At 83 years old Jerry Levine is hiking mountains and spending an hour at the gym three times a week to prepare for a feat that no one his age has ever accomplished.
The Cortlandt resident and advertising executive will attain an inspiring life accomplishment when he hikes Esther and Whiteface Mountains, the last two Adirondack peaks he needs to climb to become the oldest member of the Adirondack Forty-Sixer Club (ADK46R). He will join 7,000 others who have hiked all 46 peaks, all more than 4,000 feet high, since 1925.
On a hot summer morning, Levine stood with his legs bent at a 90-degree angle and back against the wall in the Peekskill Coffee House to demonstrate one of the many leg strengthening exercises he does to prepare for his 20-mile hikes – hikes he couldn’t do ten years ago but is strong enough for today.
“If you are still healthy enough to do something, then do it,” Levine says.
Becoming a 46er requires hiking several hundred miles of rough and sometimes very wet terrain, ascending and descending hundreds of thousands of vertical feet, and often hiking 20-plus miles in one day, just to summit a single peak.
Levine suffered a heart attack 11 years ago, but rather than allow his health to go down hill, he has worked hard to become stronger. He works out three times a week at in Buchanan and regularly hikes Anthony’s Nose two times in a row to condition himself for the grueling hikes.
“It is very difficult because you go straight up for an hour then have a little break that feels good. Then you go up higher,” Levine said. “Once you get up to the top it is very satisfying.”
Levine has his hiking down to a routine. He and his son Peter stop every hour to “keep the tank half full.” They eat fatty proteins, like salami and drink some water to keep their energy levels high.
Levine fell in love with hiking 40 years ago when his sons Peter and Gary went to Camp Poko-MacCready. His sons joined the 46er club as campers. A few years ago, Levine realized he had already hiked 29 ADK peaks and that with a little hard work, he could join the club as well. So over the last several years Levine dedicated himself to hiking the last 17 peaks in order to join the 46ers club. On Aug. 18 he will accomplish his goal and is asking for other hikers and the public to support him.
Hikers can register to join Levine and pledge a certain level of support and all proceeds will go to The Adirondack Scholarship Foundation, created to provide financially-needy children with the opportunity to attend summer camp at Poko-MacCready.
“Over the years I could see how camp had a large influence in molding them into responsible, independent and successful adults, whom I am very proud of,” Levine said, hoping his hike will help bring that experience to other children.
Levine hikes with his sons and other people from the camp and is also looking for local hikers to climb with. You can find him on Facebook here.
Levine enjoys staying fit and healthy, and chooses to do so through hiking because it allows him to escape from civilization, he said.
“We are part of nature and I feel very close to it. It takes away all the problems in my mind going on locally. When you go in the woods it is like you are surrounded by stuff that it feels like there are never any problems there. You look at the sky and trees and birds flying around and it feels so nice. You are part of it all. You are its equal,” Levine said.
On Aug. 18 Levine, his sons and grandchildren will hike the last two peaks together and he invites others to join them.
To support Levine visit his website here.