Centre students conquer Appalachian Trail

September 04, 2003

If you see two unfamiliar guys on the Centre College campus this fall, you might mistake them for Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away or Forrest Gump during his run across America. But no movie sequels are being filmed at Centre: those faces belong to juniors Rob Kinzel and Mark Mallman.

The duo recently completed a five-month, 2,168-mile hike of the Appalachian Trail.

Kinzel and Mallman took the spring term off to begin their journey March 2 at Springer Mountain in Georgia. They completed their hike separately in August and returned a little thinner, with longer hair, beards and changed perspectives.

Kinzel, a biology major from Shamong, N.J., completed the expedition Aug. 2 at Katahdin Mountain in Maine. Mallman, an English major from Franklin, Tenn., completed the trail Aug. 13.

They and a friend of Mallman's, Erich Graeflin, hiked the trail together until May 15. Mallman and Graeflin fell behind to attend "Trail Days" in Damascus, Va., but Kinzel continued.


"I missed the guys, but it was neat to have that time to myself to learn and experience things on my own," Kinzel said.

For Kinzel, the trip was not as much about completing the trail as it was growing in his Christian faith.

"Finishing was very anticlimactic for me," Kinzel said. "I was never focusing on the finish. The reason I was out there was to get away from the busyness and focus on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I learned to live with my heart and not my mind."

For Mallman, the hike was about maturity, exploration and learning to be on his own.

"I learned about being resourceful," Mallman said, who is taking a leave of absence this fall but plans to return to campus frequently. "I've gained a lot of confidence in myself that I have what it takes to survive in the wilderness and be on my own."

The hikers are back now among friends and family, but still have a lot to take in.

"We're numb right now," Kinzel said. "We have so much to process. We go from this place with no worries to this world where you have to think about everything. I get annoyed that I have to change shirts everyday."

Mallman said, "I miss the trail already, but it's good to be back. I've just been so thrilled to be around the people I know and love."|9/3/03***

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