UMD Students Hit the Trail

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Adventures in the Appalachians

UMD students hike the Appalachian Trail
Education student Anna Weeks hikes through a forested area

For some, the ideal spring break features sandy beaches or time with family. For those after a more adventurous experience, UMD RSOP offers a nine-day trek along the Appalachian Trail.

Freshmen participate in a past freshmen trip, hiking, canoeing, and camping.  

Freshman Trips

Incoming UMD Freshmen are encouraged to register for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Programs (RSOP) freshman trips to popular outdoor destinations in the Duluth area. The Freshman Outdoor Trips, organized by the Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP), are a tradition at UMD that dates back to the 1960s. “One of my personal favorites is paddling the Cloquet River,” Chenoweth said. “It’s just half an hour north of town, but many people still don’t know it’s there, and it is a great introduction to whitewater paddling.”


Over spring break (March 13-22), UMD Recreational Sports Outdoor Program (RSOP) offered the opportunity to hike the famous Appalachian Trail, giving participants first-hand experience on one of the nation’s premier hiking paths. One of the trip’s leaders, Adam Chenoweth, was particularly excited; it was his first time in that neck of the woods. “I’ve done a lot of hiking in the Duluth area, and the Boundary Waters, but I’ve never hiked the Appalachian Trail,” Chenoweth said. It was Chenoweth’s first time on the trail, but it has been a UMD tradition for years.

One of 'The Classics'

“There are some programs that RSOP does over and over, due to their popularity; ‘the classics,’ like night hikes in Duluth,” Chenoweth said. “The Appalachian Trail hike is one of those.” RSOP has alternated the Appalachian Trail hike and another spring trip since 2007. Last year’s trip was canoeing in the Ozarks. Regardless of the destination, RSOP spring trips tend to fill up quickly. “We signed up our last hikers just after winter break,” Chenoweth said.

Many who hike the Appalachian plan for a lengthy, several-month trip along the length of the trail. These people, known as ‘thru-hikers’, are bestowed the title of "2000 Milers" by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. As of 2010, more than 11,000 people had reported completing the entire trail. Students embarked on a much less strenuous 9-day journey of their own, exploring the section of trail just north of Hot Springs, North Carolina near the world-renowned Great Smoky Mountains and the Tennessee border. Including trip leaders, 20 people from UMD made the journey, splitting into two groups of ten and hiking separately.

Meeting in the Middle

The groups began their hike on opposite sides of the trail, progressing to meet halfway through their trip. They met in the middle of their designated section of the trail for one night of camping together. “A small group is easier for group leaders to keep track of,” Chenoweth said. “But it also meant that we had room to camp; AT shelters are too small for a group that large.”

For the students who participated, the trip was a difficult but rewarding one. ”For me personally, I didn't expect the trip to be easy, but it was much more challenging than I was expecting,” said Kelcy Huston, freshman Latin American Studies/Environmental Science double major. “At the same time, it was some of the most fun I've had because our group got really close and was hilarious. Definitely one of the most memorable experiences I've had.”

To learn more about other programs offered through RSOP, check out their web page.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail UMD hikers stop for a quick lunch.
"The hiking was steep and challenging, but beautiful views of the Appalachian Mountains were our reward," said Adam Chenoweth. UMD hikers stop for a quick lunch before donning their packs and returning to the trail.

UMD Those who can Duluth

Written by Zach Lunderberg. April, 2015.

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