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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

HHS Grad Hikes 2K Mile Trail Through Appalachia

Will Modrall Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail

Will Modrall, a 2011 graduate of Highlands High School, and 2015 graduate of University of Louisville, spent this past summer hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), a 2,189.2 mile trail that winds through the Appalachian mountains as well as several other ranges, passing through fourteen states.

Will, an Eagle Scout and an avid outdoorsman, had been planning this trip since he heard about the AT as a young scout.

While making the trek solo, Will met many people along the way, few of whom could keep up with his 22 mile per day pace, especially while carrying the backpack loaded with hike necessities.

On a long distance hike it is important to minimize the amount of weight carried; Will planned for months, refining his packing list, and seeking out the lightest weight items settling on a pack weighing 12 pounds (ultra-light) and taking advantage of the numerous natural springs to refill his filtration-enabled canteen and purchasing foodstuffs at nearby grocery or convenient stores.

He cooked from a homemade alcohol stove (ultra-lightweight) and camped most nights in his tent, sometimes taking advantage of the shelters built along the trail.

Along the Trail he encountered black bears in New Jersey, a rattlesnake in Pennsylvania and an adult female moose in Vermont, as well as dozens of deer, wild turkey and other animals.  He wore out four pairs of hiking shoes, and said that while his trekking poles were invaluable, they were worn out as well by the end of the trip.  Additionally, he lost 65 pounds along the way!

Will’s parents, Wallie and Andrew Modrall, met up with him about every 500 miles along the Trail.   Those visits gave Will a chance to fill up with some restaurant meals, shower thoroughly, wash his clothing and sleep in a bed for 1 or 2 nights each time.  

On one visit, in Pennsylvania, his parents took him for X-rays of his feet, which were swollen and painful.   The doctor said there was no fracture, just extreme use. By that time he had hiked about 1,200 miles in 50 days.   With a little rest, the swelling receded and he hiked on.

Will, also known by his trail-name of Diesel (since he just kept it in gear all summer), says that “hiking the AT was a peak experience, and one that he will long remember and cherish”.  He described the ending as bittersweet as he climbed to the 5,267’ summit of Katahdin and got his picture taken at the sign marking the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  

Will and his sister Jessie, also a Highlands graduate, have a love for travel and adventure.    Jessie celebrated her graduation from Duquesne University in 2012, by riding her bicycle from Florida to California with a charity group called Bike and Build.    More recently, the two siblings flew to Tanzania and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in January this year.  

If you have amazing adventure stories to share, feel free to leave them in the comments section below OR send an email to FTM so we can spotlight some of the amazing feats of Fort Thomas residents.


  1. Awesome job, Will! So impressive!

  2. Congratulations! What a great achievement!

  3. Incredible! I'm sure you have a lifetime worth of stories to share :)