Charles J Cook
October 2, 1945 – October 26, 2018
Charles J. Cook. Born October 2, 1945 in Ann Arbor, Michigan to Charles and Frances Cook. Died at age 73, at Joe Raso Hospice, Rockland County, New York on October 26, 2018. He grew up in Michigan, and after graduating with a BA in Psychology from Kalamazoo College he moved to New York City. His life's work was focused on helping people commune with nature in a simple, direct manner. He wrote five outdoor books, including "Awakening to Nature: Renewing Your Life by Connecting with the Natural World", Contemporary Books, 2001. In 1973 he became one of the first 100 people to hike the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail end-to-end from Georgia to Maine in a single trip. He then led more than 2400 trips and hiked an estimated 75,000 miles. Charlie guided all of Wild Earth Adventures' hikes: 2 hikes per week, 50 weeks per year for decades. He is survived by his sister, Rosemary Cook MD of Philadelphia, and the hundreds of hikers whose lives he affected immeasurably. A not-for-profit organization is being planned to preserve and continue his life's work. Information related to memorials and commemorations will soon appear on the website of his creation: WildEarthAdventures.com
Charles J Cook
March 20, 2019
OH, I am so sad. I just found out about Charlie. I used to hike with him. I wanted to join again and that is how I found out. He brought an 'old lady' (me) back into the woods. I could hike with Wild Earth Adventures and I didn't have to worry about being alone - I felt safe. Lovely people in the group also. A big loss for the Hudson Valley and the world. He touched so many lives... - Maureen
December 27, 2018
Thank you Charlie for wonderful hikes in all types of weather (yay weather!) as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Because of you, I have a deeper appreciation of precious time spent in nature.
I think of you often: that great smile, fun conversation, playful sense of humor and contagious love of hiking, film and music.
You touched so many lives and I like to think you'll be with each of us as we camp, hike, enjoy wilderness or a really great film.
Rest In Peace,
December 21, 2018
Today I learned of your passing, dearest Charlie. My heart is breaking and my deepest sympathy to your sister and the countless friends that you guided on your many hikes. Rest in peace, dear one.
December 9, 2018
"A flock of birds has flown, high and away;
A solitary drift of cloud, too, has gone, wandering on.
And I sit alone, with the Ching Ting peak towering beyond.
We never grow tired of each other, the mountain and I".
Do you remember, my good friend?
December 8, 2018
I was thinking to myself today how much I missed going on hikes with Charlie since I haven’t been on one in a few years, so I went to the website to see what Charlie had planned and saw that he has tragically passed. I started hiking with him in the mid 90’s and from the first hike I was hooked on his warmth, kind smile and the wonderful way he made every hike (even the strenuous ones) relaxing. He was the only guide who took so much care selecting trails and knowing them inside out for those he was guiding. He made lunch breaks serene even in the wind and rain. He truly loved what he did and made everyone else around him love it too. It’s so difficult to lose such a rare soul and as sad as I am that our journey with him has ended, he has given me wonderful memories that I can never thank him for enough. I would say rest in peace, but as much as I am sure he is at peace I have a feeling he is still on the lookout for new trails.
December 3, 2018
What sadness to learn the news of Charlie's passing -- such heartbreak mixed with sweet thoughts of him. He was, in a word, precious.
I think of the film and music collections he shared and spoke about with the eloquence of an archivist and curator all rolled into one. I think of our shared belly-laughter over Sir Alec Guinness in "Barnacle Bill" and "The Lavender Hill Mob." I think of him introducing me to John Prine's music and how he drummed his large hands on the steering wheel of his van while nodding his head enthusiastically to the music. I think of eating organic chicken salad together followed by requisite squares of 70% Sweet Riot chocolate. I think of his quiet patience during hikes as I photographed close-ups of tree bark and the undersides of leaves through sunlight.
Charlie was all about sharing the good stuff. The generosity of his hikes stemmed from an earnest desire to help you discover the healing beauty of the natural world. He could talk you up with wisdom, encourage you to push further than you thought you could, or just quietly "be" nearby as you communed with whatever miracle the outdoors brought to your soul. He befriended wind and weather and helped you to accept the power of loving them too. Once I wrote to him about a nasty weather forecast and he responded, "I've invited rain to visit us tomorrow, and it's agreed to try to show up (50% chance tomorrow & 90% chance tomorrow night & Saturday morning) to refresh us & help keep those streams & waterfalls flowing wonderfully..." Thank you for the positive reframing, Charlie.
