Each year, more than 12,000 brave souls embark on a journey to hike the length of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail, which spans from Maine’s Mt. Katahdin to Georgia’s Springer Mountain. Among one of the many hikers to attempt this trail was Baylor’s very own math instructor Dillon Clemmer ’13. On July 27, 2017, along with former Baylor classmates Ramsey Seagell ’13 and Troy Leach ’13, the trio began their traversal of America’s most daunting hike.
Back when he was a student at Baylor, Clemmer thrived in academics, as well as athletics, setting a school record in the distance medley relay. Clemmer also spent much of his time outdoors enjoying nature. As a youth, Clemmer claims, “I did have an interest in the outdoors before I began Walkabout. I would go camping and hunting and fishing and [on] small backpacking trips.” But it was Baylor Walkabout which Clemmer claims made him step outside his “comfort zone.”
Though Walkabout piqued the interest of young Clemmer, his interest in the Appalachian Trail began one Monday morning in Chapel during his sophomore year.The featured speaker was a woman who, at the time, held the record for the quickest assisted thru-hike of the Trail. It wouldn’t be long before Clemmer would turn to his friend Troy during physics class and remark, ever so casually, “We should hike the Appalachian Trail.” This half-hearted remark would become very real as Clemmer, Leach, and their friend Seagell prepared during the second semester of their senior years of college to hike the AT, though they were “mentally and physically unprepared for such a daunting undertaking.” The three Red Raiders worked at Baylor’s very own Walkabout Camp in the month following their college graduations in order to save up enough money to hike the trail.
Of the 12,000 people annually who attempt to hike the AT, nearly 90% elect to begin at Springer Mountain and hike northbound towards Maine, with the summiting of Mt. Katahdin as the grand finale. However, in order to avoid being met with a harsh and early winter, the trio elected to begin their hike at Mt. Katahdin and hike southbound. However, by the time the group reached the southern border of Maine, Clemmer’s companions were called away and unable to continue their hike. Clemmer, ad-venturous as he is, elected to continue hiking alone. Of all the many experiences one has on the trail, Clemmer seems to have most enjoyed being able to “escape...daily stressors and just walk.”
On the trail, a hiker’s only concerns are: “Where you’re gonna lay your head and what you’re gonna put in your mouth when mealtime comes around,” asserts Clemmer. Clemmer completed his journey on November 22, 2017, completely avoiding a winter at all, with his hike lasting 117 days, almost fiveweeks faster than the average thru-hike. Mr. Clemmer has traded in his hiking pack for a pen and paper as he is pursuing his Master’s degree in engineering, as well as assisting in Baylor’s Learning Center. For Clemmer, it is onto a new career to make his mark.