If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Tom Jackson walking along the Trail, don’t be surprised when you feel the boundless energy and joy that seems to radiate from him.

Tom Jackson enjoys the Betsie Valley Trail

“We’re so fortunate to have such a great trail in our community!”

“Thinking back over a decade to when I first started using the Trail on my bike,” Tom reflected through squinting eyes and speaking through a face covering during a recent conversation, “I had no idea that it would eventually become a way of life for me.”

To say Tom is a trail walking enthusiast is an understatement. The 77-year-old walks every day, weather permitting, and sets a goal of 20,000 steps or 6 to 8 miles each session!

His summer routine starts at sunrise when he gets in his first walking session at a park near his home. He returns home, has breakfast and then heads to the Betsie Valley Trail entrance on River Road to complete his second session. “Besides the health benefits and taking in all the natural beauty of our area, I like the solitude of my walks. I feel it’s a real benefit to my mental health as well,” he beamed.

32-year resident of Benzie County

Tom and his wife, Jackie bought their first cottage here in 1988. Eventually, they replaced the cottage with a house in 2010. The couple spends their winters in Tucson. “We just love it up here and it’s our home,” Tom added, “we always look forward to our return each spring.”

Early Trail User

Ever since there’s been a Betsie Valley Trail, Tom’s been enjoying it. He recalls his doctor’s advice years ago when he needed to lose weight and get his blood sugar in line, “He said to me, ‘Look for an activity to do outside and pick one that requires you to build knowledge.’ Jackie and I thought about what he said and decided we would start birding — it was some of the best advice anyone’s ever given me.”

“That’s really how my love for the Trail and my walking routine all got started”, described Tom, “First with the birding (which we still love doing), then I did some biking on the Trail, and eventually I started walking each day – that was seven or eight years ago! And I’ve never felt better!”, he exclaimed.

From Volunteer to V.P.

When Tom became aware of the Friends group, he signed up as a volunteer helping to maintain the Trail by removing downed trees and picking up trash. Well, it wasn’t long before Tom was asked to join the Board and now he serves as Vice President.

Tom is literally a walking testimonial for the many benefits that users of Trail experience. Whether it’s getting some great exercise, meeting-up with neighbors and friends, practicing a hobby or interest like birding, or simply escaping to the great outdoors, the benefits of making the Trail a part of one’s life are many.

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