Franklin Countys First News

School board director using hike to fund school walking path

Doug Dunlap meets with Mallett School students and Principal Tracy Williams in May, prior to his hike.

Doug Dunlap meets with Mallett School students and Principal Tracy Williams in May, prior to his hike. (Photo by Ben Hanstein)

13,000 ft. Mt. Ritter rises above Thousand Island Lake.

13,000 ft. Mt. Ritter rises above Thousand Island Lake. (Photo by Doug Dunlap / © 2016 Douglas Allan Dunlap)

FARMINGTON - Plans are in the works for a new walking path around the perimeter of the W.G. Mallett School playground. The path will not only solve issues with drainage, but will also promote a healthy activity for students to do during school or after hours with family and friends.

“The aim is to make it a nice alternative activity for students, parents, community members and staff,” said Principal Tracy Williams. “It would also give us the option of eventually making it into a fitness trail, similar to the hospital fitness path but geared to students.”

To raise funds towards the $9,000 goal, a new school board member offered up a unique idea. Director Doug Dunlap, who was voted onto the school board last spring, is an avid hiker. When he heard about the idea of a walking path he was happy to get behind it.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Dunlap said. “My own life has been really enriched by hiking. I hope it will encourage children to enjoy walking and eventually maybe hiking.”

Doug Dunlap at 13,000 feet.

Doug Dunlap at 13,000 feet. (Photo by Doug Dunlap / © 2016 Douglas Allan Dunlap)

Dunlap had been working on plans for a long distance hike in California for more than a year. When he heard about the path concept, he volunteered his hike as a way to raise money. Donors can pledge anywhere from a penny to $1 for every mile of Dunlap’s 221-mile hike.

The John Muir Trail extends from the Sierra Mountains in Yosemite park to the Injo National Mountains. Dunlap completed the trail in 23 days- returning just last week. Along the way he sent pictures and notes to Williams which she shared with the kids of Mallett School. He will be doing a presentation on his journey to the kids soon- showing them how he set up his tent and pictures of things he saw along the way.

“I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to hike the John Muir Trail,” Dunlap said. Each day there are about 500 applications from people looking to hike the trail. Of those 500, only 20 are chosen from each end of the trail. The permits are granted at random, with applications being entered into a lottery and winners drawn from the pile.

Dunlap speaks of the “strikingly beautiful” waterfalls and glacial lakes, the truly wild animals and high mountain meadows. “It’s some of the most beautiful country in North America,” he said.

Dunlap recalls one of the most stunning moments of his journey- coming across a mother Mule Deer nursing her fawn.

"John Muir was a naturalist who spent a lot of time in Yosemite,” Dunlap said. “He actually wrote somewhere that if humans are quiet, patient and respectful of distance, animals will come to trust you. And that’s what happened to me. It was remarkable."

To prepare for the hike, Dunlap spent lots of time at the University of Maine at Farmington Fitness and Recreation center as well as going on hikes in the Farmington area. Not only did he have to prepare for carrying a 30 lb. backpack up the 8,000-13,000 foot elevation spikes, but he also had to think about the drastic changes in temperature along the way.

"The key is layers,” Dunlap explained. “During the day in the sun it would get up to 80 degrees, but at night it would drop to 20." Dunlap packed lots of layers, rather than heavy outdoor wear so that he could easily take coats and hats on or off depending on the temperatures. "There was ice at points on the trail. It snowed one day and we even had hail another day."

The hike is no easy feat, and with only 40 hikers granted permits each day, communication is limited.

"I met people from all over the world and from every state." Dunlap said. "Including people from Maine who had hiked the Bigelows and had even been to Weld."

Despite his extensive history of hikes- including the Appalachian Trail- Dunlap calls the John Muir Trail hike the trip of a lifetime.

“We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country,” he said. “If I can help introduce children to that then that would be great.”

The fundraiser will going on now through Oct. 6. To support the project you can contact Tracy Williams at 778-3529.

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2 Responses »

  1. This is awesome, Doug. I love it that you are truly living the dream of many, like myself, who I hope to do some serious hiking and visit many of our National parks once retired. What an achievement to share with others.

  2. Thank You Sir.