Man walks Appalachian Trail to battle grief


MINNEAPOLIS — Life’s journey takes us down a variety of different paths. The current path for a 78-year-old Longville man is the Appalachian Trail.

In March, Egon Overgaard decided to walk the entire trail. He started in Georgia and he’s getting close to the end, in Maine.

Sitting comfortably at mile marker 1760, Overgaard had a few minutes to reflect on just how far he’s come. And not just the nearly 2,000 miles he’s hiked, but also the grief he’s trying to leave behind.

“In my mind she was as close to a perfect person as I knew,” he said.

Overgaard had spent the past few years caring for Carol, his wife of 57 years who was battling a terminal illness. When she died last winter, he was lost, until he found a new purpose.

He remembered the Appalachian trail from his time in the Navy, and walking seemed like good therapy.

“I don’t know why it came to me but it did,” he said.

Some people go for a stroll to clear their head. Overgaard’s stroll has taken him across the eastern part of the United States, through snow, sleet, rain and an unforgiving sun.

He’s slept in tents, he’s forged hills, and even had to scale boulders at times. Walking the entire trail is like walking the distance equivalent of 15 Mount Everests.

“Pennsylvania was strewn with rocks and every one of them moved when you put your foot on them,” he said.

His favorite states have been Virginia and New Jersey.

There’s also another reason Egon is doing this. His Lutheran church in Longville is trying to convert to solar energy. They figure they can save a lot of money while helping the environment. This trek is helping to raise funds for that project.

“I think solar power is a part of that future, so if I can do something to help that I’m more than willing to,” he said.

He’s averaging 15 to 17 miles a day and each night he and the people traveling with him eat like it’s their job to consume food. But Overgaard knows that every step he takes is one step closer to solar, and one step closer to closure. Like so many others on the trail, he’s walking to heal.

“It’s a change in my life. I guess I’m ready to embrace that,” he said.

He has been hiking with two other people, though he has spent a lot of time alone on the trail. Every time they reach a town they stay in motels so they can shower.

When it’s all said and done, Egon will have walked through 14 states. WCCO got word he made it to Maine over the weekend.

John Lauritsen

John Lauritsen is an Emmy award-winning reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-TV in late-July of 2007. Two days after he started, the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed.