Ready to hike

The Fredonia Middle School Backpacking club will celebrate its 25th annual Quest on Saturday.

More than 100 backpackers will conclude the 50-mile expeditions when they proudly march into Russell Joy Park at 3 p.m. Families, friends, alumni and supporters are invited to attend the welcome home festivities.

Quest alumni are asked to wear their T-shirts and line up along the north side of Howard Street between the creek and the park entrance at 2:45 p.m. to welcome the new class of backpackers home. Alumni will then follow the hikers into the park.

Families and friends are welcome to join the backpackers for a picnic celebration in the upper pavilion. Special guests will include Lee Servatius and the family of the late David Carlson and members of the Fredonia Board of Education.

Sixty-seven eighth graders, including five from Brocton, are participating this year. They are accompanied by 18 Fredonia and Brocton High School student leaders and 16 adults from the school and community. Stephen and Susan Cobb serve as instructors and expedition leaders while Kathy Wickmark, Mike Bobseine and Jackie Swift act as hike group leaders.

Students attended a series of 12 classes over the past four months to prepare for the expedition. Instruction emphasized leave-no-trace principles of low impact hiking, expedition behavior, first aid, teamwork, problem solving, nature study outdoor cooking and field sanitation. Backpackers completed a one day hike on April 27 and a two-day hike on May 3-4 where they put their lessons into practice.

The final four-day, 35 mile backpacking trek begins today on the Gerry- Ellington Road. Following parts of the Eastern Overland trail, the group will hike back to Fredonia. The adventure will culminate in a triumphant entrance into Russell Joy Park at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Fredonia Middle School has a long tradition of supporting outdoor education. Middle School teachers, led by the late Dave Carlson, organized the Atlantis series of hikes from 1974 to 1979. Quest began in the spring of 1989 under the leadership of Lee Servatius. Quest inspired the development of a backpacking program in Ripley that extended for five years. The program also expanded to include Brocton students in 2009.

In the past 25 years, approximately 2,000 students have participated in Quest. They have consumed a total of 5,000 pounds of cheese, 1,600 cheesecakes and 10,000 bagels.

Guests are asked to arrive at Russell Joy Park at 2:30 p.m. Parking on Seymour Street or near the lower pavilion is preferred since several hundred visitors are expected.