Monroe man tackles Appalachian Trail during 2021 coronavirus pandemic

Many people spent much of 2021 isolating in their homes to avoid the curse of the continuing coronavirus pandemic – but not Jack Whitaker of Monroe. After retiring from Delta Air Lines when COVID0-19 struck, he decided to use the time doing something other than shutting himself inside his home. He packed up and took to the mountains.

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors,” Whitaker told Robbie Schwartz for a story in the Fall-Winter issue of Walton Living Magazine. “In Kentucky, I started hiking with the Boy Scouts. I just enjoy the fresh air, adventure and being able to challenge myself. Growing up in Georgia, I have always wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. I was visiting with a great friend and she was telling me about her plans to hike it. I read a few books from people who hiked the Appalachian Trail and that cemented my plans.”

So on March 21 of this year, Whitaker set out on the trail, beginning at Springer Mountain, the southernmost point of the 78.1 miles of the trail that are in Georgia. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, stretching 2,193 miles along 14 states from Georgia to Maine. About 3,000 people start out on the trail each year and only about a 1/4 actually make it. Whitaker almost did, but came up just 175 miles short. Those he intends to finish in 2022.

Contributed photo

But he says along the way he met some wonderful fellow travelers and saw some breathtaking views. He says one of his favorite spots along the way has been Tinker Cliffs, which provides breathtaking views of the Roanoke Valley in Virginia.

“The views were outstanding – though the climb up was a struggle,” Whitaker said. “We got there early and hung out all day. It was my sister’s birthday and all the people around me at the time sang happy birthday to her over the phone. After an incredible sunset, some of the people I was there with raced a mile-and-a-half in the dark to camp.”

He was, however, glad to get home to some of his favorite restaurant and watering hole, by then open to allow people to return – Silver Queen and Southern Brewing Company in Monroe!

Read the full story of Whitaker’s adventures by Robbie Schwartz beginning on page 52 of Walton Living Magazine – Fall Winter 2021 or pick up a copy at one of the advertisers in the magazine.

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