Larry Autrey is no stranger to the outdoors. Near his home in Florida, the Sanford native (Lee County High School Class of 1976) has done plenty of hiking, particularly in the Ocala National Forest.
His longest hike there was 72 miles, but Autrey admits even that won’t fully prepare him for his next adventure, which is to hike the Appalachian Trail’s nearly 2,200 miles from the south end at Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
“This is going to be a little bit out of my comfort zone. It’s a difficult adventure, and probably 80 percent of it is mental,” Autrey said. “I turn 64 in April. You only have one life, so why not do something cool?”
Autrey, who works in real estate, has decided to use his trek – which he’ll undertake with a friend – as a way to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research organization The Longest Day. He has a goal of $50,000, of which he’s already gathered about $4,000. He’ll start his trip on March 26 and expects the journey to take six months.
“I’m part of a networking group, and there’s an Alzheimer’s research nonprofit we support,” he said. “The more I started talking to people, I just saw how it affects everyone. Every single person seemed to have a story.
Autrey says he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback, as well as “a lot of ‘you must be out of your mind.'” But even though hiking the trail is no easy task, modern technology in the form of cell signals and even mobile apps has made it a little more user friendly. That being said, he’ll be carrying a backpack weighing 24 pounds every step of the way, and will start with a target pace of eight miles per day in order to develop what he calls “trail legs.” That pace will increase to between 13 and 15 miles each day, and then to as much as 20.
“You’re supposed to burn something like 4,000 or 5,000 calories a day,” he said. “I anticipate losing between 20 and 25 pounds.”