Hiking Trails

Township of Brownstown. man launches his dream of walking the Appalachian Trail – The News Herald

Walking the Appalachian Trail and recording your progress online is a dream Gary Jenkin, 54, of Brownstown Township, has been trying to find a way to accomplish for many years.

The Appalachian Trail is a marked hiking trail that begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine, covering approximately 2,200 miles through 14 states.

Jenkin said walking the trail has been a dream since his college days.

“I felt like I read all the books about it, and I decided I was going to do it about 26 years ago,” he said. “My wife then told me we were having a baby instead, so I put it on the back burner.”

Jenkin said now seems like a better time to attempt the track at this point in his life, and it offers him a chance to turn his life around.

“I weigh over 360 pounds, I have type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, so the doctor wants me to take prescription medication for all of this,” he said. “And I went through COVID and had a stroke in my left eye.”

Jenkin said he fears his health will get worse if he doesn’t do something drastic about it.

“I thought to myself, why not fulfill a dream, change my life and fix all this,” he said.

Jenkin said he hasn’t done as much as he’d like to prepare for the trail and said he’ll start out slower than most who attempt the trip.

“I have to average 12 miles a day to do it in six months,” he said. “I’ll start at eight and pick up the pace as I get into the mid states which are a little flatter.”

Jenkin said he had hiked in the area and had probably visited all the parks in the Downriver area.

He said he wears hiking boots and trail shoes, which are the new lightweight shoes.

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Jenkin said her old backpack weighed about eight pounds and the new ones weighed two to three pounds.

“Most of the other gear I replaced with new, lighter stuff,” he said.

Jenkin has a hammock and occasionally uses one of the shelters along the trail, which are about 8 miles apart.

“If it’s raining and I don’t want to pitch a tent, I can stay in the shelters,” he says. “They have mice and stuff in there, so it’s not the best place, but it’s kind of a fun experience, and I’ll do it many times.”

Jenkin said the Appalachian Trail is the oldest and most famous hiking trail in the United States, and the elevation change along the trail is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times.

He flies to Atlanta on Spirit Airlines with a $35 ticket, then takes a train and an Uber to the trailhead.

“There is an 8.8 mile approach trail that I will hike to access the trail itself,” Jenkin said.

He said he had a lot of support from his family in his quest to hike the Appalachian Trail.

His wife, Holly Jenkin, said she initially encouraged her husband to try the track for a week, but he wanted to do it for at least a month to break some of his bad habits, like drinking cola sweet.

She said her husband was a cross-country track star when he was in college, so she knows he has stamina.

“He’s pretty stubborn, so if he doesn’t fall or break something, he’ll do it for sure for as long as he can,” Holly Jenkin said.

Gary Jenkin hopes the long hike will help improve his health and reverse his type 2 diabetes symptoms.

“There are a lot of people coming out of (type 2) diabetes, a solution that’s better for you than just taking medication,” he said.

Jenkin said he would start the trip with four pairs of shoes he already broke and might need more to complete the trip.

He will be recording his trip as a vlog using his smartphone and he has a solar powered battery charger which can be a little tricky as much of the trail is covered in trees.

He has joined social media groups to network with others who have hiked the trail before, who will answer questions and offer advice.

Jenkin said he would listen to his body and take the day off if and when he felt he needed it.

Holly Jenkin, who is a teacher, said her class will follow her husband’s journey through his vlog.

“We’re going to turn this into a lesson for the kids,” she said. “He would like to make a change mentally and physically, and if anyone can do that, it’s Gary, and if he doesn’t have an accident along the way, he’ll do it.”

Follow his journey online.

Gary Jenkin (right) enjoys hiking with his mother in Tennessee. (Photo courtesy of Gary Jenkin)