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  • | 8:38 a.m. January 10, 2014
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Executive: Don Paight, executive director of the Fort Myers Downtown Redevelopment Agency

Diversion: Hiking

How he got started: Paight spent family vacations hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont. “I've always enjoyed hiking,” he says.

Once a year: Paight and two friends, retired Tampa construction executive John Cammack and Herb Doyle, owner of Doyle Electric Services in Tampa, pick a destination to hike each year. Most recently the trio hiked from one rim to the other of the Grand Canyon. They hiked 30 miles into and out of the canyon over four days. The year before they hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Destinations are purposely out of reach of cell phones. “That's the only way you can get away,” Paight says. By the second day of a hike, Paight isn't thinking about work and when he returns he's refreshed. “When I get away, I like to get away.”

What he wears: Paight, 63, visits Tampa Bay Outfitters to buy his gear because he says it provides superior customer service. “They'll take an hour to fit your boots,” he says. Good hiking boots cost $200 or more. Paight wears a pair of boots made by Montrail that reach up above the ankle. “They just fit perfectly,” he says. And water-resistant clothing is essential. Paight likes his Arc'teryx jacket ($250), which is lightweight and water resistant. “My outer clothes are all Gore-Tex,” he says. “A lot of the Columbia products are good.”

Equipment: Hiking poles are useful to maintain balance, especially on difficult trails. Paight lost some sight in his right eye years ago, so the poles help him stay on the path. “I don't have good depth perception,” he says. “It's a little hairy.” He carries a 65-liter backpack made by Gregory Mountain Products. Water purification tablets are another essential. “In Africa it's absolutely critical,” Paight says. “That's the biggest concern I had.” Doyle carries a global positioning device, but Paight prefers to go gadget-free. “I like to get out and follow the trail,” he says. “I'm not big into gadgetry.”

What he eats: Dehydrated foods such as noodles are lightweight. When hiking, Paight takes a break to drink water and munch on trail mix or a Clif Bar, a nutrition bar. For a quick pick-me-up, he chews on a Clif Shot Blok, a chewy energy gel.

Training: Paight starts training three to four months before a trip. “I'll start running, weight training and cardio,” he says. Living in Florida is a challenge because it's flat. “Stair steps are the best thing,” he says. He straps on his backpack filled with 30 pounds of dog food and climbs condo and stadium stairs to build stamina. To prepare themselves and test their equipment, Paight, Cammack and Doyle will travel for a long weekend of hiking in Tennessee climbing Mount Le Conte.

Next destination:
Paight says a future destination may be the Inca Trail in the Andes. When picking a destination, it's best to check the Internet to read reviews of the hike and any guides you might need. “Read the blogs from people who've been on the trip,” Paight says. “You trust other climbers.”


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