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Senior tackles mountain

By Ashan Singh
Published: June 2010

When senior Sam Mankin was ten years old, she was audience to a girl giving a presentation about the Appalachian Trail at the library. Immediately, Mankin knew it was something she would definitely want to try.

At the beginning of the school year, as Mankin was deciding the topic of her senior W.I.S.E project, she initially chose to research the Appalachian Trail, and eventually hike it over the summer. “I thought it would be a good idea: a way to learn about myself. When the new pilot program came around, Ms. Weiner suggested I do that instead, said Mankin.

The new pilot program entails the student taking off fourth term in order to complete their project. Mankin’s decision allowed her to leave for the trail on the second of April and “through hike the trail through the remainder of the summer.

Before she embarked on the trail however, Mankin had her share of work and planning to do: “[To be prepared] I had to read a lot of books, I exercised, which didn’t really help me a lot, and found a hiking partner, said Mankin.

Using an online website, Mankin sent many people messages and talked on the phone to multiple hikers in order to find the perfect partner. After countless hours spent searching, she finally found a hiking partner in 27 year-old Heather Friedly. “She was definitely the best partner for me, Mankin said, “we had similar goals, and it seemed like we were going for similar reasons.

With a hiking partner down, hours of exercise done, and countless books read, there was nothing stopping Mankin from embarking on her highly anticipated journey. “I was really excited to go and everything, but I didn’t take into account how hard it would be to leave everyone, she said.

After minimal amounts of sleeping time the preceding week, Mankin’s journey finally went underway on April 2nd when she flew down to Atlanta along with her mother, father, and her older brother, to spend the first night with her Granduncle.

To begin the trail, Mankin hiked the first two miles with her family, however their departure made things really difficult. After the first day of her journey, Mankin was questioning whether she made the right decision to go on the trail, “After the first day, I didn’t know if this is what I wanted to be doing. I called my parents and they told me to suck it up, and that was exactly what I needed, said Mankin.

For the remainder of the trip, Mankin continued the trail with a positive attitude. “I initially started out doing ten mile days, but then I eventually managed to move it up to twenty miles a day, she said.

With Mankin’s new positive attitude, she allowed herself to enjoy more of the journey, “One of the coolest parts was getting to see the surrounding towns of the trail. I had never seen so much of the south and I didn’t realize that there was so much poverty and lack of education within our own country. So it was really eye-opening, she said.

After hiking through Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina, the 35-pund backpack and the strenuous hours spent hiking, the trail took a great physical toll on Mankin before she arrived in Virginia. “I was tired, she said, “I realized to respect my body and myself, and head home.

Mankin’s departure from the trail came not to her dismay however, “I know the trail is not going anywhere, she said, “I plan on section-hiking it for the rest of my life.

While she did not exactly complete her goal, Mankin has big plans for her future with the trail “My plan is to bring the ones I love throughout my life to the place I love (the trail), and be able to share that experience with them, Mankin said.

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