By: Marian Van Vlack, Lifetime Girl Scout from Whitesville, NY
Hello! My name is Marian Van Vlack. I’m originally from a small town called Whitesville, NY and I’m a senior at Rochester Institute of Technology. At the end of May I will be graduating with my bachelors degree in Packaging Science. Then in the fall I will start working full time for The Kraft Heinz Group, but first I’m going to spend 10 weeks hiking the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, extending from Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine. The trail coves about 2,180 miles but I will only be hiking about 750 miles. My journey will begin where the trail enters New York State and I will hike through most of New England until I reach Katahdin, Maine. I will be hiking a little more than 10 miles per day carrying all that I need in a backpack. Periodically I will be stopping in towns that are along the trail in order to resupply. Most nights will be spent in either a tent or a shelter, my meals will be cooked over a small camp stove, and I will need to get my water from nearby streams. Right now I am working to finish up my last semester of school while planning my trip along with my two friends who have agreed to hike with me.
I decided to go on this adventure two years ago. I knew that this would be my last summer off before starting a full time job and I wanted to make the most of it. There are certainly a lot of other trips I could have taken, most of which would not involve going multiple weeks without a shower. For me though, hiking is the perfect way to process the transition from school to work. I will have a lot of time while I am hiking to reflect on my experiences over the past five years of college and imagine my future in a new career. This time on the trail will also give me the chance to evaluate my priorities and values as I start a new phase of my life. When you eliminate all the distractions in the world and reduce your lifestyle to focus on survival your eyes are opened to what is really important. I don’t know exactly what I will experience while on the trail, but the unknown is part of the appeal.
My love for adventure, challenge, and the outdoors actually began with Girl Scouts. I started out as a Daisy and am still a Girl Scout today, 18 years later. Through my whole time in Girl Scouts I have loved camping. I camped a lot with my troop and when we were older we loved showing off our camping skills at Rainbow World Jamboree. I also attended summer camp every year and when I was too old to attend as a camper I started working. I worked at three different camps over the course of five years and being on camp staff is still my favorite job of all time. My passion for the outdoors doesn’t stop there; my Gold Award project actually involved creating a historical trail which gave people the opportunity to go on their own short hike right through town.
I still have a lot of planning to do before my trip and a lot of work to do before I graduate, but I am counting the days until I first step food on the trail. I look forward to sharing my upcoming adventures and hopefully my trip will inspire others to do something equally exciting.
Editors Note: We will continue to follow Marian’s hiking adventure all summer long so stay tuned!