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Minnesotan Amputee Challenges His Body on Bikepacking Trip

Jan 3, 2024 |

Experienced thru-hiker and veteran Sam Maddaus is boldly following a route that not many amputees have attempted. Heading to Patagonia in South America, Sam is already more than 4,000 miles into his cross-continent bikepacking trip which began in Alaska nearly four months ago. Bob Timmons covered the ambitious hiker’s story for the Star Tribune. 

Sam went to the U.S. Naval Academy and after a deployment overseas he was stationed in San Diego, California. However, in 2017 while riding his motorcycle he was involved in a crash which mangled his left leg. After more than 10 operations the decision was made to amputate below the knee. Yoga became a practice that allowed Sam to strengthen his core and mobility during recovery. 

Prior to his accident, Sam had lived a very active life and enjoyed hiking and backpacking. Hoping to return to this lifestyle, he began preparing in 2021 to hike the legendary Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and did so the following year. Long-distance hiking is already challenging but because of his amputation Sam had to stop when he reached the Sierra Nevada Range because of a serious infection. 

“That was a reality check for me,” Sam recalled. “I know I can do these things, but it’s the way I have to do them. The pace without a doubt is going to be different. And not so much that I can’t keep pace with somebody, but when these issues come up there is no way around it than to take time off, take antibiotics, and take care of it.” 

At his own pace Sam traveled from the Mexican border to the edge of Canada in 2022. “Sam’s story truly is inspiring — a PCT hike can be a magnificent accomplishment for anyone, but thru-hiking as a lower-leg amputee is amazing,” said Chris Rylee, Pacific Crest Trail Association communications director. “The rigors and dangers of the PCT would only be increased for an amputee, so to see it through takes some serious commitment…Sam is helping to break important ground.” 

As the 30-year-old continues on his current journey to South America, these physical and mental tests have helped Sam regain himself and a sense of autonomy as a person with limb loss.