Appalachian Trail still beckons for Bellville’s Mikey Brenkus

CLEAR FORK VALLEY – The goal of a former Bellville resident to hike all the miles of the Appalachian Trail is still beckoning to him.

Mikey Brenkus, a graduate of Clear Fork High School and The Ohio State University, set out last year to hike the trail, to honor the memory of the late Craig Roberts, who had served with the Jefferson Township Fire Department.

He and companion hikers had to cut the trip short last year because the upper regions of the trail, at Katahdin, closed in October.

This year Brenkus, on vacation from his job at Keller Mortgage Co. in Columbus., decided he would try to finish the final 150 miles.

He said he “thought I could do more than I could” and that traveling companions, brother Stuart and his friend Maija Johnson, agreed with the decision to stop.

Brenkus, the son of Bellville mayor Teri Brenkus, said he and his companions got “far behind” and when Johnson suffered problems – she was losing toenails – they quit.

“The trail will always be there,” said Brenkus.

When he did the hike last year, he said he developed the ability to walk 20 miles in one day. He said he was able to do that after building his stamina, but that took three to four weeks.

He said this year, though he runs a couple days of week, his day work is at a desk.

“This year it was a lot harder than I remembered,” he said.

When he did the hike in honor of Roberts, there was a GoFundMe app people could use to donate money to the effort. All money raised went to the Craig Roberts family. Roberts passed away after suffering from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Brenkus said the first effort taught him how to take only the right stuff on the trip.

He said all the gear was “dialed in” and everything packed had a purpose.

Knowing how to pack gear was the “easiest part” of undertaking the hike, he said.

Harder things were worrying about running out of food, wondering if the supplies packed would last the next day or a day and a half.

He said it also involved missing his family.

The hard parts were “90 percent mental,” he said.

On the original trip, hikers would stop at various locations. They would aim for places where they would be allowed to sleep, and purchase supplies.

The problem Maiji Johnson suffered involved wearing boots that were too small, Brenkus said.

When going down a mountain, her toes would smash into the front of her shoes. That caused the problems with her toenails, he explained. She should have worn shoes a half size larger, he said.

Brenkus and his companions drove themselves to the point where they started, north on the trail. When they decided to quit, they had 70 miles to go and a driver with a hostel ferried them back to their vehicle.

At Keller Mortgage, Brenkus works in the loan close department. This involves following up on details once a loan has been made. The sales department in a loan company does an entirely different job, he said.

His position there gives him flexibility, he said. If he needs to work “remote” at home, he can do that. He said it is preferred that employees not do that, but it is an option.

Brenkus’ brother Stuart graduated from Ohio University this year. He said he is looking for a full-time job but has been working this summer at Liberty Gardens.

Courtesy photo Mikey Brenkus, Maija Johnson and Stuart Brenkus before starting their trek on the Appalachian Trail in July. photo Mikey Brenkus, Maija Johnson and Stuart Brenkus before starting their trek on the Appalachian Trail in July.


By Louise Swartzwalder

Galion Inquirer