July 20, 1944 – May 11, 2019
[Jim Hester and Zuni Bear on the Mount Mansfield summit in 2010.]
When I decided to do Peaks For Parkinson's 2020, I thought a lot about whether I should, and could.
The "should" part was because of COVID-19. The "could" part was because of my personal circumstances having just left my job of nine years. Then I realized leaving my job was a major gift, not to be wasted. It was a gift of time, and in my mind there was no better way to spend my hiatus from the professional world than by focusing on others.
If I'm being honest, I also knew being in the woods again would provide me with the opportunity to think and find new direction. I began to look back on my 2010 blog and old emails and found this from Jim:
Finally, the trail was rugged physically, as you know so well, but walking with you lightened my load. As I said, almost all of my hiking has been with long time friends and family. You have a gift for establishing an open, easy rapport with complete strangers that made me able to talk with you about anything and everything. I encourage you to find a way to use that gift in your career - it is rare and precious!
Ten years later as I found myself in transition again, Jim's words reminded me of my own strengths. I am doing this again, I thought. I am doing this for Jim.
This trip was such an important journey for me as I learn to live with PD. It was a rugged 22 miles and took a lot out of me, but taught me so much. I would not have started on the trek if you had not organized Peaks for Parkinson’s. After hiking with you for three days, I have a better appreciation of the many obstacles you had to overcome to make it happen. Thank you so much for staying with it...
My goals for PFP 2020 were the same as in 2010--the main one being to encourage people with, and without, Parkinson's to stay active!
In preparation for our hiking together in August, I've cranked up my exercising a couple of notches--a couple of long tune up hikes and riding my bike 1-2 hours a day. For a variety of reasons, I had let my physical conditioning slip and after a couple of weeks I can see some definite improvements.
The unintended consequence is the impact on my PD symptoms. I had read repeatedly that exercise can help and had been continuing my normal routine of walking and practicing yoga regularly. Don't know if it's wishful thinking, but the more intense training has made me feel better in general and appears to moderate some of the symptoms. Thanks for providing the motivation--I wanted you to know that your efforts are paying off in unexpected ways.
Be well, Jim
Some of you might have read this before but I don't know how to better express my thoughts and feelings about Jim. My memories of walking and talking with him ten years ago are as strong as ever.
Excerpt from article I wrote about Peaks For Parkinson's 2010:
"I had many memorable hiking companions, but to me Jim Hester was the epitome of Peaks For Parkinson's. He was seizing an opportunity to do something he loved again. He was confronting his fears. And while I didn't know this beforehand, he would publicly share his diagnosis of Parkinson's for the first time during a television interview on the summit of Mount Mansfield.
A former Long Trail end-to-ender, Jim joined me for the challenging 22-mile stretch through Bolton and over Mountain Mansfield. Diagnosed with PD earlier that year, Jim also had personal goals—one was to see if he could still backpack with PD. . .
[Jim resting at a vista along the Bolton stretch.]
Jim and I spent several memorable days walking and talking, sharing stories and comfortable silences. Over rugged climbs, up steep ladders, and through gnarly rooted terrain I watched each step Jim took, in awe of his bravery. As we moved north I realized what a thoughtful man he was, with a gentle spirit and enviable determination. . .
Climbing carefully and steadily to an open spot on the side of the mountain, we stopped, reflecting on our time in the Vermont woods. I felt honored to be in this special place with this exceptional person, his focus and determination reminiscent of my father's strong will. We sat in silence looking south across the mountain range, marveling at the distances we had both traveled."
[Jim on the Mount Mansfield ridgeline in 2010.]
How are you? I was on Mansfield on Saturday with my daughter and was thinking of you. I'll never be able to walk that trail without remembering our trek together. I continue to be well, but probably working harder than I should.
[Me on Mount Mansfield this year.]
I feel the same Jim, and paused several times along the Bolton-Mansfield stretch to remember you and think about what an inspiration you were to me.
[Jim embracing his wife, Sarah, at the end of his Peaks For Parkinson’s journey.]