Rockland County resident Christine Baker has had hiking the Appalachian Trail on her bucket list for a number of years, but never found the time to tackle it. Her experiences on 9/11 changed that. “I was supposed to be at the Trade Center that day, but I overslept — which is something I never do,” she recalls. On the tragedy’s 10-year anniversary, she and her dog Jessie went for a hike. While walking, Baker reflected on her narrow escape, and realized that she “wanted to do something to give back for the gift of my life.” Thus she created the nonprofit Walk4Good, whose purpose is (according to its mission statement) “to inspire and empower people to practice kindness and to pass acts of kindness onto others.” Says Baker, “It can be anything from kids helping their friends with homework to adults donating money to a charity.” Since the concept occurred to her while she was hiking, Baker felt that the inaugural project had to be a hike, too — and what better one to attempt than the mammoth Appalachian Trail?
So on May 31, Baker — with Jessie in tow — began hiking the 2,180-mile trail, which stretches across 14 states from Maine to Georgia. Funds generated (via corporate sponsorships and personal donations) will benefit three charities: Home Aids of Rockland, Hi-Tor Animal Shelter, and the Wounded Warrior Project. Visitors to the organization’s Web site can dedicate a mile of Baker’s sojourn to a friend, family member, or other loved one at no cost. Baker hopes that this gesture will spur visitors to perform an act of kindness themselves. “In return for us walking in a person’s honor, we simply ask that people go out and pay it forward,” she says.
Baker took about six months off from her job as the head of a communications consulting firm in order to complete this East Coast endeavor. Prior to taking on the challenging trek, the daring duo prepared with a rigorous training schedule. “We practiced carrying packs and wearing different kinds of shoes,” Baker says. “But Jessie was far more chipper about it than I was.” The pair sleeps in a tent approximately 75 percent of the time, and only leaves the trail every seven to 12 days to resupply food, do laundry, and update the Web site on their progress.
Though she is not daunted by the prospect of so much time spent in nature, Baker does have one qualm: surviving the first four weeks while her body adjusts to the terrain. “I’ve heard it’s an absolute nightmare,” she says with a laugh.
To dedicate a mile of Baker’s hike, follow her and Jessie’s progress, or make a donation, visit www.walk4good.org.