One Step at a Time: A Lifelong Pursuit and Crowning Achievement
If you were to poll a room full of little boys about what they want to do when they grow up, chances are the majority of answers would include something like firefighter, policeman, sports star, or doctor. For Jason Mosakowski, project manager at Gray’s Southeast Office, his dream was a unique passion that began as a boy but ended with a crowning achievement.
Evolution of a Dream
“I was active in the outdoors growing up, and due to this love for adventure, joined the Boy Scouts of America, where I would go on to earn my Eagle Scout badge,” says Mosakowski.
From as far back as he can remember, Mosakowski only wanted to be out and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. While he was a part of the Boy Scouts, Mosakowski not only earned his Eagle Scout badge, but also went on to earn several more commemorations including The Vigil Honor.
He spent his summers working at the Boys Scouts’ summer camp, where he taught camping, hiking, backpacking, and wilderness survival, among other things.
“It was during this time that I became involved in hiking and backpacking,” says Mosakowski.
That interest then turned into a passion, and what began as every-so-often trips, turned into a hungry desire. After spending some time hiking trails in northern New Mexico, Mosakowski had an itch for more, which led to setting his sights on a much bigger goal.
Beginning the Climb
“All through school and college, I wanted to attempt the Appalachian Trail, but the right time never presented itself,” says Mosakowski. “So, I continued with school and graduated college at the end of the summer semester in 2003, but it was too late in the year to attempt a thru-hike.”
Following graduation in 2003, Mosakowski was hired as a new team member at Gray and began his journey working with multiple projects on the road. Despite staying busy and moving from jobsite to jobsite, Mosakowski never lost sight of the dream to take on one of the toughest trails in the U.S.
After patiently waiting and biding his time, a door was finally opened and an opportunity presented itself to take on this lifelong dream.
“I finished up a project in the spring of 2006, which meant it was time to move to the next project and start over, but I recognized that the project would be ending at the perfect time to attempt a thru-hike. So, for the months leading up to closing out that project, I started planning and received approval from Gray to make my dream attempt at a thru-hike.”
“I finished up the project, drove back home to Alabama, and was on the trail at Springer Mountain, GA the next weekend with 2,175 miles of continuous footpath called the Appalachian Trail,” says Mosakowski.
There are several different ways that hikers attack these trails but Mosakowski was attempting perhaps the most challenging, a thru-hike. This essentially means, once the hikers are on the trail, they stay on the trail until they have completed their journey. For this type of hike, it requires an immense amount of upfront planning and preparation.
“In many ways it is very similar to running a successful construction project here at Gray with preparation being a key component,” says Mosakowski. “Another important similarity to our projects at Gray is working with an overall budget. Many attempt a trip like this, but due to poor budgeting skills have to leave the trail early. Just like our projects, these hikes require all the pieces of the puzzle to be in place correctly for it to be a safe and successful journey.”
Theses preparations are mostly needed because the journey can take so long.
“For the Appalachian Trail, I had planned to be in the wilderness for roughly 6 months,” says Mosakowski.
So, off he went. Beginning in Springer Mountain, GA and headed toward Northern Maine, Mosakowski hit the trails, alone, in pursuit of his dream.
“I started solo on the Appalachian Trail,” says Mosakowski, “but shortly after starting went on to meet my future wife, Jane.”
Together, Jane and Mosakowski completed the 2,175-mile journey up the eastern portion of the U.S. along the Appalachian Mountains. But, instead of satisfying the dream, it seemed to peak greater interests.
Following the Appalachian Trail, the Mosakowskis went on to complete what is known as the Triple Crown in the hiking community, totaling nearly 8,000 miles of hiking. In 2012, the couple decided to take on the Pacific Crest Trail, which totals 2,650 miles. Most recently in 2020, the couple conquered the Continental Divide Trail, which equals 3,000 miles.
“Support on a trip like this is everything,” says Mosakowski. “It gives you a boost of confidence knowing that you have people back home that are supporting and cheering you on as they are living vicariously though you.”
We say it frequently, but Gray really is a family. And when one of our family members is doing something like this, we just can’t help but support them. Throughout the various trips, Gray team members went above and beyond to show support for this adventurous journey.
“I received a ton of support from not only my coworkers at Gray, but the Gray family themselves,” says Mosakowski. “Also, on each of the trails, there were a number of individuals who sent care packages to Jane and I along the way.”
Mosakowski even credits the fact that he was able to live out his dream as a testament to the great company that is Gray and the great people who are here.
“I get asked very frequently ‘How do you get to take the time to hike a long trail like this?’ and my response typically starts something like this, ‘Well I work for this great company that believes in their team members,’ says Mosakowski.
“We strive to see our team members succeed because we know that with their success comes company success,” says Brian Jones, president & chief executive officer, Gray Construction. “And part of that pursuit of success means pushing people to be and do their very best, even outside of the four walls at Gray.”
Lifelong Dream Realized
“Little did I know that just after starting the first trail I would meet my future wife and she would go on to hike all three of these long trails with me,” says Mosakowski. “To spend that time with her, to be able to see the small towns that make up American history, and to be able to meet so many good people in those towns was a true blessing.”
What started out as a boy who just loved the outdoors and enjoyed a few hiking and backpack trips turned into a life filled with memories and crowning achievements because he decided to pursue a dream.
“For me, the best part of this trip was turning a dream into a reality,” says Mosakowski.
And in pursuit of that dream, Mosakowski says he was afforded a perspective he would have never otherwise been able to see.
“Jane and I have been fortunate to see much of this country either on foot or by car, and when you slow life down to a speed of about 2.5 mph, it takes on a whole new dimension and opens your eyes to your surroundings in a different way.”