Seventy-six-year-old Garrettsville native Don Havener is on an important mission. His journey began back in March, as he set out in Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail. He undertook this epic adventure to raise money for the Ohio Parkinson Foundation, and to honor his brother, Bob, who suffers from the disease. Havener shared, “It’s my goal to try and raise $100 per mile for the organization that has been such a blessing to my brother during his five year struggle with the disease.”
Along the way, he posts stories from his travels on his website. While the trail cuts through The state of Tennessee for 280 miles, his most recent blog post details his visit to Dennis Cove, Tennessee, in the north of the sate. “I am on my way to a natural wonder – 150-foot, three-tier Laurel Falls. I walked through three canyons,” he continued, “then a nearly continuous five to six mile downhill rhododendron tunnel.” The end of the post finds Havener at the start of the Virginia portion of his hike. Virginia contains the most miles of the AT, about 550 miles. Throughout his trip, his wife Kathleen meets him weekly along the trail in order to provide support and supplies for her husband’s trek.
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. Known as the AT, the Trail goes through the fourteen states covered by the Appalachian mountain range, stretching from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine. An estimated 2-3 million people visit the trail every year, and 1,800–2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail annually.
His web address, gen524.com, comes from the Bible, Genesis 5:24. This verse is one of the rare verses to feature Havener’s personal scripture hero, Enoch. Enoch was the father of Methuselah, and the great-grandfather of Noah. Havener surmised that much like today, the people of Enoch’s time were focused on worldly materialism. Enoch was given a son by God at the age of 65, then spent the next 300 years of his life walking with God, in praise of God’s grace to him.
Havener shared, “If we live our lives led by scripture, as Enoch did, we lose the desire for the material trappings and pitfalls.” Instead of dying at the end of his days, according to Genesis 5:24, “Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer, for God had taken him.” During this long journey, and the vast expanse of alone time it will allow, he hopes to find another dimension to his spiritual life. Along the way, he shares his faith with fellow hikers.
While at the Abingdon Gap Shelter, he met a 52-year-old woman who was recovering from the death of her mother. She had also recently become caretaker for her Parkinson’s afflicted husband. She hiked with her 24-year-old, recent college graduate daughter. “I was able to share my ongoing Enoch and Parkinson’s funding goals. We were able to pray about her circumstances and God’s love,” Havener shared.
While people hike the Appalachian Trail into their 80s, the average hiker is in his or her 20s. How does this 76-year-old husband, father and grandfather fit in? After days of rainy conditions, he gathered wood and built a roaring fire. The fire appealed to many hikers, who decided to end their day near its soothing blaze. “This allowed much sharing and comradeship as food was prepared and tents set up,” Havener continued. “Many hikers expressed casual interest in Enoch, but most seemed more interested in passing and sharing an odd-looking, smallish smoking pipe.”
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Maryland and West Virginia are the easiest states to hike, while New Hampshire and Maine are the hardest, due to rocky terrain and elevation gains. In fact, the total elevation gain of hiking the entire A.T. is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest 16 times. By hiking roughly 15 miles per day, the trip will take an estimated six months to complete.
“Through it all, I want to be a blessing to those who suffer from the havoc of Parkinson’s.” His goals are threefold; to know and be known by God, to raise money to improve the lives of those affected by Parkinson’s, and to encourage and lift up those individuals next to and along the Appalachian Trail. Money raised by the hike will be used for Parkinson’s afflicted people and their families, to provide information on symptoms, medication management, coping strategies and supportive services through the Ohio Parkinson Foundation.
To read Havener’s latest blog post or to make a donation to this worthy cause, visit gen524.com.