2009-03-26 / Features

Brother Is Hiking Miles For Kyle

By Rich Pietras BUCKS COUNTY COURIER TIMES

WARMINSTER, Pa. (AP) - Dennis Quinn isn't quite ready to talk a lot about his brother Kyle, but he is ready to walk a lot in his memory.

Dennis, a 24-year-old Kutztown University graduate, is preparing to hike the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail to honor his younger brother, who was murdered at the college they were both attending on Sept. 7, 2007.

But the powerful pedestrian effort he calls "Miles for Kyle'' is not all about collecting per-mile pledges for the Kyle Quinn Memorial Scholarship at William Tennent High School in Warminster. He also hopes it serves as a vehicle to help him collect his thoughts and reflect on a brother who was taken too soon at the age of 19.

Quinn is scheduled to leave on March 28 for Georgia to start the heartfelt hike that will end at the trail's northern terminus on Mount Katahdin in Maine, hopefully by Sept. 7, the anniversary of his brother's death.

He made a pitch for support this month before the Warminbackpacking ster Rotary at Giuseppe's Pizza, where he gabbed about everything from his gear to his goals.

The outdoor enthusiast got an early start, according to his father, Leo Quinn III, who started Dennis and Kyle in the Indian Guides at a young age. But while both sons enjoyed their time in nature, Dennis seemed to take to it with more fervor.

"I am not really religious; I am more spiritual and I find that spirit outside,'' Dennis Quinn said. "It's a minimalistic way of life on the trail. All you have is your gear on your back ... It's kind of a romantic idea.''

While the idea of hiking the entire trail, or "thru-hiking,'' was in Quinn's head for about five years, he got really serious about it after losing his brother. It was just four days before Kyle's death that the two had trekked to a popular part of the Appalachian Trail called the "Pinnacle,'' located in Hamburg, Berks County. It was then when Kyle said he would like to join Dennis on at least part of his trek.

Now it appears Kyle will be with him more than he ever imagined.

"He was going to do it with me,'' Quinn said. "Now I am going to do it for him.''

Quinn, who estimates the trip will cost about $4,000, said the logistics of the trek, as well as the proper equipment, are the most important things to consider. For instance, he said he's not preparing for a 2,175-mile walk, but more of a series of short trips back to back.

He won't always be alone either, as Quinn said his longtime friend Geoff Grandfield, 25, will hike with him for the first month. Brett White, a fellow Kutztown graduate, will also join him part of the way. Quinn said he will also carry a small satellite tracking device that his family and friends can use to see his progress, adding a reasonable goal is to hike about eight to 20 miles per day, depending on the terrain.

All along the Appalachian Trail, Quinn will follow the trail's series of "white blazes'' painted on trees that mark the way. There are also three-sided shelters located at various stages that can be used in bad weather.

"I may use the shelters half the time,'' Quinn said. "But I will have a sleeping bag as well that I will enjoy as well to get the whole experience.''

It's not necessarily the destination, but the journey that is important to Quinn. During the murder trial, Dennis was in the middle of an internship in the Western Colorado Conservation Corps where he showed troubled youths the beauty of the outdoors. He was pulled back and forth from there to Pennsylvania and never really had the time to get his head around what happened then and what life will be like now.

This little walk through the woods is that time.

"The statistics are against me ... but it's like a dream hiking the trail,'' Quinn said. He said an estimated 20 percent of the people who start the hike are done within the first two weeks, barely making it out of Georgia. After that, 10 percent only make it halfway, and out of that, only 10 percent actually finish.

"I feel more prepared to walk to Maine, than dealing with Kyle's death,'' Quinn said. "It may not be fun the entire time, but he will be the driving force.''

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