MERIDIAN -- Last year, Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray started training for a grueling journey: hiking 500 miles across Spain's Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James.
The life-long friends just completed the trip and returned to the Treasure Valley. They're now trying to process everything that happened.
"We had so many people tell us just that first day, it's impossible. You're crazy. You can't do it," said Gray.
The two didn't let a few doubters stop them from hitting the trail.
"It was incredibly steep and rocky, boulderous terrain," added Gray.
The trip was Skeesuck's idea. Even though he suffers from a rare autoimmune disease that has caused his nervous system to stop working, he wanted to take his wheelchair, and his best friend, on the trip of a lifetime.
"I think in retrospect this was almost kind of a grand experiment in your faith in humanity. You know, we set out to demonstrate that there are no limits if you live your life that way," said Gray.
The two say the outpouring of support from fellow pilgrims, was surprising. People stepped up to help push, pull or carry Skeesuck and his wheelchair along the way.
"I saw how much joy it brought people to be a part. To be a part of us and our story and our journey," said Skeesuck.
The trip wasn't without its challenges. On just the second day, a major setback.
"I made the statement that if we can get over the Pyrenees Mountains in this chair, we got this. And about 20 minutes later the front wheel snapped off," said Gray.
The friends weren't discouraged. With the help of complete strangers, they found someone who could weld the wheel back on.
"In spite of limitations you might have, whether they're physical or mental, emotional whatever it might be, there's always a way to overcome those," said Gray.
And overcome they did. Gray and Skeesuck finished the grueling trail on July 7, reaching Santiago in 34 days. The friends are living proof no matter what your limitations are, you can push through.
"How do you articulate something so deepful and meaningful and life-changing in like a sentence?" said Skeesuck. "We still love each other even deeper than before. It's... definitely it's a gift."
A bond strengthened by the will of the human spirit and the compassion of others.
The two friends say this trip has inspired them to look for new ways to push the limits and inspire others.
Meanwhile, a documentary about their journey on the Camino de Santiago is scheduled to be finished in 2015.
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