Two Seton Hall students completed the 2,179 mile Appalachian Trail this summer, becoming only one of the five percent of almost 1,500 people to attempt it and complete it.
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Junior Jon Adessa, a biology major, and his friend Joe Migliccio, planned their Appalachian hike more than two years before actually embarking on it by researching backpacking techniques, edible plants and survival tips. Both had not spent any significant time in the wilderness before
Adessa and Migliccio also faced the added challenge of completing the journey in the three and a half months they had for summer vacation, as opposed to the five or six months it usually takes to hike the trail.
According to Adessa, the two set off on May 8, 2010 from the Southern Terminus Approach Trail, a seven and a half mile pathway that leads to the start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain. Adessa said they began hiking 26 miles a day, the same distance as a marathon and more than twice the average pace of only ten miles a day.
Adessa said that they saved even more time by taking only one rest day each month, while most hikers take nine or ten over the same period.
Food was one of the biggest problems they faced on the trail, Adessa said. The two only had enough space to carry two week’s worth of food, but they had food sent to various post offices along the trail. Diners, fast food restaurants and the charity of local townspeople also helped them conserve what little trail food they had.
“People brought us to their houses and made us dinner maybe a dozen times, and one time we even found a salad bar a local man had set up on the trail,” Adessa said.
He said the trail was riddled with dangers and hardships such as steep terrain, poisonous snakes, wild black bears and high elevations, but noted the hardest part of the trip came towards the end when he injured his foot while swimming.
According to Adessa he clipped his foot on a loose rock, cut it and required seven stitches, but he kept hiking. He then spent 10 days walking with the stitches in his foot before removing them himself.
“The stitches were supposed to stay in for ten days, so that’s when I took them out,” Adessa said. “But I never stopped walking on the foot, so the cut didn’t really heal.”
According to Adessa, because his foot never got a chance to heal, his wound became infected, leaving him to walk almost 400 miles with a serious injury.
Despite all of the challenges they faced along the way and having almost no prior hiking experience, the pair reached Mount Katahdin in Maine after just three months and two weeks, officially completing their trek and earning the title of Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers.
“I wanted to experience a different type of life, and to prove to myself that I could live independently,” Adessa said. “I wanted to see if I could discipline myself. It wasn’t easy, but it was a life changing experience, and I know I got everything I was looking for out of the trip.”
Joe Grogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org