Lippy had enough. Sitting at a coffee shop in Franklin, he is now all smiles, relaxing, sipping a cup o’joe while thinking about the mountains just outside of town that keep calling him.
“It’s just so beautiful here, such a change from the city,” he said.
Since relocating to Macon County in 2008, Lippy and his wife have immersed themselves in the local outdoors scene, one that’s flourishing and constantly evolving with the changing times and needs of the forest and wildlife in Southern Appalachia. For Lippy, his commitment to the outdoors includes becoming president of the Nantahala Hiking Club.
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“Retirement has turned out entirely different than what we thought it would be. We’ve become mountain farmers,” he chuckled. “We were going to build a small house on a minimal yard. But now, we have nine acres with a big garden and trees, we have the hiking club, I play the mountain dulcimer, and we’re now looking at getting some chickens.”
Born and raised in a small town outside of the Chicago suburbs of Northern Illinois, Lippy led a pretty All-American life. He played sports, worked hard in school and had grand aspirations. Becoming an aerospace engineer, he found himself employed by Lockheed Martin in Orlando. It was there he met his future wife, Kim, who also worked at the plant.
“My secretary pulled Kim into my office and said we needed to meet,” he said. “We’ve have two kids, six grandkids and have been married 25 years.”
After 40 years with Lockheed Martin, David retired. During those later years in his career, he got involved with the Florida Trail Association, an organization promoting outdoor activities in the Sunshine State. With more than 1,000 members, the nonprofit was moving steadily along with David on the board of directors.
“Lockheed used to be out in the middle of nowhere, now it’s surrounded by Disney World, Sea World and Universal Studios,” he chuckled. “I enjoy solitude and needed to be out in nature, out where it’s green.”
Lippy began to pull ideas and initiatives for the association from his time vacationing in the mountains of Southern Appalachia. When she was younger, Kim and her family used to spend summers in and around Maggie Valley. The landscape was close to her family’s heart, something that led to her mother moving to Hiawasse, Ga., which was right over the border from Western North Carolina. Down time from work was filled with hiking, camping, canoeing and biking.
“I’ve always been fascinated by these mountains and the history,” he said. “I love to listen to the old-timers telling stories of how things used to be.”
Eventually coming across the Nantahala Hiking Club, Lippy became enamored with the unique people and trails he kept visiting. Formed in 1968, the club is a tight-knit and embracing group of locals and visitors alike, with a main duty to protect and maintain their 60-mile section of the legendary Appalachian Trail that runs the spine of the mountains in and around Macon County.
Once the decision was made to move to Macon County, the couple immediately put hiking endeavors at the top of their priorities. In 2009, they embarked on a two and a half month quest along the Appalachian Trail. It was an arduous trek, one that became a life-changing experience.
“We had no TV or no internet. It’s amazing how you can get along out there as everything keeps going along in the world,” David said. “There are so many varieties of people on the A.T. All of these different people, some of which are still friends of ours.”
For the Lippys, the 2,200-mile route from Georgia to Maine ended in southern Virginia. David’s arthritis and bad knees got the best of him. He was advised by a doctor to cease the hike and get rest. He did, reluctantly. But, his eternal fire for hitting the trail, any trail, remains.
“People from all over the world come here to hike the A.T.,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can accomplish out on the trail. You can hike most of the year, and we enjoy the four seasons.”
Lippy enjoys showing his extended family around the area and deep woods when they visit. He find it humorous when people think it’s weird he doesn’t lock his car or home. It’s about living and thriving in a small town where trust and appreciation for humanity remain intact.
“We have friends who get out of their cars in the middle of nowhere and lock their doors and we ask them what they’re doing,’” he laughed. “It’s an entirely different mindset you need to have to live here.”
It’s all about being outside, with your friends and family, completely unplugged from modern society and fully immersed in the natural beauty of the land surrounding you.
“Get your kids outside, get them away from the computer, the video game and off their phone,” Lippy said. “It’s great to take them to the woods and say, ‘Oh, by the way, your phone won’t work here, so we’re going to look at flowers and see what animals we can find.’”
Though the choices for hiking in Western North Carolina are endless, Lippy recommends visitors who are beginners try smaller, more easygoing routes. From there, the sky is the limit for outdoor adventure.
“If we want to keep this environment for our kids, we must have an appreciation for it and let them grow up with it, otherwise it’ll be gone,” he said.