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University of Missouri

From MU to Mount Katahdin

Alumni start Appalachian Trail as strangers but finish as friends.

two hikers pose by a sign along the Appalachian Trail.

Kathleen McGonagle and Liam Cremins reach the summit of Mount Katahdin. Photo courtesy of Kathleen McGonagle.

Kathleen McGonagle, BS HES ’11, of St. Louis wasn’t ready to get a job after she graduated.

On March 18, 2012, she embarked on a 2,184-mile trek from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine on the Appalachian Trail. She encountered gorgeous vistas, generous strangers and Liam Cremins. McGonagle tracked Cremins for part of the hike, following his notes in the trail registers — a guest book where hikers sign their name, their hometown and their destination. When McGonagle caught up with Cremins in Shenandoah, Va., they realized they are both MU alumni.

Cremins of Denver planned to be on the trail for only a month. “But when I got out there,” says Cremins, BA ’09, “I was having so much fun I decided to keep going.” On July 25, they summited Mount Katahdin. “There is only one word to describe the climb — epic,” Cremins says. McGonagle adds: “The skies opened up, and there was a bright blue sky. It was beautiful.”

But the entire trip wasn’t filled with sunny skies. The hikers were tested physically and mentally. To keep spirits up, they reminisced about $1 burgers at Campus Bar & Grill, Gumby’s pokey sticks and Field House cottage fries.

“[McGonagle] will be a lifelong friend whom I wished I’d met at Mizzou,” Cremins says.