His brand of optimism and kindness had an authenticity that is rare. Photos of him grinning directly into the lens of the camera always seemed to capture both the light of his spirit and the peace he felt in nature. Reverence for and playful appreciation of Mother Earth gave Charlie his life force -- the secret power he pressed so lovingly into the palms of our hands and depths of our hearts.
December 2, 2018
I am so sorry to hear of Charlie’s passing and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
I was blessed to have hiked with Charlie on many occasions over the last 4 years. He was kind and thoughtful and it was truly such a privilege to have Charlie as a guide to the beauty of nature in the North East.
I also looked forward to his Monday morning emails with wistful quotes from articles and nature books. The emails took me a away from cubicle life in Manhattan for a few minutes and helped me think of weekends ahead in the outdoors.
Charlie you were truly and icon and will be sorely missed. You left us too soon but I am happy you had the chance truly do what you loved in life.
Maureen and Irving Solero
December 1, 2018
We will be attending next Sunday’s hike for our dear Charlie. We are honored to be part of this wonderful and very appropriate memorial on the trails in the woods that he loved so much. We are now in our 60s so haven’t hiked in some time and we will be walking rather slowly next Sunday, but starting in the mid 90s for almost 10 years we hiked on the Easy/Easy Moderate hikes. He inspired us in so many ways....
Before the website was started Irving, a professional photographer, sent many photos to Charlie documenting our wonderful hikes. Among the memories we shared was a wilderness hike in the Adirondacks and the many wonderful lunches we shared cooling our feet in the streams and rivers we traversed in our hikes. This was a form of forest meditation long before we talked about it.
During our lifetimes we are sometimes fortunate enough to meet extraordinary people who live their entire life by values and ethics.....Charlie did so every day. We honor his memory and look forward to next week’s hike in his honor.
With eternal gratitude, Maureen and Irving Solero
November 30, 2018
Because of you Charlie I was able to do my first snowshoeing. I have had the pleasure to do a few hikes with you.
May your soul rest in peace.
November 27, 2018
Charlie and I were grade school buddies back in Michigan. I had many fond memories of our times together. After 7th grade Charlie moved away, and we lost contact. Many years later my mother received several of Charlie's books, and through them I was able to reconnect. As a result, in 2012 Charlie and I were able to have a reunion lunch together in New Jersey after having not seen one another in over 50 years. Charlie was a very special guy, and the memories posted on this site bear this out. It is a joy to see the positive impact he had on so many lives. He had that on my life. Time moves on, but friendships are eternal.
November 26, 2018
Going to miss you Charlie. You always could, Make me laugh and push harder hiking up the mountain trails.
November 26, 2018
I had the pleasure of going on several hikes and camping trips with Charlie. He left an impression on me that will always be there. I am still in disbelief of Charlie's passing. Rest in peace my friend.
November 26, 2018
I am so terribly sorry to hear of Charles' passing. I was only able to attend two hikes with him, but I greatly admired his passion of nature, his willingness to compose such a group to make it accessible to so many. Both hikes I attended were such a joy to me, and were it not for my financial constraints, I would have loved to attend many, many more with Charles at the helm. He brought an invaluable gift to the world and to so many, and I honor his time here. I feel privileged to have met him. My deepest condolences to his loved ones and to my fellow hikers.
November 25, 2018
My first hike with Charlie was back in November 2008. I was new to hiking and knew next to nothing about hiking, I remember wearing jeans on my very first hike. But by end of the hike, I was hooked to hiking! Thru Charlie’s hikes, I was able to gain the confidence and knowledge to explore the trails. He taught me to enjoy the simplest thing called Nature. My life is forever changed by Charlie and I will be eternally grateful to him.
You are greatly missed by the WEA community. You are truly one of a kind. Rest In Peace Charlie. I hope you are forever wondering on your beloved trails.
