find out what you're made of and how the people around you can strengthen you.,” says Juston. “It can be an amazing experience for those willing to open themselves up to it.”

Sponsors for this year’s event were Adiska Family Dental, Positively Chiropractic, Lehman & Scheffler Real Estate Services, Ann Arbor Martial Arts - Japanese Martial Arts Center, Tecumseh Brewing Company, Bulldog Nutrition Chelsea, Bridgewater Support Services, LLC, Painless Printing, Dexter Mill, Drew Foster Tattoo, Ingham Tool, LLC, Stockbridge Civil Defense, and Portage Lake Parlor.

You can follow The Crucible on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/michiganscrucible/

Photos by Thomas Lovachis at TL Highlights

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