Sophomore to tackle the Appalachian Trail
Dan Pennachio '12 is planning to hike the Appalachian Trail alone this coming summer. This trip is a bold feat for the sophomore to take on, especially in light of how his first solo hike played out this past spring break.
Over spring break, Pennachio went hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Although he had mapped out his route ahead of time, Pennachio arrived at the trail he had chosen and found that it was not well-marked. "Basically I was following footprints up there," Pennachio says.
When he awoke after his first night, Pennachio was shocked to discover that it had snowed and that the already hard-to-see trail he was following had vanished under the white blanket. Furthermore, when he went through his backpack looking for his map, he discovered that he had lost it on the hike the previous day.
Pennachio suddenly found himself alone on a mountain in the snow with no map and no trail to follow. Luckily, he had studied the map well and knew that "the trail basically kept going north and [that] there was a highway to the east," he says. Instead of trying to locate the already dim trail again, Pennachio cut through the wilderness of the White Mountains with only a compass to guide him, heading directly east in hopes of reuniting himself with civilization.
He eventually found the highway, but at his point of intersection with the interstate, Pennachio found himself staring down at the cars speeding by from the top of a wall of sheet rock several dozen feet high. He rerouted himself and eventually made it down to the same level as the highway just before the sun was setting.
Pennachio is an officer of the Colby Outing Club and an avid outdoorsman, so his spring break adventure was not his first dance with danger in the wilderness. "There have been a couple of time where I've almost died," he says.
One such time was a recent trip up Mount Washington, when he and his friend wanted to try their hands at Huntington's Ravine, the steepest way up the mountain. Unfortunately it had rained the night before, and the steep slope was covered in dangerously sharp and slippery rocks. "We didn't have the right equipment [for those conditions]," Pennachio says. "There were people ice climbing above us."
Although he and his friend made it out unscathed, Pennachio says, "We found out the next day that a solo hiker had fallen and died on the same mountain that same day."
Despite his misadventures, Pennachio is still excited to fly down to Georgia and begin his trek north on the Appalachian Trail this summer. "I've been wanting to do this for years," Pennachio says, and the fact that he's taking on the trail alone doesn't scare him. "I couldn't find anyone else to go with me, so I'm going solo," he says. His mother and father are a little more worried about Pennachio's trip, however, as he added, "It definitely took some convincing with the parents to let me go alone for the entire summer."
Eric Hochberg '12, Pennachio's life-long friend, is much less concerned about his friend's wellbeing and agrees he has no reason to be afraid of the Appalachian Trail. "If anything, the Appalachian trail should be afraid of him. He's the strongest man I've ever seen," Hochberg says.
When he isn't conquering the wilderness, Pennachio, a physics major, says he can usually be found on the third floor of Mudd grinding his way through problem sets. Pennachio says that although the workload is heavy, he enjoys the group of friends he's made within the department. "It's a small group of people, and we see [each other] all the time," he says.
Although he loves the outdoors, Pennachio is also a capable indoor athlete, especially when it comes to table tennis. Pennachio says "I don't have too much free time," but he still makes time to play when he can. He recently suffered a heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals of the College's recent iPlay Table Tennis Tournament. Although he will be studying engineering at Dartmouth next year, Pennachio says, "Senior year, I'll be back."