Today an Ahwatukee Foothills man is setting out on a five-month journey to conquer all 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and raise $10,000 for charity along the way.

Gary Parkinson has always been active, mountain biking and hiking. When he hit what he calls his “mid-life crisis” seven years ago he decided to conquer his fear of heights and began mountain climbing. He’s climbed Mount Whitney, Mount Shasta and most of Mount Rainier. Along the way a friend suggested hiking the Appalachian Trail.

In 2012, Parkinson backpacked two 200-mile sections of the trail and fell in love with the idea of travelling the entire course. To motivate himself, he set a goal. He chose four charities to raise money and awareness for.

His hike will benefit The Home for Little Wanderers, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Make a Wish and Civitan Foundation.

“I want to hike this trail, but there’s no driving force,” he said. “For some people it’s a life-long dream to hike the Appalachian Trail, but for me it’s something to do. The way that motivates me, because I’m goal driven, instead of saying let’s go walk 2,000 miles, I decided to do something for charity so others benefit from this thing. I decided I couldn’t ask people for money if I didn’t have any skin in the game so I’m going to donate $10,000 of my own money at the end, too.”

On his website,, where Parkinson plans to document his journey, he has placed links to donate to each of the charities. He has a goal set for each charity, which he plans to match on Oct. 1. Already Parkinson has raised $4,400 for his chosen charities and another $2,500 has been committed.

“I’ve been fairly successful in business to where I have options at this point,” he said. “I’ve saved and invested my whole life and I just want a new challenge… A four- or five-month journey and helping other people at the same time, that’s the next progression in my life of achievements.”

Parkinson will start his journey in Georgia on Sunday, April 13. He plans to travel 18 miles a day and hopes to finish in Maine at the end of August. He will post a daily update on his blog, (

For more information on the journey, visit

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