Hiking 51.6 Miles of the Appalachian Trail in 24 Hours: Trinity’s Quest-a-thon

5 min read

Cece Hampton ’24

Sports Editor

Oct. 21, 2023, marked Trinity’s third ever Questa-thon, a fundraiser hosted every two years that raises money for the Quest program. Quest-a-thon is a 24-hour challenge where participants attempt to complete the entirety of the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail (AT), spanning 51.6 miles in length, during the allotted time period. To partake in the fundraiser, participants must raise $100 to secure their spot. Participation in Quest-athon is open to all members of the Trinity community and alumni and is a fun and unique way to challenge one’s physical and mental limits, while supporting the longevity of the Quest program.

This year, Quest-a-thon welcomed both new and returning participants to the challenge. Among 43 total people who participated this year, 14 completed all 51.6 miles. Two of these finishers were Molly Simons ‘24 and Tia Wurzainer ’24. The Tripod had the opportunity to sit down with them both, as well as Dimos Sampatakos ’24, another participant in the superhike, to learn more about the fundraiser and hear about their experiences. These three seniors have all been Quest leaders for several years and have a lot of knowledge and experience on the AT, especially the Connecticut portion.

Going into the challenge, Simons says she did not train or prepare for it outside of her typical semi-active lifestyle. She and Wurzainer hiked together the entire time and they both went into it with the mentality that finishing the hike was attainable but did not put too much pressure on themselves. Both credited this mentality as giving them confidence throughout the 24 hours. This past summer and fall has been very wet, so conditions on the trail and several water crossings were made even tougher than normal. For Simons, wearing Gore Tex boots proved to be a huge asset to her, as her feet never got soaking wet. Having wet feet on the trail is a sure way to quickly develop blisters, which can make the hiking experience even more uncomfortable and challenging. One of the strategies to combat this is changing socks often. Both Simons and Wurzainer hiked with hiking poles, which they attribute to being essential to their success in completing the hike, granting them better balance and speed. For Sampatakos, his strategy going into the hike was to start fast and maintain that speed, knowing he would inevitably slow down. However, because of the wet conditions of the trail, Sampatakos’ feet almost immediately got wet, slowing him down right at the beginning.

Quest-a-thon breaks up the 51.6 miles of the CT-AT into eight sections, each marked by an aid station with logistics support, providing food and resupply items like water, snacks and more. The distance between each station ranges from around 4.4 to 7.8 miles, depending on the section of the trail. Simons says that for her and Wurzainer, the first two sections “breezed by,” but that the section between aid stations three and four was pretty challenging. This is the longest section of the hike and the one where the most people drop out of. In order to remain on track in the hike, there is a cut off time at each station. So if a hiker does not reach the next aid station by the designated time, they are eliminated from continuing the rest of the hike. Simons and Wurzainer’s strategy at the start of the hike was to allot themselves at least an hour of time ahead of the cutoff mark as they paced themselves between each aid station, to provide a buffer as they inevitably slowed down towards the finish. Sampatakos hiked in a separate group, but his right knee started bothering him around 20 miles into the hike. At station three he loaded up on calories and took ibuprofen to combat the knee pain, which energized him. But by mile 22, he separated from the group he was with because he had to slow from their pace. He hiked solo the rest of the way to aid station four and upon reaching it made the decision to stop, realizing that the knee pain he was experiencing would prevent him from finishing all 51.6 miles. Having previously completed Quest-a-thon in 2021, Sampatakos felt good about pulling out of the hike and shifting gears to lend a hand in providing logistical support for the remaining participants. After taking a twohour power nap, Sampatakos says he switched all of his focus to motivating and supporting those who were still hiking.

Meanwhile, Simons and Wurzainer continued through the fourth section of the hike, consisting of a number of water crossings. With rushing water and darkness upon them, this section required a lot of strategy. However, the most challenging section for the pair was between aid stations six and seven, when they realized their pace was too slow to reach the next aid station in time. To make up time, they hiked three miles at an average pace of 17 minutes a mile and successfully caught up to their intended pace. The pair continued on, exhausted and almost half asleep, but successfully made it to the final stretch of the hike. Despite the challenges they faced, Wurzainer says “I think genuinely if you just tell yourself you’re going to finish it, that’s the biggest motivation.”

Ultimately, Simons and Wurzainer finished the hike around the 23- hour mark. Simons says, “It was really fun to get to the end and see a lot of the Quest community that was out there. Everyone was super supportive and it was great to see what all of the money we raised is going towards, like building this community and making these things possible.” So far, Quest-a-thon has raised over $7,000 and will continue accepting donations for several more weeks. For more information about the program and to donate, you can visit the Trinity College website’s Quest page.

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