An assistant professor of agribusiness at the State University of New York at Morrisville has earned the bragging rights. Scott Colby, Ph.D., has hiked more than 100 miles of trails in the Allegheny National Forest alone (except for his mixed breed dog, Eppa, who was with him).
One such feat is known as the “A-100,” an endurance hike on the North Country Trail through Allegheny National Forest. The A-100 does not allow outside help or supporters and takes place over 50 hours, starting at 6pm on a Friday and ending at 8pm the following Sunday. The starting point of the A-100 changes annually, allowing keen hikers to see different parts of the trail.
There are different distances hikers attempt to complete within the 50 hour time limit, ranging from 25, 50 and 75 miles up to 100 miles. Typically, only 20% of hikers who sign up to walk 100 miles on the trail actually reach their destination.
In 2021, 134 hikers started the challenge and 96 finished, with 31 completing 25 miles; 35 completed 50 miles; two completed 75 miles and only 28 completed 100 miles.
Eppa always accompanies Colby on his hikes. He named the dog after Baseball Hall of Famer Eppa Rixey Jr. because Colby liked the name, not necessarily the athlete.
“It projects well if you call it in the woods,” he said.
Colby and Eppa tackle another trail.
Eppa, who herself is a regular hiker, carried some stuff in a dog pack for the A-100, but Colby carried her food.
“I feel like I listen to her a lot,” Colby said. “When we don’t agree on whether a path leads to the left or to the right, she’s right about 80% of the time.”
He attributes this to Eppa’s superior sense of smell and hearing rather than her wits.
For this hike, Colby only carried the essentials since “it’s not a camping trip,” he said. “Some participants are ultra-distance backpackers and ultramarathon runners. Some bring almost nothing. I’m a bit of a hybrid. I had a light pack of food. I make my own water. It’s all ultra light.”
Colby and Eppa began their hike at the mandatory 6pm start time on Friday 11 June 2021 and hiked for 12 hours. The duo rested for four hours and then finished the trek with a 30-hour straight effort. Typically, organizers provide a bus for the return trip; However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hike was “more of a back-and-forth,” Colby said.
At SUNY Morrisville, Colby teaches research courses on food marketing, consumer behavior, agricultural economics, food distribution, environmental economics, and other topics. His research projects sometimes involve the development and exploitation of economic theories on “big data”.
Colby is currently developing a Master of Science in Food and Agribusiness in Morrisville. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Washington State University.
Colby teaches research on food marketing, consumer behavior, agricultural economics, food distribution, environmental economics, and other topics at SUNY Morrisville.
Colby and his students have worked at an incubator developing food stamps; The branded products are eventually sold in stores. Two years ago, Colby mentored an innovative lighting company called Candidus in the Grow NY competition and the entry won a $250,000 prize. Candidus develops adaptive lighting technology for commercial greenhouse systems. Grow-NY is a food innovation and agricultural technology business competition focused on emerging food, beverage and agricultural innovations in New York state regions.
Preparing for a 100 mile hike
While a walk is a form of exercise that almost anyone can enjoy, the A-100 trail event is so long that “it’s not something you can get off the street and do,” Colby said.
His preparation stemmed from years of wandering. Colby hikes more than 1,000 miles each year, averaging 2.75 miles daily.
“It’s about consistency,” Colby said. “I do the North Country Trail and the Finger Lakes Trail. My boys and I hike the 46 peaks of the Adirondacks. We’re at 22.”
Scott Colby poses with his sons and Eppa while hiking in the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
“Hiking has always been very important to me. I think differently about hiking now. I have a hard time with the word “hike” because it has different meanings for different people.”
He tends to use the lonely time to gain clarity about life choices and re-energize, although he admitted the 100-mile hike wasn’t as energizing due to its extreme distance.
“Daily hikes are a form of meditation,” he said. “I consider the trails to be my chapel.”
Colby began running – and eventually hiking – to become more active. Instead of taking calls at his home office desk, he walked.
“I always had my best thoughts while walking,” he said.
That led to miles of loops during an intense conversation. He was curious how far paths would go and would return to go farther and farther.
“It was starting to become a good thing that I would do every day,” Colby said. “I’ve gotten stronger and more productive.”
When he heard about the A-100 he wanted to complete it because it packs such a long hike into one weekend.
According to the North Country Trail website (www.northcountrytrail.org), the next A-100 Challenge will take place on June 10-12, 2022 and will run north-south. Participants will pay $80 to enter if selected in the lottery to register in early March.
The North Country National Scenic Trail stretches 4,800 miles through eight states: North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, both peninsulas of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont.
Colby and his family live in Cazenovia, New York. In addition to hiking, he enjoys playing tennis, participating in the Lions Club, and spending time with his wife and sons.