Kurt Emmanuele and Mark Pendergrass '01 exit the Appalachian Trail in Vermont. Pendergrass lives in Vermont and has stayed in touch with Emmanuele through the years. The two met up on the trail and walked Mr. E's final mile together.
It took 31 years and spanned four decades, but popular Baylor teacher, coach, dorm parent, and outdoor enthusiast Kurt Emmanuele completed his quest to hike the entire Appalachian Trail this summer.
Emmanuele came to Baylor in 1987 as a math teacher and dorm parent in Probasco Hall, where he still resides. He was Baylor's first varsity volleyball coach, winning a state championship in 1997, and was named area Coach of the Year four times. He also served as an assistant coach for the first two of Baylor's 13 state championship softball teams. Today, he is an assistant coach for volleyball and track and is well-known for his valuable one-on-one help with math, which is provided daily in the Baylor Learning Center and nightly for many boarding students.
As soon as he arrived on campus, Emmanuele became heavily involved with the Walkabout program and estimates that he's led over 300 backpacking trips for Baylor students on weekends and during school breaks.
In April of 1988, Emmanuele traveled to Georgia and hiked his first 10-mile segment of the Appalachian Trail, from Neels Gap to Woody Gap, never thinking about completing the full 2,181 mile trek one day. For approximately 30 years, he would complete other sections as his schedule permitted and diligently recorded it in his AT data book. "Each time I returned to the trail I knew where I needed to start, and would mark where I left off when I was done. It might be a year before I could return, but I kept careful records on what I had completed," he explained. "I never thought about doing it in any order. It was just too hard to schedule. I might do as many as two or three sections a year. I usually went at least once each year."
The goal of completing the entire AT eased its way into Emmanuele's mind. "I started thinking it would be nice to do all of Georgia. Then I thought I could do all of it in the Smokies," he remembers. "Once I had done all of Virginia, which is about 560 miles just in that state, that's when I thought I might as well do the whole thing." He finished his final 170 miles this summer, hiking in Massachusetts and Connecticut before exiting the trail in Vermont on June 27, his goal achieved. Mark Pendergrass '01, who lives in Vermont and has stayed in touch with Emmanuele through the years, met him on the trail and walked the final mile with him.
"I've seen a lot of great stuff along the way and met a lot of really interesting people," Emmanuele reminisces. "It's kind of sad, in that it's all done, but I know I will return to special places along the trail. I don't think I'd ever want to repeat the whole thing again, but every state has very beautiful features that I would enjoy revisiting. I never saw it as a task, so I never felt like I just wanted to get it done. Breaking it up like I did ensured that I was always enjoying myself."
Editor's Note: Mr. Emmanuele is an accomplished and published photographer. Be sure to check out a sampling of photos taken by him over his years on the AT in this month's Headlines from the Hill featured video.