West Chester University senior to hike Appalachian Trail

This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Colleen Goldhorn, a senior at West Chester University, will attempt to conquer the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail over the summer of 2016. (Colleen Goldhorn)

Colleen Goldhorn, a senior at West Chester University, will attempt to conquer the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail over the summer of 2016. (Colleen Goldhorn)

Some college graduates dive headfirst into a job. Others may backpack through Europe.

Colleen Goldhorn, who will graduate May 2016 from West Chester University, will head on an exciting, long adventure as she hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail — from Georgia to Maine — a week after receiving her degree.

“I graduate the first week of May on a Friday and I want to start that Monday of the following week,” she said.

Goldhorn is experienced in hiking.

“I go hiking almost every weekend,” she said. “I’ve climbed some pretty high peaks, but I’ve never done anything this long or this hard before.”

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But while the months go by until the big hike, she will be training along the way.

“I have a workout plan that I set for myself at the gym,” Goldhorn said. “It practices going up inclines with weight on my back. I’m also training for a Spartan race. I feel like they’re very physically challenging and if I can train myself for that, it will help with the hike.”

She will also practice backpacking and more hiking plenty of times before the big trip.

Goldhorn, who is studying graphic design and photography at West Chester, knows the trip can take anywhere between four to six months — unless she pulls off Scott Jurek’s amazing, record-breaking 46-day journey.

Knowing herself, however, she admits it will probably be six months because she will be taking a lot of photographs along the way.

The 21-year-old will be doing the entire 2,180-mile journey on her own, but she will have company during some legs of the trip.

“For the most part, it will be solo,” Goldhorn said. “My dad, my boyfriend and a couple of other family members are going to take turns, sub in and do a couple of sections with me, but no one will be on the whole time with me.”

She will begin in Springer Mountain, Georgia, and end at Katahdin, Maine.

Along the way, she will travel through 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

“The trail is pretty well marked,” Goldhorn said. “There are a bunch of guidebooks that let you know where the shelters and water sources are.”

Maryland and Virginia will be the easiest part of the journey, while New Hampshire and Maine are the toughest, according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

“The majority of it is climbing and going down mountains,” she said. “As you get more into New England, it gets more difficult. The final destination is the hardest climb on the trail — it’s very steep, rocky and above treeline.”

Goldhorn will take only the essentials, and very little at that, as everything she’s bringing will be carried on her back.

“I’ll probably have about 40 to 50 pounds of supplies on my back,” she said. “I’ll basically just carry one or two pairs of clothes, food, a sleeping bag, a tent, my camera, water filtration and a lot of water weight.”

Along the way are hundreds of shelters, each typically within a day’s hike.

“They are just three walls and a roof — not really anything extravagant,” Goldhorn said. “There are hiker boxes where you can write in your name and how much you’ve walked.”

With the hiker box, people can stay up-to-date on the hikers.

The trail also crosses into towns every week or so, allowing hikers to make phone calls to family and friends as another way to check in.

However, anyone can follow her progress along the way as she will also be blogging.

Zach Davis, a hiker who conquered the Appalachian Trail and wrote a book about it, will host Goldhorn’s trials and tribulations along the way.

If she can conquer the Appalachian Trail, Goldhorn hopes to complete the Triple Crown in the United States by also tackling the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

“If you hike all three, you achieve the Triple Crown in American hiking,” she said. “It’s a big, prestigious thing to say you hiked all three of them. We’ll see how the Appalachian Trail is, but I would like to conquer all three of them.”

Even though the trip is just under a year away, Goldhorn is already filled with anticipation.

“I am so excited — it’s all I think about,” she said. “Hiking is my favorite thing to do in my free time. I just think the idea of living in the woods for six months and waking up and exploring something new every day is just awesome. It will be really rewarding to conquer something as physically and mentally challenging as the Appalachian Trail.”


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Categories: Community, Environment

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