At 62 thats just what Tom McCarthy decided to do and you can read the rest of his adventures courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Two years into retirement, Tom McCarthy felt like he hadn’t accomplished much.
At 62, he was standing at the end of a prosperous career as a business owner. There were family vacations and time with the grandchildren to look forward to. He lives in a comfortable house with his wife, but something was missing.
Hiking was sometimes the answer. He’d put in a few excursions here and there. They seemed to quell the feeling. Maybe he’d try the Appalachian Trail, he figured. He would give himself eight years of on-and-off hiking to do it.
Somewhere out in the rolling hills near Erwin, Tenn., about 250 miles up the trail, it hit him. McCarthy can’t quite articulate the feeling.
He knows the hiking gave him an “inner peace.” That there was a freedom to waking up in the morning, strapping his belongings to his back and marching off into the woods without an inkling of where he would set up his next camp, he said. That this remote strip, 2,184 miles long and a few yards wide, is a world of transient souls, all equal, bound by the journey. He liked that. “There’s just something about hiking long-distance that’s more spiritual,” he said.
McCarthy was scheduled to get off the trail last year in Damascus, Va., but something made him decide to stay. He hiked 1,275 miles between April and September 2011. He finished the last 909 miles between May and September this year.
The adventure urge came early for McCarthy. As a kid growing up in Lake Shore, Md., and Ravenswood, W.Va., he spent most of his time outside playing hide-and-seek, building forts and climbing fences.
The first purchase McCarthy made with his own money was a tent — the old kind with a canvas lining held up by wooden stakes — that he lugged into the woods to camp with his buddies.
He moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., with his parents in his senior year of high school, then went back to West Virginia to attend Marshall University. After graduation, he returned to the Tampa Bay area with his first wife. He met his second wife, Marlene, now 63, working at a medical-transcription service, which they went on to co-own.
McCarthy was never into serious trail-hiking until Christmas 1996, when Marlene bought him his first hiking backpack. After that, “I just got eaten up by it,” he said. “I wanted to hike as much as I could.”
But, he said, “Florida’s not a very good hiking place. To me, you need streams and mountains.”
He pushed for harder, more scenic trails in the Rocky Mountains. When he and Marlene sold their business in 2009, he had time and money for something bigger. That’s when he hatched the plan.
The Appalachian Trail — or AT, if you’re talking to a veteran of it — starts in Springer Mountain, Ga., and wanders north through 14 states to the northern terminus, Mount Katahdin, Maine. The AT draws a few kinds of people: day-hikers; section-hikers, who take the trail one stretch at a time, usually coming home between hiking stints; and through hikers, the people who manage to carve out up to a half-year to hike the trail in a single sweep.
McCarthy would be a section-hiker, taking the trail a few weeks, a few hundred miles, at a time, catching flights home to be a husband, a father, a grandfather.
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Certainly an achievement to be proud of at any age let alone 62 and it just goes to show that anything is possible if you have the desire and the courage to push yourself a little. Just maybe you will find that something you had been missing just as Tom McCarthy seems to have.
Check out this video compilation of some of the beautiful scenery that is part of what hiking the appalachian is all about
Hopefully you found this story as inspiring as I did and if so please share it with anyone else you think might be interested.