Outdoor Restoration

By Beth Griffin

Scott with his dog Bleu at his home in North Carolina

Scott Zimmerman enjoyed a

childhood filled with the joys of summer camp in the mountains of North Carolina where he paddled, fished, sailed, camped, and hiked the long days away. He loved being outside with friends and recalls the fun they had “before the internet.” He was an ambitious young man, an accomplished undergraduate, and law student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ultimately, he became a successful corporate litigator for almost 20 years in North Carolina. Scott was on a path that seemed to be a good one.

At some point along the way, however, Scott took a detour onto a dangerous trail. It wasn’t marked with the white blaze of the A.T.’s adventure, nor was it blazed blue, leading to rest and camp. It was a trail of addiction and alcoholism. Ten years ago, Scott hit his bottom and asked for help. With the help of others, he stepped off that darkly-blazed trail onto a life-long path of recovery. A huge part of his recovery is nature in general and the white-blazed A.T. in particular.

These days, Scott is the director of a vocational and residential rehabilitative program for adults with severe and persistent mental illness. He and his dog Bleu spend most of their spare time in a yurt on a wildflower farm along the Haw River in Chatham County, North Carolina. Almost every day they hike the trail Scott and his sons built along the bank of the Haw. While Scott dreams of thru-hiking the A.T. and has been “chipping away” at sections of it, he also frequently hikes on and supports the Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina.

Among the things Scott credits for his recovery are time on the Trail as a hiker and as a SWEAT (Smoky Mountains Wilderness Elite A.T.) Crew member — and sharing his rekindled love for the outdoors with his family. “I am very grateful for everyone who has helped to make the A.T. what it is today,” he says. “To be only a few hours away from it is very comforting. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is outstanding. It is staffed and supported by volunteers who are passionate and extremely competent,” he says. “This combination ensures achieving — day after day — its mission to preserve and manage the Trail.” We know that the Trail can change lives and we are grateful that it helped Scott find his way back to health, family, and the power of nature. We are also grateful that Scott shares his expertise by serving on the ATC’s Land Transaction Review Committee and gives generously as a monthly donor. “I want to ensure that the Trail is there for others,” he says. “As vast and open, non-judgmental, inclusive, unbiased and, above all, magical, as it has been for me.”

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