|Happy trails: Sophomores set out on mountain journey
Rob Kinzel and Mark Mallman attempt to conquer Appalachian Trail
RELEASED: Feb. 27, 2003
DANVILLE, KYCentre sends hundreds of students each year to destinations around the globe as a part of its nationally recognized study-abroad program. But sophomores Mark Mallman and Rob Kinzel wanted to take a trip that even Centre has yet to sponsor.
Mallman and Kinzel have taken the spring semester off from their studies to begin a 2,168-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail.
Beginning in the first week of March at Springer Mountain in Georgia, the Kinzel-Mallman expedition will average 15 miles of travel per day until the pair reaches Katahdin in Maine. The journey will take until August to finish.
"It's kind of wild, kind of extravagant, but why not?" said Mallman, an English major from Franklin, Tenn. "Being at Centre is giving me a great education, but also giving me the chance to live out a dream."
An avid outdoorsman, Mallman liked the challenge hiking the Appalachian Trail presented. He was further motivated by the book Iron John by Robert Bly.
Mallman approached Kinzel with the idea, but neither was sure he could make it happen. They went back and forth. One afternoon Mallman had made up his mind. He called Kinzel to let him know he was going and wanted to know Kinzel's decision.
There was 15 seconds of silence on the telephone, before Kinzel finally said,"I'm in."
"That was really heavy for me," Mallman said. "That's when we knew this was going to be a reality."
Mallman has hiked in the Canadian Rockies, the Colorado Rockies and the Sierra Mountains, but Kinzel doesn't have as much experience. The past few weeks Mallman and Kinzel have been training for their hike. They've also read extensively about the Appalachian Trail and what it takes to complete the trek.
When Kinzel's father learned of his son's plan, he wasn't sure it was a wise idea.
"My dad said, 'That's something I would've liked to have done in college,' " said Kinzel, a biology major from Shamong, N.J. "He said he wasn't overly thrilled, but I should go for it."
According to Mallman, most everyone he's spoken with on campus has supported the trip, and the two said they should be able to graduate with their class in 2005. The pair met with their academic advisors, Centre's finance office, student life office (both are resident assistants) and John Roush, Centre's president to discuss their plan and get things in order.
"The reason now instead of after graduation is because it works," Mallman said. "We can do this and should still be able to graduate with our class."
"I think the faculty and staff understand that time is short and the concept of carpe diemseize the day," Kinzel said.
Upon their return, the pair will do an independent study on their journey through the direction of Beau Weston, associate professor of sociology at Centre.
The first month of the journey is what Mallman said will be the most critical time.
"It's way more than a physical challenge," he said. "It's a psychological challenge."
Kinzel added, "There will be times when we want to go home, when we've had enough. That's when we'll depend on each other and motivate one another."
The longest, skinniest part of America's national park system, the trail stretches over 14 different states and passes through more than 60 federal, state and local parks and forests. The trail passes through a few towns and cities.
Mallman said he is going to pack about 30 pounds of gear and provisions and dress in layers, but he's trying to keep things light.
"My motto for backpacking is 'when in doubt, leave it out,' " he said.
According to the Appalachian Trail Conference Web site, each year several thousand hikers attempt a thru-hike; only about three in 20 make it all the way. As of December 2002, 7,112 hikers have completed the entire trail.
"I'm not afraid of not finishing," Mallman said. "Whether or not we finish, we'll know we tried. We're highly motivated to finish, and I think we have what it takes."
Be sure to keep an eye out for updates on their journey on Centre's Web site this summer.
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