A Stone Mountain hike can be tough for any hiker but not for Georgian man Zach Cross.
Every day for the past three years, he has been hiking Stone Mountain in DeKalb County. His daily hike made him lose 200 pounds and turned him into a strong and happy hiker.
Cross’s journey began in May 2020. Like any other beginner, his first hike was really difficult. At 400 pounds, he struggled to go up and down the mountain.
The first mile took him about 80 minutes to complete because of his heavy weight. He was huffing and puffing and tripping over the roots and rocks.
Cross acknowledged that this was one of the hardest things he had ever done in his life.
Stone Mountain is a beautiful attraction in Georgia and even though Cross was aware of the mountain’s beauty, it took him a while to fully appreciate it. “It is just such a gem in terms of the beauty, the wildlife here, the flowers,” said Cross. After he fell in love with its natural attractions, he decided to hike every single day.
At first, Cross thought of hiking every day to have some peace of mind and enjoy the beauty of nature. The beginning of the pandemic was stressful and it didn’t do any good for his mental health. Cross shared that he just graduated a few years before the pandemic and hated his job. He also had a binge eating disorder that made him gain a lot of weight.
Since he started hiking; however, his mood improved a lot and he learned how to let go of his negative thoughts. The fresh air and the spectacular views of Stone Mountain did a lot of good things for his mental health.
Cross’s daily Stone Mountain hike helped him improve his overall health. He lost 200 pounds within three years of consistent hard work.
He successfully turned his life around and now, he feels a lot stronger and more confident on the trail. When he started moving with ease, he discovered his passion for hiking and his love for nature.
“On May 1st, 2020, I decided that enough was enough, I wanted to take my life back into my own hands. I went for a short walk in the woods (I’m talking maybe a mile). I ended it being winded but happy. So the next day I did it again. And then I went on a longer one, and a longer one. Before I knew it, I was hiking up a nearby mountain a few miles every day. Before I knew it, I was down 50 lbs, then 100 lbs, then 150 lbs,” Cross wrote in his online trail journal.
Cross’s three-year hiking journey in Stone Mountain made him want to take on more hiking adventures. He decided he would try backpacking and continue his adventure at the most famous hiking trail in the world, the Appalachian Trail.
While preparing for this big journey, he hiked in Southern Terminus in Atlanta to try backpacking. “A few friends and I went up to Standing Indian and did the loop there. It was 20 miles over a weekend. I was woefully overpacked (probably 45 lbs with food and water). We completed it, though, and I really enjoyed it, it was truly magical,” wrote Cross.
Cross also shared that he was training for his AT hike in 2022 when he broke his ankle on the Art Loeb trail in North Carolina. He announced that on May 3, exactly three years after his first Stone Mountain hike, he is setting out on his ultimate walk in the woods on Appalachian Trail.
“I view this as the ultimate cap to my weight loss journey. That I could go from being winded by a leisurely 1-mile stroll, to losing close to 200 lbs, and through hiking the AT, I would accomplish something huge, and that is what I am looking for in my life right now. I want some sort of signature moment that I can look back on and say “Man, I am proud of that.”
Watch his inspiring journey in the video below: