QUEST-A-THON 2023: It’s a marathon, not a race!

 

During the weekend of October 21st and 22nd, I geared myself up for Quest-a-thon, a superhike challenge organized by Quest, the outdoor recreational program at Trinity. Quest-a-thon challenges you to hike 51.6 miles of the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail over 24 hours. As a Quest participant in the fall of 2022, I already heard so much about Quest-a-thon and the hype around it. Knowing that Quest-a-thon was going to happen this year, I set out a goal to finish just half of the trail—which would make me the happiest person alive! What I achieved, short of 4 miles to the finish station, humbled me and also taught me a lot about myself and life in general.   

It was an unusual Quest-a-thon, right from before we even started, when we were stopped in the middle of the road due to a fallen tree (if it had not been for Professor Geiss’ saw, we would have started Quest-a-thon way later!). It had rained the day before, and the trails were all wet. Just 10 minutes into the trail, my shoes were soaked with water, and I only brought one other pair of socks. The fear of blisters was haunting me along the whole trail! Nevertheless, we pulled through! We dealt with the wet weather that slowed us down by speeding up where there was flat land, plus a lot of bandages and moleskin.   

Group 1 at the starting point.
Group 2 at the starting point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wet part was just the beginning of the story. The prospect of the 51.6 mile hike can wear out even the most strong-willed person. During the day, I was focusing on hiking alone, since I knew I would get a better speed being on my own and I was enjoying the solo hiking. I entertained myself with the music that I prepared. Sometimes I sang along the road, sometimes I paid great admiration to the fall landscape. I got a chance to ask Dimos Sampatakos ‘24 for advice on the trail, and they told me how Quest-a-thon was “more of a mental game than a physical game.” I thought that was quite true. Keeping my mind busy and positive was a task I gave myself so that the mere length of the hike will not wear me out.  

My phone could not capture the whole sky full of stars, but I managed to capture Orion!

As it got dark, it got colder and a bit more scary, and I sped up to the aid station so that I could ask a volunteer to join me for the next section. Luckily I found Yulia Puhareva ’26, a fellow hiker, and Tracy Xu ’26, a Quest-a-thon volunteer, and we walked together to St. John’s Ledges. Thank godly heaven, the rain stopped since the early afternoon, leaving the sky crystal clear with stars that shone like diamonds. We were speeding but did not forget to stop a moment or two to admire nature’s starry sky gift. When we got to the notoriously vertical St. John’s Ledges, Tracy stopped and Yulia and I carried on. Yulia became my hiking partner until the morning.   

Around 4:00 a.m., we reached the sixth aid station, and needed to make it to station 7 by 8:00 a.m. We were cautious of time and were trying hard to reach the station in time, but unfortunately we were short by 30 minutes. We concluded our hike at mile 47, at 8:30 in the morning, our feet sore and our hearts full.   

After that, we quickly got transported to the last station for the last Quest-a-thon gathering on the trails. We got our long awaited Quest-a-thon merch and breakfast. I got the chance to congratulate my co-hikers, regardless of whether they were finishers or not, because I knew each one of us was impressive and had tried our best within our limits.   

The whole on site crew that made Quest-a-thon successful! 

Quest-a-thon was so special. This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to “stepping out of my comfort zone”. Comfort zone here comes quite literally: wet socks, wet clothes, humid weather, and of course, challenging my stamina and overcoming self-doubts. Even now, a week later, and my legs still sore, I am still so happy when I look back. I owe Quest for this awesome opportunity to challenge myself and for making it such a landmark on my Trinity journey.   

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