November 22, 2018
Today one of the things I am thankful for, on this Thanksgiving 2018 is the fact that I was able to hike on several occasions this year along side Charlie, my fellow native of Ann Arbor, and guide. His choices where to do these hikes were great! The classification of the challenging levels of the hikes made a lot of sense to me. The last time I saw him was on the June 23rd easy moderate hike in New Jersey. It was the first time I went on a hike that reached that level. He shook hands with me when it was done and complimented me for having kept up with everyone. We were numerous and the fact that he took time to individually give me a sincere compliment despite the enormous responsibility he had that day goes to show that the founding father of Wild Earth Adventures was undeniably a kind hearted person.
November 21, 2018
Five years ago, I had the good fortune to stumble across Wild Earth Adventures on the internet, little knowing one magazine had rated Charlie as the best hiking leader in the Northeast! Having been an avid outdoor walker, who had studiously avoided hiking years earlier, I didn't know what to expect, but hoped to find a congenial group of people, as Charlie put it, and a relaxed outdoor activity. Generally speaking, it was not an easy workout, but the congeniality and conviviality of the group made the experience, under Charlie's able and sure-footed leadership. We're all going to miss him. I think of him often, communing with nature, on my solitary walks.
November 21, 2018
I cry this morning for the man who changed my life.
For the man who saved me from death by teaching me a better way to live
For the man who told me his secrets on top of a mountain.
Who asked me for advice at times about people and the world
Who joked with me for hours in our car rides.
Who showed me what nature could be.
Who educated me on the cinema
Who loved blue grass music
He was a brother to me
I am sorry I could not have helped him more
Goodbye, Charlie, Goodbye
November 21, 2018
About 15 or so years ago I decided to try and find a hiking group to join, and came across WEA. Prior to that I'd never really gone on any official 'hikes'. After my first hike with Charlie, I became hooked. From beginning to start they were 'perfection'....transportation being made available for those of us without cars, the shared conversation on the ride to our hiking site, Charlie as our expert guide, each hike perfectly paced with the right amount of breaks and then, of course, lunch hour, always plotted out by Charlie to take place at the most picturesque spot along our hiking route.
I always knew that I was in good hands with Charlie as our fearless leader. Every hike was magical, and I would return home invigorated and renewed, and so thankful for the existence of WEA, and Charlie. For whatever reason, I eventually tapered off on participating in the hikes, but yet, I'd often reminisce about Charlie's hikes and think 'gosh, I really have to sign-up again for Charlie's hikes...they were always so cathartic for me'.
It was just about a month ago that I decided to finally go back to the WEA webpage to see about renewing my membership, and it was then that I learned of Charlie's surgery, the ensuing complications, and then of his passing via the group's Facebook page.
I don't know if I'll ever find another hiking group for myself, that will be quite like Charlie's. He was a very special soul, and that also manifested itself in the very people that his hiking group attracted.
November 20, 2018
It has been almost one month since Charlie died, and as the reality sinks in the loss I feel deepens.
I trusted Charlie. He knew the mountains. He knew the trails. I knew that Charlie would always get us up and down the mountain safely.
He loved all weather and taught me to do so as well. Whenever it rains I can hear his voice in my head: "Don't play favorites". He opened my heart to hiking in and enjoying rain, sun, snow and hail.
He taught us how to fall safely. I am smiling as I think of his playful nature. Charlie had a wonderful smile.
Charlie was a good man. Though Wild Earth Adventures was a business, he created a community of hikers. A family of sorts. It was something to know that every weekend nature was available. He made it all easy and accessible. Because of Charlie, when I think of NY, NJ, MA and CT I think of the beauty of the land and the thousands of miles of trail available to us.
The nine years I hiked with Charlie were wonderful, and too short. Charlie, you were one of a kind. And you are deeply missed.
November 19, 2018
I found out about Charlie and Wild Earth Adventures back in 2009 when I was in search of a hiking group that I could join. Little did I know that finding him would change my life forever! From his first hello and handshake to being led by him on countless hikes, it was impossible not to feel at home and at peace around Charlie. Like the title of his book says, he truly ‘awakened me to nature’ and helped me to find a part of myself that had been missing for a long time. I met countless wonderful people thanks to him, and the beautiful places I saw there truly are no words to describe. I stopped hiking back in the fall of 2011 when I was pregnant with my first son. In some ways I wish I had not since I will no longer have the opportunity to hike with him again. At the same time, I truly believe Charlie is, and will always be there in spirit with me, and with all of us on the trails and in nature forever! Happy trails Charlie until we meet again...
November 19, 2018
Charlie was an inspiration to us all. He taught us to love and respect nature, and showed us how spending some time communing with the trees brings out the best in all of us. Loved his weekly quotes from John Muir in his emails, so enjoyed seeing the photos of each hike that he posted, and so appreciated his wise words that seemed to remedy any issue circulating in our heads. I learned how to protect myself during a lightning storm, learned the names of all sorts of plants, and met some really amazing people on each and every hike. Charlie has touched our lives in countless ways and I am forever grateful. He brought the peace that exists above down here into our hearts and minds. Every time I hike I will carry a piece of his soul with mine. I am sure that he is surrounded by unconditional love and enveloped in peace and joy now. He continues to inspire us always. xxoo, Ingrid.
November 14, 2018
The world was always a better place whenever I hiked with Charlie. No matter the destination or the season, being out in nature with Charlie was the reason to be there. Whether we followed the trails, or bushwhacked, it was always an adventure. For Charlie, sudden rainstorms, snowstorms, or flooded streams which made crossing difficult were all part of the fun. Bear and deer sightings were added bonuses. What made Charlie's hikes unique was that many of them were in little known areas off-the-beaten path, and all of them had Charlie.
With Charlie as our guide, we reveled in glorious fall hikes with stunning foliage, and spring hikes with bright, fresh new leaves. Summer hikes always included a section near a river, lake, or waterfall. Charlie knew that winter hikes, with the crisp cold air and snow-filled woods were my favorite. He called it "Elaine weather."
I loved hearing his thoughts about the environment, the weather, food and films. I felt safe because Charlie knew the trails like the back of his hand. I eagerly looked forward to Charlie's weekly emails which included quotes from environmentalists and nature writers, along with Charlie's own beautiful prose accompanied by pictures from our recent hikes.
In the early 1970's Charlie was among the first to hike the full Appalachian trail from Georgia to Maine. He never stopped hiking. Thank you, Charlie for all those wonderful years doing what you loved to do, and for including us. Even though you are no longer on this earth, you have made an indelible impact on my life that will last forever. I'll sorely miss your kindness, your gentle voice, your intelligence, your humor, and your infectious love of nature. Yours are truly impossible boots to fill!
November 13, 2018
Charlie introduced me to nature and made us close friends. I don’t know if it would have happened with any other person or in any other circumstance. Charlie never preached or presented himself as a guru. He simply loved nature and invited us to enjoy it with him. After a few hikes, I realized that Charlie—so strong, straightforward, funny, comfortable—had the same happy effect on me as walking along a stream, or taking in the colors and climates of each season. He was such a good person to be around, and I tried to stay close to him when we hiked. I could have walked around the block with Charlie and felt fulfilled.
I miss him so much. He will be my friend on the trail forever.
November 12, 2018
Charlie was able to attract different people and his kindness, humor and intellect kept them glued together. People who hiked with Charlie call him a friend because he treated them as a friend.
Charlie’s passion for hiking and camping shaped his philosophy and he lived that way – the thing most of us have no courage to do.
Many things around Charlie go with the word ‘LOVE”. He loved the wild nature, he loved hiking and camping, he loved sharing his views with the people, he loved what he was doing and his Wild Earth Adventures and he loved us, those who followed him and relied on him.
And I am sure that he is looking at us from his Heavenly trails, guiding and protecting us.
Rest in peace, Charlie, and the mountains and the woods, the streams and the lakes, all the wild nature will be a monument for you in our minds. We miss you very much.
