College of the Atlantic president to hike, swim across MDI

COA President Darron Collins gets ready to climb 28 peaks in 24 hours.
Julia De Santis
COA President Darron Collins gets ready to climb 28 peaks in 24 hours.
Posted June 23, 2012, at 9:51 a.m.
Last modified June 23, 2012, at 11:18 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Darron Collins’ initial idea was just to take a hike.

Collins, the president of College of the Atlantic, is an avid hiker and a map enthusiast. A 1992 COA graduate, Collins has climbed many of the peaks on Acadia National Park.

Since he became COA’s president a year ago, Collins has resumed his hiking habits on Mount Desert Island and has been contemplating a cross-island hike. As he thought about it more, he wondered how many mountains he could climb as he traversed MDI.

The idea took root and greater urgency, however, when he realized the trek could double as a fundraiser for the small, environmentally focused school.

“I’ve always wanted to walk across the island,” Collins said this week. “I’ve kind of measured [the route] out. It’s about 40 miles.”

At around 4 a.m. Monday, June 25, Collins and four others will start hiking from Ocean Drive near Thunder Hole and will ascend Gorham Mountain, the first of 28 peaks they hope to summit over a 24-hour period. Limiting the hiking party to five people — Collins, COA students Lisa Bjerke and Erickson Smith, COA alum Nick Jenei and local resident Tom St. Germain — will keep the effort more manageable and hopefully within its 24-hour goal, he said.

Their route will take them west, over the top of most of the island’s peaks, including Cadillac, Dorr and Sargent mountains, and will include a swim across the narrows of Somes Sound, the fjord that nearly cuts MDI in half.
Collins said he has permission from landowners to cross their properties to get to and from the water.

Collins said he expects to get to Somes Sound and to start the 1/3 mile swim around 5 p.m. On the western side of the island, they will hike over St. Saveur, Acadia, Beech and Western mountains on their way to Seal Cove. As it gets dark, he said, the party will use headlamps as it winds its way along the trails.

Collins said he is sure that such a cross-island hike has been done before. He is not sure that any such trek also has included a swim across Somes Sound.

“That’s what makes it interesting,” he said. “It certainly will be a challenge.”

The hike coincides with the end of the college’s fiscal year, he said, and is a good way to raise donations that will go toward COA’s annual $1 million fundraising goal.

“We’re really close to that,” Collins said.

The effort also will help draw attention to a pet cause for Collins, which he said is getting more people, especially children, to enjoy the outdoors. If the effort had a title, he said, it would be “a race to cure nature deficit disorder.”

Collins said people who want to keep track of the hiking party’s process can do so by following his Twitter account, @humanecologist. People who want to support the fundraising effort can do so online by clicking the “give now” link on the COA homepage, coa.edu.

Collins said the hike could turn into an annual fundraiser for COA. In the immediate future, he said, he expects to spend a good part of Tuesday sleeping at home.

“It will be fun,” he said. “Wish us luck.”

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter on @billtrotter.

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