Hiking the Appalachian Trail: Mission Accomplished!
Last September, Earl Zook of Stephens City, Virginia, finished hiking the Appalachian Trail. Inspired by AICR President Marilyn Gentry’s work and with no previous hiking experience, he set out at age 88 to hike the trail, raising more than $7,000 for AICR.
Through good planning and help from friends, Earl spent the next three summers on the trail. He headed south in 2010 to its origin at Springer Mountain, Georgia. Then he tackled the northern states over the next two summers.
“I got to the summit of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire – 6,822 feet in altitude,” he recalls. “I was glad to get there in September because it’s so cold they close it in October.” Earl ended his hike at Mt. Katahdin in Maine, the end of the trail. Even more remarkably, he made the hike with “two new knees – they worked great,” he says, referring to his knee replacement surgery before the hike.
Earl hiked sections of the trail in every state and rested between them. “You see a lot more on the trail when you take your time and observe what’s around you,” he comments.
Planning for Hiking Success
Purifying water from streams with iodine tablets was important, Earl says. So was taking care of his feet.
“When you get off the trail and to a shelter, you still have to get water,” he says. “Water may be another 50 yards downhill, then you have to walk back up.” Luckily before the trip, his mentor helped him pick out a good pair of boots that fit well.
“This experience was one of the greatest chapters of my life!” he exclaims. When he celebrated his 90th birthday last October with 300 people, including friends from AICR, Earl said he plans to see them all again for his 100th.
All the funds Earl raised came from supporters who saw his web page on AICR’s site, https://www.aicr.org/zook. We are so thankful for Earl’s boundless enthusiasm in supporting the work of AICR.