When Earl Zook of Stephens City, Virginia decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, he was 87 and a walker, without any previous hiking experience. Mr. Zook had been inspired to benefit American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), and wanted to be the oldest person to hike the trail.
He’s a very active member of the Kiwannis Club of Winchester. He said, “Every year the club goes to Camp Fantastic to serve breakfast to children who have cancer. And that’s why I wanted to raise money for AICR.”
So, at 88, he set out to spend the next three summers on the trail, raising more than $7,000 for AICR. He had good planning and help from friends and a mentor. He headed south in 2010 to the trail’s origin at Springer Mountain, Georgia. Over the next two summers he trekked the northern states, reaching Mt. Washington in New Hampshire—altitude 6,822 feet in September. Good timing. They closed it for the season in October when it gets too cold to hike. Earl ended his at Mt. Katahdin in Maine, where the trail ends.
What a way to test out two new knees! Earl had knee replacement surgery before his hike. In every state, he hiked sections of the trail, resting between them. His says, “You see a lot more on the trail in every state when you take your time and observe what’s around you.” What a great reminder for daily life. Earl suggests for hiking success to bring iodine tablets to purify stream water, and to take care of your feet. Get good shoes before you go, and break them in.
He celebrated his 90th birthday last October with 300 people, including friends from AICR. Earl says he plans to see them for his 100th. Thanks for the work you do Earl, and also to AICR!