November 12, 2018
Everyone who has hiked with Charlie knows his stories. He loved to remember the adventures and misadventures of individual hikers and the group, always told with affection and sometimes bemusement. A cantaloup for lunch? Hiking in high heels? Looking for a portapotty on the trail? The story he probably told most about me was the "lost bra" incident. On a blissfully warm summer hike, I changed into my bathing suit in the woods and plunged into a cool pond. When it came time to dress, I couldn't find my bra. I knew it was hung in a tree somewhere. The search for the missing bra ensued (I did find it, but I never lived down the infamy). Before that incident I was known for having taken a butt full of thorns when I fell on a winter hike (I wasn't hurt). I think all of us cherished Charlie's good natured ribbing. He also felt deep concern for his hikers when they or their family members had life difficulties. I felt his compassion on the trails, too. Twice in the many years I hiked with him I suffered from dehydration. With great care, he gave me instructions on what to do and patiently explained why I should stay put and make my way back to the van (or course, he gave instructions) as the hikers completed the hike. I remember those two days as peaceful. In fact, there were so many peaceful moments on hikes I can't even count them. This photo is typical of me on a hike -- falling asleep at lunch. I miss Charlie more than I imagined I ever would, and the hikes -- and above all, the man -- will live on and on and on. In fact, I'm looking out my window at the leaves that have changed color, and those are Charlie's trees because he taught me to value them.
November 11, 2018
I started hiking with Wild Earth Adventures in 2014. Since then, Charlie has blessed me with a gift that I will continue to enjoy each and every day: the wherewithal to find wonder in nature regardless of weather. Because Charlie believed there’s no such thing as “bad” weather, and took us out in all kinds of conditions, we had the chance to hike in the fog, a magical experience; wander through mountain laurel in full bloom; eat blueberries along the trail; be mesmerized by frozen waterfalls; see the first green shoots on trees in the horizon as we took our breaks in the Gunks; cross paths with a rattlesnake, wild turkeys, deer and (for some lucky ones) bears; listen to frogs’ spring mating songs; follow streams swollen from heavy rains; and enjoy the crisp cleanness of a hike in single digits temperature (only Charlie could’ve gotten me to do that!). And during one year when I was dealing with a medical problem, Charlie’s postings on the WEA website and his weekly emails kept me motivated to get well so that I could get back on the trail. May you be one with nature, Charlie. With love and gratitude, Sarah.
November 8, 2018
I met Charles/Charlie just once many years ago, back when he was called Chuck, as he was the brother & only sibling of my friend Rosemary from my graduate school days. In the years since I’ve only heard about him through his sister, until discovering his Wild Earth Adventures website & its Facebook page several years back, which has just amazed me! You can tell that these were very special hikes, led by yes, a very special person indeed. The photos are so beautiful & you can also feel how much he really loved being out in nature & sharing all its healing beauty with other people. He seemed so respectful & encouraging in his comments to others & the trips always looked so well-planned. To have done this for 38 years straight is really remarkable.
I’ve known about his ill health for some time, through his sister, & think it’s even more remarkable that he was able to carry on for so long, to keep going, despite difficult health issues. But he was living his passion & he did this last journey in his own way...& I’m glad he was able to be out there for as long as he possibly could.
I think autumn was a special season for him; he came into this world in October & left it in the same month, & I hope he went out in a blaze of color. Surely, he left beautiful colors in so many hearts! But a leaf has fallen...& his sister will miss him greatly, as will all of you who have been part of his ‘wild earth’ adventures. Rosemary, I am thinking of you & sending love.....will write more soon.
November 7, 2018
Charlie was an extraordinarily unique and special man who had an enthusiastic love of hiking in nature, and who shared his enthusiasm with hundreds, if not thousands of people as founder and hiking guide of Wild Earth Adventures, a hiking group he founded and ran, on his own, for an incredible 38 years. I was lucky to be part of the hiking group for 20 of those 38 years, and I will forever be grateful for every one of those hikes I enjoyed over those 2 decades. I am in much better physical and mental shape than I was when I started hiking with Charlie in 1998, and I have him to thank for my improved health. He had a profoundly positive effect on me and so many other people, and instilled a lasting love of the outdoors in so many of us. I'll continue to hike because of him and will never forget the legacy he has left in the world. I hope Charlie rests in peace in the arms of Mother Nature for all eternity. God bless you, Charlie. I'll so miss you.
IN THE CARE OF