PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. -- On February 29, Ryan Beck left for the trip of a lifetime. He planned to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in five months. Spectrum Bay News 9 interviewed him before he left.

What You Need To Know

  • Ryan Beck hiking the Appalachian Trail for Parkinson's

  • The personal trainer left on February 29 for his 5 month trip

  • Beck plans to hike nearly 2,200 miles

  • His goal is to finish the hike on July 29

His goal was to hike the nearly 2,200 miles while also raising awareness for Parkinson’s Disease. His grandfather had battled the disease for more than 20 years.

Beck is a personal trainer and has helped his grandfather cope with his symptoms through exercise and boxing classes. He also teaches Rock Steady boxing classes to other people with Parkinson’s Disease to help them with mobility and balance.

A week into Beck’s trip, there was less than a dozen confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida. But that started to change quickly. As businesses began to shut down and state parks closed, Beck continued to hike.

“I haven’t had as many tough days as I thought I was going to have,” said Beck.

He says once coronavirus began spreading, he had a conversation with his wife and they decided he should continue the hike. He believes it was the safer option, since he has mostly been alone on the trails. 

"I’m just really thankful I had the courage, and my grandfather inspired me to come out here and make this chapter as grand as it is,” said Beck.

Despite the obstacles, he has never given up. Even when he received the news on May 17 that his grandfather had passed away, he kept going. 

“I remember before I left my granddad said to me, 'no matter what you have to finish this trip. It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than you, so many people are going to benefit',” said Beck. He went on to say, “After reflecting on it, I feel like he might have been saying goodbye. And it was calming to have that time and that experience.”

Beck has about a month left and a few hundred miles to hike before he reaches the end of the trail in Maine.

He says he tells every person he encounters about his grandfather’s drive to never give up even when it was tough to exercise. He also tells them about the boxing classes he teaches to other patients with Parkinson's. His trail name is "Rock Steady."

“Every time that I tell the story about where I got my trail name I can feel my grandfather with me and smiling because he knows that somebody else learned about this program and somebody else learned the benefit exercise can bring to Parkinson’s."

Beck has been posting updates throughout his journey on his Facebook page

His goal is to finish the hike on July 29. His family plans to meet him in Maine as he finishes.