Many high school and college students will spend their summer working, interning or just relaxing, but two Stillwater residents, Ryan Wichelns, 19, and Gabe Messercola, 18, have other plans.
On Saturday, Wichelns and Messercola were to begin a 21-day hiking, climbing and paddling trip called Adirondack Traverse 2013. They will hike, bike and paddle from the Adirondack Park's southern "Blue Line" border to its northern one. They'll follow the Northville-Placid Trail, the Saranac lakes and the Seven Carries Route before finishing on the St. Regis River at St. Regis Falls.
The pair started planning for the trip last year and began fundraising about six months ago with Summit for Someone, the largest fundraiser for Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit youth organization that was founded in 1989. Big City Mountaineers is well known in hiking circles for providing resources for underprivileged youth in urban communities to participate in outdoor wilderness experiences.
Summit for Someone will allow Wichelns and Messercola to challenge themselves while helping inner-city teens. Big City Mountaineers has improved quality of life in communities where as many as 50 percent of teens have dropped out of high school due to drug use, crime and poor health.
"Our project will help us get our foot in the door as well as give others the opportunity to experience hiking in the way that we've experienced it for the past five years," Wichelns said.
Wichelns and Messercola have been backpacking for the past five years. They have hiked some trails in Maine and the White Mountains in New Hampshire, but the pair is most familiar with the Adirondacks. The two locals will soon be able to call themselves Adirondack 46ers when they finish hiking their last three Adirondack High Peaks.
As part of Summit for Someone, Wichelns and Messercola hope to raise enough money to climb Mount Rainier in Washington at the end of the summer.
"I see Adirondack Traverse as a way for Ryan and myself to close out our teenage hiking experience," Messercola said. "We love the Adirondacks, but we are ready to hike some bigger mountains and take on some greater challenges."
Wichelns and Messercola hope to raise about $3,000 more for the cause in order to reach their goal of $8,000 by the end of the summer. By this morning they had already raised nearly $5,500, according to their website.
They will post live updates on their website and tweet via satellite during their time in the Adirondacks. For more information about Adirondack Traverse or to donate to the cause, go to www.adirondacktraverse.org or follow @BluLine2BluLine on Twitter.