Gary Monk began meticulously planning a thru-hike after reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the
Woods. After retiring from his career as a Delta Airlines pilot, he started north from Springer Mountain in March 2002, and summited Katahdin in September.
While trekking through Maine, he met J.T. Horn, then ATC’s New England regional representative, who encouraged him to give something back to the Trail after his hike.
Gary took those words to heart when he returned home, joining the Georgia A.T. Club (GATC) and becoming a maintainer. He served three years as trails supervisor and two as club president and has been club representative and chair of ATC’s Southern Regional Partnership Committee. He is also involved with the Partnership for the National Trails System.
Gary chairs the volunteer committee for the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest CoTrails Collaborative, where hikers, equestrians, and mountain bikers work together to manage, develop, and maintain environmentally sustainable trails. Gary can’t emphasize enough to the A.T. community that “People with differing views can find common ground. Asking—not demanding—and reciprocating” are the keys to successful cooperation.
GATC’s Trail section consistently receives high praise from hikers, and Gary‘s contributions as a section overseer, district leader for trail maintenance, and certified C-level sawyer help to maintain those high standards. GATC Conservation Director and Shelters Co-Chair David Stelts says, “He is a committed and dedicated volunteer, contributing more than 800 hours a year to Trail maintenance and club activities. As an example of Gary’s commitment, leadership, and follow-through, he was project manager and liaison with the USFS for the Blood Mountain Shelter renovation. Under Gary’s leadership, the project was completed in record time and on budget.”
That stone shelter, built by the CCC in the 1930s, is in designated wilderness, so no motorized equipment or tools could be used in the renovation. Mule teams brought in materials and volunteers did the work with hand tools. (Read more about the project here).
Gary exemplifies the volunteer ethic and cooperative spirit of the Appalachian Trail, and beyond.