Charles Aiken

September 2011

Charles Aiken, thru-hiker, “A.T. salesman,” and volunteer (with GATC – the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club), was introduced to the A.T. when he was 12 by Rufus Morgan.   Morgan, a legendary A.T. volunteer and “mountain man” captured Charles’ imagination with stories of the A.T.  This “remarkable man” inspired Charles, many years later, to become an A.T. hiker and volunteer. 

Charles started hiking the A.T. at 42, and he has hiked thousands of miles since, including a thru-hike in 1997, with hiking partner (and fellow Volunteer of the Month) John Tatara. Thru hiking was something he felt compelled to do, so he could see all of the A.T. 

Hiking the A.T. led Charles to volunteering for the A.T.  He has been a GATC trail maintainer for 18 years – “an unparalleled privilege” he says – and for the past several years he has focused much of his energy on outreach;  he now sees himself as part of GATC’s “sales and educational” arm. Charles noted that many people who live near the A.T. never go on it, even though it is “their land and their trail.” To counteract that, he started an A.T. hiking program now active in 11 North Georgia schools. 

Charles and the other GATC hike leaders serve as guides – telling student about A.T. history and helping them prepare and then leading the hike.  Most important, says Charles, is that he and the other volunteers share their passion for the Trail with the students –just as Rufus Morgan did so many years before.