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Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

URI freshman aims to be youngest to complete
‘Triple Crown’ of hiking

Hiked Appalachian Trail in 2001; begins Pacific Coast Trail in May

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 31, 2003 -- East Greenwich resident Brad Wilson likes to hike fast and cover a lot of miles in a day. That means he spends a great deal of time alone.
"I go by myself because nobody else wants to go at my pace," he said. "When I hike, I average about 25 miles a day. But I also like the solitude of hiking alone."

Beginning May 20, the University of Rhode Island freshman will be spending a lot more time alone. That’s when he begins hiking the 2,650-mile Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to British Columbia. It’s the second leg of the "Triple Crown" of hiking. He hiked the 2,160-mile Appalachian Trail in 2001, and he plans to walk the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail along the ridge of the Rocky Mountains by 2006, which would make him the youngest hiker to complete all three major trails.

When he was 12, Wilson began hiking with his stepfather, Michael Galdonik, and soon after he started thinking about taking on the Appalachian Trail. He completed his junior year of high school a month early, so on May 15, 2001 he left from Springer Mountain, Ga. en route to Mount Katahdin, Maine.

"I met people from all walks of life out there," said the URI communications studies major. "There were dot.com people who said they don’t need to work anymore; lots of people in their mid-20s who haven’t gotten into their careers yet; and a lot of retired people."
Wilson carried a 20-pound pack filled with food and supplies throughout the trek, and about once a week when the trail crossed a road, he hitchhiked into various towns to restock his provisions.

"Since I hike by myself and I’m pretty quiet, I saw a lot more wildlife than most people do," Wilson said. At Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, he had his closest encounter with a bear. "I was about half a mile from where I was going to spend the night, and I heard a rustling in a tree above me. When I looked up there was a bear on a branch right above me, and as I got out my camera to take his picture, the branch broke and the bear landed on the trail right next to me. He took off running in one direction and I went in the other direction. And I never got the picture."

Wilson completed the Appalachian Trail in 89 days, about half the time that most hikers take. Now he’s preparing for the Pacific Coast Trail by running, lifting weights and doing various cardiovascular exercises.

"The thing I didn’t like about the Appalachian Trail is that it rains a lot and the scenery never changed. Out west it rains very little and there’s a lot more variation in the terrain. I’m going to go through every ecosystem, through Death Valley and right next to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the continental United States. A lot of the trail is over 10,000 feet elevation."

Wilson said that fewer than 50 people each year try to hike the entire length of the Pacific Coast Trail, compared to the 3,000 who attempt the Appalachian Trail -- far fewer complete the trip -- so he’ll be even more alone than in his previous hike. "This summer’s trip is a lot more intimidating than the Appalachian Trail because it’s more remote and less known. But at the same time, it’s not that different. It’s just another hike."

Wilson is raising money for the American Heart Association during his hike along the Pacific Coast Trail to honor his mother, who was born with a hole in her heart and has had open heart surgery twice. Donations can be made through his website, www.bradcw.com

When Wilson completes his degree at URI, he plans to become a motivational speaker and writer like his mother, using stories and examples from his hikes as a backdrop. "I’ll focus on talks about setting goals and achieving things that other people think are impossible. Because that’s what people thought about my plan to hike the Appalachian Trail. That it was impossible."

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