STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. — A man who set out to climb Stone Mountain has now hiked it nearly every day for three years. Now, he's planning to conquer the Appalachian Trail.
Zach Cross' journey started in May 2020. Although he enjoys the landscape of Stone Mountain, it took him a while to appreciate its features.
"My first few times up the mountain, I didn't see the beauty of the park at that point. I was really just struggling up the mountain, having a really hard time," Cross said.
Since his first day on the mountain, Cross has set out to hike the trails almost every day.
A one-mile journey initially took him 75 to 80 minutes to complete. Now, Cross makes the climb in under 20 minutes.
Hiking helped him out of a deep depression -- and shed 200 pounds.
"I was about 400 pounds, maybe 380," he said.
Cross said losing weight gave him the confidence to take on the Appalachian Trail. He will cover 2,220 miles in a 35-pound pack, which will bring a whole new set of challenges.
"Living out of a backpack for five months, a little tent, in the freezing cold, the rain," he described. "Cooking all my own meals out of my pack."
While Cross is taking on a new trail, he said he'll always be grateful for his time spent at Stone Mountain.
"It's really made me who I am today and it has made me the happiest I have ever been," he said.
Cross will set out on May 1, which will be three years to the day that he decided to change his life. He plans to finish by October.