"I feel most alive when I'm in the wilderness," explains Garlick.
"I feel part of this larger thing," adds Burgess, "and less wrapped up in my own doubts and worries."
After setting out in late June, Burgess and Garlick ascended Maine's Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and headed south. They plan to finish their semester afoot on Georgia's Springer Mountain by late December - just in time to get back for spring semester.
For many young women - Garlick and Burgess's classmates, for instance - a hike down the spine of the Appalachians means discomfort after discomfort: blisters, bug bites, and no bathrooms, to name three. That's why Garlick and Burgess have taken on the mission of showing girls of all ages that the outdoors can be a fulfilling place. "I wonder if, when I was twelve or thirteen," says Garlick, "and I saw two girls in their early twenties hiking the Appalachian Trail, what difference that would have made in my life."
Before starting their trip, Garlick and Burgess raised more than $9,000 from friends and family to send three girls from Providence's Hope High School - Nerlange Previlon, Diana Espinal, and Florangel Jimenez - to an Outward Bound wilderness course in North Carolina. (Garlick took part in the same course during high school.) Though it will be the high schoolers' first journey into the wilderness, Burgess and Garlick expect it to help the young women deepen their understanding of themselves as well as the natural world around them.
By now it should be clear that Burgess and Garlick are definitely not your ordinary because-it's-there outdoor types. As they make their way toward Georgia over the next few months, they are pausing along the way to take Girl Scouts along for day hikes, to speak at schools, and to try to drum up interest in the outdoors from girls' magazines.
In the end they hope their efforts to get young women outside and in the wilderness will result in greater appreciation of the outdoors. Who knows? Some of the young women they encounter might one day follow in their footsteps.