BELLVILLE — On Wednesday, Mikey Brenkus was 15 days into his trip, doing a “hike-through” of the Appalachian Trail.
On that day, he had hiked 200 miles in his bid to support fundraising for a Bellville resident, Craig Roberts.
Also on that day, he was doing what some might call a bivouac at a motel in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Brenkus said on that day he had gotten to the highest point so far, 6,664 feet at Clingman’s Dome, in the Smoky Mountains.
Brenkus has vowed to complete the trip along the Appalachian Trail in four and a half months. There is a bit of a mandate in effect here.
The end point, Katahdin in Maine, closes in October.
Brenkus said it has taken him eight months to get ready for this adventure.
Brenkus is hiking in support of Roberts, who has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. This disease is one from which there is no recovery. People eventually lost their ability to walk, to talk.
In his hiking venture, he is allowing people to contribute money, which will be forwarded to the Roberts family.
Brenkus, 23, graduated in May from The Ohio State University. While in Columbus, he ran in two half marathons.
He said he hurt himself, and his “feet were all messed up.”
He had to delay the start of his trip from May 9 to May 14.
Even though he had a type of training, it “didn’t prepare me for the terrain. It can be pretty brutal,” he said.
Communicating while one is hiking up and down mountains on the Appalachian Trail isn’t something a person can count on, Brenkus said.
In hiking Wednesday, he marched on through rain.
It rained all day, and hiked through many mud puddles.
In addition, his cell phone got damaged.
So in addition to frequent lack of cell phone service in the mountains, he was technically without any valid means of communication.
To converse with the Bellville Star, he borrow the cell phone of a companion.
Brenkus said he is “not really” making the Appalachian Trail trip alone. Though he was alone in deciding to undertake this endeavor, he has gotten the benefit of a companionship with two young men he has met, Matt and Kyl.
He found Matt and Kyl could go along at the same pace as he does.
When the three enter a town, they pool money and find the cheapest lodging, a motel, a hostel.
In Gatlinburg, they found rooms. Then they did laundry and showered.
He said it is common for four or five hikers to lodge together. He said their rooms can get kind of “stinky.” But they have found that most facilities along the route provide laundry facilities, so laundry is doable.
On his trek, Brenkus carries all in a back pack. It weights 15 pounds, without food and water.
It holds his tent, a water filter, a stove.
They get food at places like Walmart, or stores similar to Stoodt’s Market in Bellville. They can buy sandwiches and snacks.
Doing laundry is a big deal because Brenkus said he brought only one change of clothes.
Brenkus travels without a wallet (it adds weight).
He carries a bit of cash and cards, which he can use for purchases.
Hiking 12 to 16 miles a day gives a person varied opportunities, Brenkus said. He said he talks to Matt and Kyl maybe two hours a day.
He said beyond that, doing so much talking would mean you’d “get under each other’s skin.”
After talking, he listen to podcasts, music, audio books.
Brenkus said he has gotten feedback from many. He posts information about his rip on Gofundme, where he has this trip listed. People can donate money on that site.
He also has information posted on Facebook.
When he completes the trip, he said he is not certain what he will do.
He had been working as an intern at Mechanics Bank in Bellville.
His degree is in business administration.
So far, he has not thought once about quitting, Brenkus said.
Because he is doing this to raise money for Roberts’ fight with his ALS, he thinks back to the purpose of his trek.
He said he can’t “get a bad attitude.” His situation is “not anything” compared to what Roberts is enduring, he said.
Despite the demands of this kind of trip — some of it financial — he said he is happy to talk to others and encourage them to try to be of help.
He made friends with several people in Bellville prior to the trip. Some of them had made the Appalachian Trail trip.
Brenkus said he is happy to communicate with others.
“By no means am I a pro” at Appalachian hiking, he said.