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Goat Roper Did It!

Egon Overgaard Summits the Appalachian Trail

Egon Overgaard of Longville Completes the Appalachian Trail

...when you're on the trail, it's such a simple life, and it doesn't matter if you're a millionaire or a kid trying to pick up little odd jobs to keep sustaining themselves. You're basically living out of a backpack, and we're all equal out there, I guess. And, I think that helped my perspective... - Egon "Goat Roper" Overgaard

We caught up with Egon “Goat Roper” Overgaard along the Appalachian Trail in August when he had hiked over 2/3rds of the trek. He returned in mid-September after walking the full 2,194.3 miles. Egon is 78 years old, the oldest person to finish the trail so far this year. In this Area Voices he shares what it’s been like transitioning to home after 6 months of walking, how some of his perceptions have changed, and thoughts on future adventures!

I didn't adjust all that well coming back to people, but I think I'm getting better. I love people, and that's what makes the world go around. But it honestly was hard to be away from the trail .- Egon "Goat Roper" Overgaard

Egon his hosting a presentation of his adventures this Sunday, November 13th at 4pm at the Salem Lutheran Church in Longville. Trail mates Lea and Kevin will be on hand as well.

It's amazing to me, Katie… I don't think I'm much, I'm just a plain old person. But there's so many people that think it was such an extraordinary thing and there was a lot of people that followed me and were interested in what I was doing, mainly more than I expected, I guess. A lot of those people have talked to me since I've been home and were just very interested in hearing my story. So I'm going to do a presentation on the 13 November at our church. I'm going to have some pictures and do a little talk and answer some questions. I think this will be a good opportunity to put that to rest, I guess, let people know what I did.

Click the green bubble above for the whole conversation!

Full Transcript:
Egon: There was a time, maybe I don't know when it was, when it occurred a month or so before the end where I started thinking, well, it looks like I'm going to make it. And I started thinking, I'm not sure I want it to end. So I went through a little period of that, but I got over that pretty quickly, and I was more than ready to come home by that time, by the time I got to the end.

Katie: So what was that feeling when you finally got to the end?

Egon: I kind of expected a bigger response out of myself than I did. For the last four days, it was windy. It was terrible windy, and it was cold and windy when we summited, so I don't know if that had some effect. You could barely stand up there on there was times when it almost wanted to push you off the mountain, but that may have affected me some. I expected more of a kind of a more emotional feeling when I summited, but it felt really good, and I was glad, but it wasn't exactly what I expected.

The five of us that summited together went to the coast and ate lobster. It's kind of fun, too, because we still had our hiker hunger, so we ordered a round of the lobsters, and after we ate them, they came back, and I said, “I want another round.” And he looked at me like, what's wrong with you? And then he says, “well, you've got plenty of drinks there.” And I said, “no. I want another round of lobster. He couldn't believe it. He didn't want to do it. I'm sure we could eat four, but they cut us off at two.”

Katie: So when you left, you used the term “you were at loose ends” to describe how you were feeling… Transitioning. How did you feel like when you came back to your where you live?

Egon: I'm telling you, it was hard. Well, first of all, I think it's hard because I think all the people make it hard. You almost get overwhelmed with people, so I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I didn't adjust all that well coming back to people, but I think I'm getting better. I love people, and that's what makes the world go around. But it honestly was hard to be away from the trail, I guess.

Katie: Well, there's something you're out in nature, too. Even anybody who's ever just spent a night in the woods, even in a cabin, it's a whole different mentality and to have that for six months...

Egon: Yeah. I'm not sure I expected that, but it certainly was pretty evident. Well, and I actually experienced that on the trail. I know. Especially one time we went into I think it was Galesburg or something, and it was just like amusement park almost the whole town was just tourists. And we walked up and down the street one time, and I just couldn't take it. It was just way too many people, so I guess I should have known that that was something that I was going to experience. But it was a surprise to me when I got home. I thought I would adjust better.

Katie: Well, it's only been a month or so.

Egon: Yeah.

Katie: And you've already been on a big trip to the Black Hills?

Egon: Yeah. When you get grandkids, you know what I'm going to talk about... It's pretty hard to say no to them.

Katie: And they hadn't seen you for so long.

Egon: No, and I hadn't seen them. They were happy for me to be back, I believe.

Katie: Any other new perspectives that you came off the trail with?

Egon: Yeah, you know what? I really am starting to process some of that stuff that I think that I needed to over the last when you get old, you start getting a little opinionated, I think. And I certainly am old. And one of the things that I well, part of it is the political climate we have right now, where it just seems like you either like somebody because they're like you or you don't. I think that was one of the things that I looked for some change in how I was, how I judge people and stuff, and I think I'm better at that. I think I'm a little less judgmental than I was before, and I'm happy about that. That's great. If I can keep it if I can keep it, it'll be good. But it's easy to go back to that kind of thinking in my mind.

Katie: Right. You actually have so much time to practice it, too, as you're on the trail, as opposed to reading a book, say, and then saying, I want to work on this… you actually were, literally, boots on the ground, just working, walking with other people.

