AT Hiker Remembered for His Love of Hiking, the Outdoors

Eddie “Noon” Onis Noonkester, 60, whose body was found near the Approach Trail in Georgia on Feb. 19, was remembered by his family as a man who loved the outdoors and hiking.

“He didn’t take life too seriously and always took the time to appreciate the world around him whether it was sleeping under the stars or going for a long hike,” according to his obituary.

“He loved his family and he loved his friends and will be greatly missed. Hug those close to you, do what makes you happy, and take the time to look at the sky every once in a while.”

Noonkester, of Eden, North Carolina, began his Appalachian Trail hike north to Maine on the Approach Trail in Amicalola Falls State Park on Friday, Feb. 14. He was reported missing on Sunday, Feb. 16, after a friend called 911 to report concerns about Noonkester’s health. Noonkester called 911 about 20 minutes later, sounding confused and disoriented, and unable to tell the dispatcher where he was, according to authorities in Dawson County, Georgia.

Noonkester’s daughter, Kristen Pate, in a Facebook post addressed to the hiking community, said:

“My Dad. A great father and a great friend.”

“I know a lot of you were following all of this closely and hoping for a better outcome, just as we were. Thank you for all the support and love you’ve shown our family.”

Photo of Eddie Noonkester provided by the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.

Noonkester was also remembered in his obituary as a good friend to others.

“He lived a happy and carefree life. He was a very reliable and loyal friend to many people. The kind of friend you could call on to help you move and he’d actually show up even though he hated moving. All he’d expect in return is a good breakfast or a cold beer.”

And his Goodwill visits were recalled fondly.

“Don’t ask where he got his shoes,” his obituary said. “He would say Goodwill and they were $5 and then you’d look down at yours and feel silly for paying $80.”

Noonkester is survived by his daughter, Kristen Pate (Hayden), of Summerfield, North Carolina; his brother, Wesley Noonkester (Janice), of Georgia; a grandson, Milo Pat; nieces; and lifelong friend Tim Kendrick.

Donations may be made to Appalachian Trail Conservancy, 799 Washington Street, PO Box 807, Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.

The search for Noonkester came to a somber end the night of Wednesday, Feb. 19, when Danny Thompson, fire chief in Dawson County, announced that Noonkester’s body was found near the Hike Inn Trail, which follows the Approach Trail for several miles before branching off.

Thompson, speaking that night at Amicalola Falls State Park, described the terrain where Noonkester was found as “difficult,” with “high slopes.” He praised the more than 130 searchers who worked during heavy rain, lightning, and freezing precipitation.

Wesley Noonkester, who helped search for his brother Eddie, thanked the searchers, and said through tears: “At the end of the day our goal was to bring Eddie home and we were able to do that.”

“I just know tonight that when I lay down that my brother’s in a better place.”

Thompson praised Wesley Noonkester for taking time during the final day of the search to help another hiker who twisted an ankle. Wesley and several friends stopped their search for Eddie and spent three hours helping the injured hiker walk to the Amicalola Falls visitors lodge, Thompson said.

Noonkester’s body was discovered about 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Feb. 19, Thompson said. A cause of death has not been determined, but Thompson said it did not appear suspicious. The body has been taken to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab.

Searchers began looking for Noonkester after his 911 call, but did not find any sign of him until Monday, when workers at the Len Foote Hike Inn found Noonkester’s backpack and other gear near the Hike Inn Trail.

Feature photo of Eddie Noonkester provided by Dawson County Emergency Services.

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Comments 7

  • Avatar
    Carmen Lomonoco : Feb 21st

    Greetings Hugh,

    Thanks for the update on this. Do you know how old he was???

    Yours,

    Carmen Lomonoco

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Hugh Owen : Feb 21st

      Carmen, I have been unable to find out Eddie’s age. I’m hoping that over the next few days I can find out about his life, and what led him to set out on a thru-hike.

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Drew Boswell : Feb 27th

      From media reports here in Georgia Eddie Noonkester was 60. The unknowns in this case are haunting: How experienced a backpacker was Mr. Noonkester? Why was he on the Hike Inn trail just three miles along on Sunday, two days after he was scheduled to start his thru-hike? After reaching the 911 operator, why did he not shelter in place and await rescue?

      It is troubling that someone with gear and equipment and presumably enough experience to attempt a thru-hike should die so close to what are well-traveled trails that many of us have walked multiple times. Cochran Falls where his body was found is very rugged and steep but is not all that far from the Len Foote Hike Inn. Mr. Noonkester’s death is a grievous loss both to his family and to the rest of the backpacking community.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        William Branham : Mar 3rd

        People die everyday from natural causes, heart attack for one, stroke for another. I suffered a heart attack 2 miles from a trailhead in a State Park. It came out of nowhere but here I am .
        It is odd how we process a death when it occurs in a natural area. Peace to his family.

        Reply
  • Avatar
    Michael K Duff : Feb 21st

    A solemn reminder that this is a serious game we play.
    Prayers for his family.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Pat 'speed queen' walker : Feb 24th

    Sad news to start the 2020 season…My hope is that thru hikers, section hikers, weekenders, and day hikers alike look out for each other out there. If you are thru-hiking it can really be easy to get caught up in “making miles”. If you are in trouble, lost, feeling disoriented, please ask for help and be willing to take time to help each other out in the woods. Sending love to the family and the AT community…

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Mike Three Speed Brown : Feb 29th

    As a 62 year old guy, aspiring throughhiker, practicing sectionhiker, I was emotionally devastated when I read this article.i want to know more about “Noon” and how we can somehow start an army of Noon Goons or Nooners, spreading positive energy on and off the trail, whether at Goodwill or exchanging trail magic.

    Reply

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