The Appalachian Trail (“the AT,” as hikers call it) has long called to the Ohio Wesleyan community. While no formal record exists of OWU students, faculty, and staff who have tackled the trail’s roughly 2,200 miles, for the past 10 years the OWU Wilderness Ministry has led trips there each spring and fall, bringing anywhere from eight to 17 students along for a week or more in the woods.

William Hayes, associate chaplain and director of the wilderness ministry, has through-hiked the trail, as have at least two graduates, Melissa Guziak ’14 and Patricia Troy ’10.

The ministry’s trips combine deep appreciation for the wilderness with community-building: Hayes said that for several years, the groups spread some “trail magic” — a term hikers use to describe the magical moment when someone along the trail hands you a hot sandwich or a cold drink.

“We spent five days backpacking a loop along the AT, and learning through our own experience, and reading some short things and discussions about community and hospitality and what these things mean — what they look like in different parts of our lives — and what they look like on different parts of the AT, especially if you’re through-hiking,” he says.

“And at the end of the week, we took the van into town and got a whole bunch of food and brought it out for a day of trail magic for any through-hikers that came through. It was very much a lived experience of learning about community and hospitality for that week and then getting to try it out in a really special way.”

What’s your AT experience?

Have you hiked or through-hiked the Appalachian Trail? Share with us at

The Reds. The Yellows. The Blues.

Return to the Fall 2019 OWU Magazine

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