SUNY Potsdam Alumni to Present 'Thru-Hiking for Dummies' Talk

Recent SUNY Potsdam Grads Return to Alma Mater to Speak about Backpacking on the John Muir Trail

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From left, Hannah Racette ’17, Melissa Cole ’17 and Alaina Dochylo ’17 stop for a photo during their 19-day expedition along the John Muir Trail in California.

POTSDAM, NY (10/17/2017) (readMedia)-- Five recent SUNY Potsdam graduates found themselves constantly being asked the perennial question: "What do you plan to do after college?"

Even as they each worked on their individual career plans, they all decided to answer that question by tackling one big project together: hiking the John Muir Trail.

The young alumni set off this summer on a 19-day backpacking journey through California's Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the John Muir Trail, which stretches from glacier-carved canyons and over rocky passes before ending on the highest peak in the Lower 48, Mt. Whitney.

Now, the recent grads are returning to their alma mater to lead a talk about their adventures. Their talk, titled "Thru-Hiking for Dummies," will be held on Friday, Oct. 27, at 3 p.m., in the Raymond Hall eighth floor dining room. This event is free, and the public is invited to attend.

"We plan to discuss the prep work that went into our trip, and the 'thru hike' itself, via the physical, skill and social aspects, as well as our takeaways and what we learned on the journey," Alaina Dochylo '17 said. "Along the trail, we met a huge variety of people from all over -- some from Los Angeles, some from the Carolinas, others from England and Japan. The trail is really world famous."

The alumni, who traveled in two groups, included:

  • Keagen Anderson '16, a visual arts major from Syracuse, N.Y.,
  • Melissa Cole '17, a chemistry major from West Leyden, N.Y.,
  • Alaina Dochylo '17, an environmental studies major from Rockaway Beach, N.Y.,
  • Alex Goodhue '17, a geology major from Traverse City, N.Y., and
  • Hannah Racette '17, a creative writing major from Redford, N.Y.

With the exception of Goodhue, the other four hikers also minored in wilderness education at SUNY Potsdam, making them experienced in planning and executing an expedition. As they return for their talk, they will meet with current wilderness education students, to inspire them to keep venturing outdoors well after graduation as well.

The SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Program offers specialized preparation for motivated individuals to become tomorrow's leaders. The minor offers a Leadership Track, which prepares field instructors to lead extended backpacking trips and culminates in a student-planned 20-day expedition, as well as an Adventure Education Track, which prepares ropes course, rock climbing and ice climbing facilitation instructors. To learn more, visit

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America's first 50 colleges -- and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,700 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit