|Trail mix: seniors join sophomore hikers on Appalachian Trail
RELEASED: April 17, 2003
DANVILLE, KYWhile some Centre students were lounging on the beach or relaxing at home, Nate Jebsen, Neil Parrish and Mark Puckett wanted to visit some friendsand test their limits.
The students set out March 31 to spend spring break with sophomores Mark Mallman and Rob Kinzel, who have been hiking the Appalachian Trail for more than a month.
"We wanted to spend spring break with them because they're our friends and we wouldn't have had another chance to see them until August when they're finished," said Puckett, a junior."We also wanted to spend some time hiking ourselves."
Walking 15 miles a day was difficult for those not used to the grueling pace.
"I found a whole set of muscles that I didn't know that I had because they hurt the next morning," said Jebsen, who along with Parrish is a senior. "I learned that trail hikers burn 6,000 calories a day and you just can't eat enough."
Puckett also found out a few things about his own abilities.
"I've never done more than a day hike, so getting out with almost 40 pounds on my back was fun in a weird kind of way," he said. "I thought I was in decent shape, but things change when you're tired and you've got 40 pounds on your back because you packed too much and there's five more miles to go until you reach the shelter."
Mallman and Kinzel, as well as a third hiker (Mallman's friend Erich Graeflin), are testing both their physical and mental toughness, and Jebsen said the trailblazers are on a spiritual journey, as well.
"They've already learned a lot about themselves and the Lord," he said. "For them, this is really a spiritual quest that doesn't simply start and end with the Appalachian Trail, but the trail offers them the benefit of challenge and seclusion."
"The trip gave me an opportunity to show my support and encouragement, and also to get a little taste of what they're doing," Jebsen said.
Mallman and Kinzel took the spring semester off from school to pursue an education outside the classroom. The pair left with the support of the many college faculty, students and administration. Upon their return, they will do an independent study on their journey through the direction of Beau Weston, associate professor of sociology at Centre.
"When Rob told me about this trip, I was astounded," Puckett said. "I never imagined doing such a thing, but I knew Rob and Mark had the drive to make it happen."
The trio from Centre met up with the hikers on March 31 at Cosby Knob, in the northern part of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, and they stayed together until April 3.
The best parts of trip, said Jebsen, were hanging out around the campfire, lying down after a long hard day, good conversations and beautiful views.
"Rob and Mark are having the time of their lives," Puckett said. "They're learning what it means to be a man and rely on something bigger than your own abilities. This is a spiritual greenhouse for them."
Mallman and Kinzel are scheduled to complete the 2,168-mile journey from Georgia to Maine in August, just in time to start their junior year.
"They're really acting like a team out there," Puckett said. "They share everythingtheir tent is split up in their packs, mealtime is like dinner at homeeverybody gets food out and they share it all. The sense of brotherhood they have is inspiring."
Keep an eye out for updates on their journey on Centre's Web site this summer.
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