NOWA on the Summit

NOWA  -Doug Bonacum 

Started in Georgia March 14, 2016

Summited Katahdin in Maine on July 23, 2016

Total Days of the Adventure – 132

NOWA.SummitDoug Bonacum is a highly educated man with a background in chemical engineering, graduating from the University of New Hampshire in 1983. After having served in the US Submarine Force for eight years (where he was responsible for ship and weapons’ safety and nuclear power plant operations) and then in the health care industry for over 22 years with Kaiser Permanente, Doug Bonacum is now making a career change to teaching middle school math in the fall. He plans to begin a teaching credential program in September, 2016, at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California.

On Friday March 11, NOWA retired from his position as Kaiser Permanente’s vice president of quality, safety and resource stewardship. On Sunday, March 13, he kissed his wife, Kim, goodbye. And on Monday March, 14, Doug began his attempt of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail needing to complete the trail before beginning his schooling in the fall.

NOWA at GA/NC boarder

NOWA at GA/NC boarder

Doug Bonacum took on an acronym as his trail name. NOWA stands for No One Walks Alone, the name of his fund-raising team to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s research. Doug’s father, Jim, died of complications from the illness in 2014. While he dedicated this entire journey to those with Alzheimer’s and those caring for them, on June 20, 2016 (the summer solstice), NOWA participated in the Alzheimer’s Association ‘”The Longest Day.”  The Longest Day is an event to honor the strength, passion and endurance of those facing Alzheimer’s disease.  From sunrise to sunset, NOWA hiked to raise an understanding for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.

NOWA entered his Appalachian Trail venture with little previous hiking experience. “My longest overnight trip is one night, and I probably hiked about 6 miles in the process,” Bonacum told an East Bay California Newspaper, “It was around Lake Chabot.” However, Doug instituted an intense physical routine as he prepared for his thru-hike.  Inside the Ordway Building (aka, One Kaiser Plaza), it was easy to catch a glimpse of NOWA in the stairwells as he took a page from his Navy “running drills.” Toting a 40-pound backpack, he hiked his way from the third to the 23rd floor and back numerous times per week. He also worked out six to seven days a week in a local gym. And my, did that preparation pay off when he hit the trail.

NOWA 7.23.16For additional inspiration, NOWA looked no further than to his wife, Kim, and their four children, Kyle, Alex, Grace and Liam. On June 20, Kim and Doug’s sister, Beth, joined him on the trail for The Longest Day event. He carried some special photos of his dad provided by another sister, Leslie. In his journal post for this day he shares a bit of his perspective for this effort to address Alzheimer’s,

“It’s an honor everyday to carry the list of names I have [been] given of people who are currently living with Alzheimer’s or who have died from it. But today was particularly special. I wish the best to anyone reading this who has or had a loved one with Alzheimer’s. May you find joy in the memories of that person and peace in the present.”

NOWA’s family joined him on the Saturday morning of the Mount Katahdin climb to make the 4200 foot ascent up the mountain. The last 5 miles of trail was celebrated together and the picture on the summit reflects the team effort needed to accomplish a successful thru-hike. No one walks alone… even on a solo, 2,186 mile thru-hike.

Photos and journal quotes from

Categories: Alzheimer's, Appalachian Trail, California, Georgia, Kaiser Permanente, Maine, Mount Katahdin, NOWA, Thru-Hike, US Submarine Force | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “NOWA on the Summit

  1. janloyd

    Love this!

  2. janloyd

    Thanks for sharing them…so interesting. And fun to get to know some of the adventurers!

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