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Trail Bonds
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By Kim O’Brien, Class of 2009

I didn’t pack my suitcase with typical dorm-room items as I prepared to move into Muhlenberg my freshman year.

Hiking boots? Check. Tent? Check. Snake bite kit? Check.

In August 2005, I arrived on campus early for a Pre-Orientation trip, along with 10 freshmen and two upperclassmen leaders. The destination? A three-day hike along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania, led by Dr. Erika Iyengar.

It took only three days, 30 miles, and several pounds of trail mix to turn a group of strangers into friends that would remain close for the duration of our time at Muhlenberg. Our first day on the trail, we ate lunch at the Pinnacle, a breathtaking viewpoint 1,635 feet high. That night, we ditched our tents and slept under the stars. The next night, we crammed 14 people in a lean-to built for eight – needless to say, dorms seemed luxurious after that hike!

Four years later, we still have that bond that was created back on the trail. We’ve roomed together on campus. Spent breaks together. Visited each other’s hometowns. During Senior Week, the group met for a reunion hike and BBQ at Dr. Iyengar’s house. She asked: Would we have ever met if not for the pre-orientation hike? It’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t have crossed paths on Berg’s close-knit campus. But without those days on the trail, I doubt the bond would have been as strong.

As I moved off campus on graduation day, I packed my hiking boots last. Four years ago, they were brand new. Now, their soles are caked with mud. The leather is worn, and the laces frayed. But I don’t dare clean them. Sure, I may have walked on blistered feet to my first week of freshman classes – but it was worth every step of the way.
2005 Pre-Orientation Hikers