UI graduates to hike Appalachian Trail

Published: April 7 2014 | 12:55 pm - Updated: 8 April 2014 | 8:05 am in

There’s no time like the present to have an adventure.

That’s Liz Furmanski and Collin Blunk’s philosophy and all the reason the two University of Iowa alumni need to hike the 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail.

The route through the Appalachian Mountains crosses 14 states on one of the world’s longest footpaths. Hiking the entire trail takes five to seven months, and only about one out of four people who set out make it the entire way, according to the Appalachian Conservancy.

The couple — they’ve been dating for more than three years — first set foot on the trail two years ago during a visit to the Smoky Mountains. At the time, they went just 50 yards down the trail. That was all it took, though, to know they wanted to come back.

“It’s kind of been a dream since that time and (we) knew it was something we wanted to do,” Blunk said.

This time their journey begins Tuesday.

Furmanski said she knows the trip won’t be easy. But that’s part of why they want to do it.

“We know it’s going to be a life-changing experience,” she said. “Just living in the woods for six months and the challenges you’ll face.”

They’ll hike an average of 20 miles a day, sometimes going up to 10 days at a time between towns. They’ll sleep outside every night in temperature ranging from 0 to 100 degrees between now and September when they expect to finish.

Furmanski, 23, from Schaumburg, Ill., graduated in 2012 with an elementary education degree. She doesn’t have a lot of hiking experience, but did climb Mount Kenya while student teaching in Kenya. Blunk, who grew up hiking and camping, joined her for that climb.

Blunk, 24, from Grinnell, graduated in 2013 with a degree in cinema and graphic design. He’s putting some of those skills to work on the website www.thewildoutsiders.com that he created to document the trip.

The website is a way to keep family and friends up to date, but the couple is also trying to create a one-stop-shop for other hikers who want to hike the Appalachian Trail. They’ve documented their gear list — and picked up a couple of sponsors along the way — and the preparations made for the trip. As they go, they’ll add photos and posts about their experiences.

The site’s name, The Wild Outsiders, goes back to the ethos that’s motivating them.

“Really the message of the website is life is better outside, and you should really get out there and try things,” Blunk said.

 Comments: (319) 398-8434; alison.gowans@sourcemedia.net


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