Pittman Center police chief to retire, hike Appalachian Trail

May. 21, 2014 @ 04:34 PM

The dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail was born when Rick Adams, chief of police in Pittman Center, was 13. He joined a friend and his father on a hiking trip and met through-hikers. He listened to their stories.

"I had never been on the trail; I didn't know anything about it until then," Adams said. "These were young men coming through, and we were just kids. We listened to those stories, and wanted to learn more about the trail."

Adams' passion for the outdoors was stoked by growing up in the Smokies. Camping, hiking and other outdoor pursuits were always readily available.

When he was 17, he joined the Army. After that, he went into law enforcement. There wasn't time to hike the Appalachians.

"I've always liked the woods, because it always reminds me of what it might have looked like to natives or settlers, when you get up in the mountains," he said. "Always had that love for it, always wanted to do it, but military came. The police department came. I worked for Gatlinburg, and never had the chance to through hike. Then marriage came, three children came."

Adams originally set the goal of hiking the trail by the time he was 50. Now, at 52, that dream will soon become a reality. He is retiring from his post in Pittman Center and taking the summer and fall to pursue his dream with his family.

"This window of opportunity is opening now, because my oldest daughter, Amber, she graduated college and got a great job doing marketing for SmartBank, and they're letting her take a leave of absence," Adams said. "My second-born, Alexis, she just graduated from Carson-Newman. My son, Tucker, and my nephew, Luke, they're both graduating from Gatlinburg-Pittman on the 28th."

Adams initially thought he would take a leave of absence when the time was right, but he was concerned that he would worry about the people of Pittman Center the entire time. His retirement from law enforcement is permanent, but he does have jobs in other fields lined up for when he returns.

"I'm not done," he said. "I'm just shifting gears."

Adams will hike the trail southbound with Amber, Tucker and Luke, along with his son-in-law, Stacey. They fly for Maine on May 31. His wife, Debra, will serve as "trail boss," Adams said.

"She has the hardest job of all," he said. "She's shipping stuff to us at different locations while we're on the trail. And she's taking care of my daughter's cats. You know how that can be."

His wife has another responsibiliy. She planned a retirement celebration during his final shift, May 23 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Pittman Center City Hall pavilion. The event is open to the public.

"I didn't even want that at first, but this is what she does, and she does it well; it's her way of sending me off," Adams said. "Anyone who wants to come say farewell, good luck, thank goodness you're leaving — whatever you want to say — it's my last shift, and I'm leaving the keys to my office, the keys to the cruiser and my weapon here on the desk.

"They're not getting the badge back, though. I'm taking that with me."

Adams said he hopes that his group will have completely hiked the trail by around Thanksgiving.

"If I ain't back by Thanksgiving, don't come looking for me," he joked. "I might pull a Forrest Gump and turn around and just keep on walking."

jold@themountainpress.com