Egon: I was around people, all kinds of different persuasions politically, and I tried very hard not to. I don't know, when I was younger, I love to argue with people. I just loved it. I would find out what they were passionate about, and then I think I would take the other side just to be able to argue with them about it. I think I noticed a difference in that respect. I think that's a real challenge for our country right now, how to figure out how to have some sort of a civil discourse, I guess. And I don't see that right now, but I'm hopeful I guess when you're on a trail, it's such a simple life, and it doesn't matter if you're a millionaire or a kid trying to pick up little odd jobs to keep sustaining themselves. You're basically living out of a backpack, and we're all equal out there, I guess. And I think that helped my perspective on some of that stuff.

Katie: So I'm curious, now that you're home, are you still walking every day?

Egon: Yeah, I tried to. I'm not doing as much as I should be. There's so darn much, you know, you get so far behind when you're gone for six months.

And my knee is not perfect yet, but it's getting better. I think it's starting to get better, but it's still pretty stiff. But I'm walking better than I was. I guess the trail kind of beats you down a little bit.

Katie: That's a long time to walk, Egan.

Egon: It is a lot of steps.

Katie: It's a lot of steps.

Egon: People have asked me if I want to do it again, and I usually say no. Kevin and Leah -  They're going to do the Pacific Trail next summer.

Katie: Kevin and Leah, who you met along the trail, fellow Minnesotans, who you ended up summiting the Appalachian Trail with? Does that sound tempting to you?

Egon: I want to go out and do trail magic with them, for sure, and I don't know. Yeah, I don't think it's as tough a trail as the Appalachian trail. They say it isn't, anyway.It's kind of challenging because there's not much water, but the train is not nearly as rough, and you don't have as much elevation, I guess.  So it would kind of interest me.

Katie: So tell me again what trail magic is.

Egon: Okay, trail magic is what you do is most of them just go to Walmart or Costco or something and buy a whole bunch of stuff that most of them, I think, in the past, have walked the trail, and they want to be around those people again. That's my take on it, anyway. They just miss that community, I suppose. So what they do is they go to Costco, buy a whole bunch of fruit and candy and whatever things that they think the hikers need or want, and maybe they'll make hot dogs or they'll make hamburgers. Anyway, then they just go to where the trail crosses a road or something, set up, pull up their pickup or whatever, and maybe put a lot not a tent, but just a cover or whatever, and a bunch of chairs. They just try to take care of you, feed you. It's amazing thing. In my mind, they were so happy, and they just couldn't do enough for us. So that's trail magic. And they call them trail angels. It would kind of interest me, but I don't know. I'm getting kind of old to be spending a whole summer away from my family. I got other things I should be doing. I didn't get to fish all summer.

Katie: That is an interesting thing to consider, those common activities that you didn't get to do this year.

Egon: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. I didn't get to do I didn't get to do maple syrup this spring. I didn't get to do my bees. I didn't fish. Yeah, there's a lot of things I like to do that I didn't get to do.

Katie: Wow. You just pulled out of life.

Egon: Yeah, kinda. In a way, I guess you're right. I don't know. It was a really worthwhile experience for me.

Katie: Egon, what do you think Carol would have thought about all of this?

Egon: I think about that sometimes. Well, first of all, had she been here, I couldn't have done it. I'll tell you something. I don't know if this makes any sense or not, but when I was working in Iowa myself and another guy bought an ultralight airplane. And so it was so much fun flying that thing that I would often, if I was working right in town, I would hurry up, eat lunch, and then run out to the airport and get in that thing and fly it a little bit. And then I would always fly over our house, and she usually would say,”you idiot,” or something like that. So that's what I'm saying… She probably would have thought I was an idiot for doing this, too.

Katie: Oh, my god. But she loved that you did the airplane thing, too.

Egon: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I don't know if it's the most fun thing, but one of my memories of her was when we would do things camping and all that kind of stuff, and she one time said to me, I wouldn't have ever done any of this if we hadn't been together. That made me feel good, I guess.

Katie: Yeah. She knew you had a sense of adventure. She liked that about you more than likely.

Egon: I think so. I hope so, anyway. But it wasn't always easy for her.

Katie: Because her default was not that mode, necessarily?

Egon: Right.

Katie: Yeah. Carol and the mourning doves, right?

Egon: Yes. You remember that?

Katie: Yeah.

Egon: She loved that. And that was a poignant moment down the trail for me when I would hear them.

Katie: Well, You did it.

Egon: I did it. I did it. It's amazing to me, Katie, the number of people that,  I don't know how to say it… I don't think I'm much, I'm just a plain old person. But there's so many people that think it was such an extraordinary thing and there was a lot of people that followed me and were interested in what I was doing, mainly more than I expected, I guess. A lot of those people have talked to me since I've been home and were just very interested in hearing my story. So I'm going to do a presentation on the 13 November at our church. I'm going to have some pictures and do a little talk and answer some questions. I think this will be a good opportunity to put that to rest, I guess, let people know what I did.

Katie: That's great. And they can see from your perspective what it was like with the images and stuff.

Egon: I hope so.

It was amazing to me the number of people that were on the trail and you listen to their … so often was what it was, some sort of change… they were changing jobs, they were they maybe had gotten divorced or things like that. It always seemed like there was some sort of a change in their lives that sometimes I think it might have been that just made it possible to do it. But I think there was a certain call to do it too.

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Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.