Todd Hitchings spent the night before his 7 a.m. Saturday morning ferry departure packing and repacking his backpack. He needed to find the perfect balance of necessities, necessary luxuries and a bearable weight. He figured he’d forget something, he just hoped that it wouldn’t be anything important.

He was about to embark on a monthlong trek from the edge of Massachusetts to the edge of Canada. He was going to walk the length of Vermont along the Long Trail, and use the hike as inspiration to raise money to fight the opioid crisis on the Island.

The 30-year-old Islander had wanted to do a long through-hike for awhile now, and after finishing the summer season with Beetlebung Tree Care, he decided to devote September to hiking. Then, about two weeks ago, he coordinated with Martha’s Vineyard Community Services to raise funds for their substance use recovery programs.

Mr. Hitchings was born in West Tisbury, the forested town in the center of the Island.

“At least in high school, we had the reputation of being the hippies and the kids who grew up in the woods and I totally embraced that,” he said.

Mr. Hitchings is known to walk for miles, having hiked trails in Brazil and Australia. — Jeanna Shepard

His taste for adventure and nature has led him to hiking through Australia, the White Mountains and, most recently, this past February, Brazil. As he considered his next trip, Mr. Hitchings visited forums about the Long Trail and saw other trekkers were raising money through their hikes for causes that mattered to them. Though he considered many, he kept returning to the opioid crisis, something that has directly or indirectly affected many in the Island community.

“It doesn’t discriminate, it crosses classes and races and ages; everybody can probably think of someone firsthand or second-hand who has struggled with that,” he said. He also hopes the fundraiser will help break down barriers of shame. 
“The money is one thing,” he said. “But I think that the ability to speak about it and not have to hide it and feel all that guilt about’s something that people go through, it’s not something we’re all immune to.”

For Mr. Hitchings, the crisis became real in his mid-20s. A co-worker died, someone he didn’t even know was struggling with addiction. Suddenly, he saw it everywhere.

“Over the last few years I’ve been picking up on it,” he said. “It was like, oh jeez, this isn’t one person, two people, it’s a lot of people.” Friends he considered family were in the grip of opioids.

“I’ve had people steal from me, and just really horrible situations I’ve found them in, and it’s just really disheartening, and you want to help,” he said.

Some have made it into recovery, though, showing Mr. Hitchings that there is a way out. He ran into one recovering friend recently.

“He’s doing great, he goes to meetings all the time. I was really happy to see that he’s got his life back, you know.”

Until now, Mr. Hitchings didn’t know how he could make an impact. He wasn’t a doctor or a therapist. But when community services agreed to the fundraiser, Mr. Hitchings finally felt he could do something to help his friends and community members. And yet he was so worried about alienating people through the fundraiser that he had to disconnect from social media after making the online page.

Setting off on Saturday. — John Stanwood

“I put my phone on airplane mode for two hours and went for a run,” he remembered.

When he returned and turned his phone back on, he was greeted with a flood of support. People he knew, and people he didn’t know, were donating. He met his first fundraising goal in 24 hours. Then he met his second in 48 hours. He’s now on his third, a goal of $10,000 with $7,517.37 raised from 109 donors thus far.

He trained for the hike by packing his bag and walking six to eight miles for the last couple of days, looping Cedar Tree Neck and Menemsha Hills.

“Anywhere where we have any elevation change at all, which isn’t many places,” he said with a laugh.

Over the course of the month he will walk 273 miles, reaching heights of 4,393 feet. He will sleep in lean-tos, in his tent and under the stars. He will cross paths with Appalachian hikers and Long Trail travelers. He will subsist on ramen, PopTarts and dehydrated foods and miss the beginning of football season (a particularly hard sacrifice for the avowed Patriots fan). He’ll carry a solar charger to power his phone to check in with his mom, and to listen to podcasts (history, comedy, sports).

And when the mud reaches mid-calf, and the rain just won’t seem to stop, and he’s tired and dirty and thinking about home, Todd Hitchings will think about all those who donated to fight the crisis in their community, and he will keep walking.

“It’s a lot of motivation,” he said. “A lot of people are behind me.”

To donate and see updates from the hike, visit