The annual 40-mile hike by Boy Scouts of America Troop 35 has played an important role in the life of Michael Conklin.
The 25-year-old has completed the course four times since his first at the age of 13. And even though he no longer lives in Maryland, he flew into town from his current residence of Telluride, Colo., to participate.
"It's a pretty huge part of my life," Conklin said Saturday, shortly after completing the course in just over nine hours. "Originally you look and say there's no way I can do that. But you keep motivated and stay out there. You can't stop."
The 40-mile hike, which celebrated its 50 anniversary, was inspired by President John F. Kennedy, who challenged the nation's youth to become more physically fit. As a result, then-Troop 35 Scoutmaster, Carl A. Zapffe, established the hike. In the inaugural hike, only one scout completed the course.
The event this year attracted 65 participants of various ages and athletic ability. The event isn't restricted to scouts, and a number of siblings and friends participated. Forty-five people completed this year. In recent years, about 35 percent of all participants complete the hike, according to organizers.
Nick Batho, a 14-year-old scout from Towson, loved the hike. His first was Saturday.
"I'm going to try and do another 20 miles," he said at the halfway mark, where participants ate a quick lunch, and applied sunscreen. Organizers set up rest stops every five miles to keep track of all hikers.
"It was good," he said. "The weather was good. Going up the hills was the most difficult."
George Meredith, current leader of Troop 35, which is based at the Church of the Redeemer on N. Charles Street, said the event is a major accomplishment for all the participants.
"The kids remember it their whole lives," said Meredith. "Kids make lifelong friends through this event. My children who are in their 30s and 40s still have friends they made during this event and in Troop 35."
Reet Maguire looked on proudly as her husband, Jim, and their two sons, Josh, 12, and Jack, 9, participated in the hike. Maguire assisted participants at the halfway checkpoint at the Thomas A. Dixon Jr. Observation Area along the BWI Trail.
"I just want to cry," she said. "I'm filled with emotion. I'm so excited for them. They have practiced a lot, and have done parts of the trail and loop three times. I'll really spoil them later."
Vasili Antonaides, 11, and his father Spiro, 47, participated in the hike this year for the first time. Neither was a member of Troop 35.
"We talked about it all night — all week in fact," said the father. "It's lovely. It's a beautiful part of Baltimore. It's great for the community."
Vasili said his favorite part was being able to enjoy the nice weather.
"We were near a cliff that overlooked the airport. It was really pretty," he said.
Both said they planned to do the hike in the future. Vasili even hinted at joining Troop 35 in the future.
"It was really fun," he said.