Everyone knew when Tyce Albany, 15, was approaching. He carried a pot attached to a metal clasp on the back of his pack, and it swung back and forth, clinking and clanking with every step. He was the slowest member of his team, the elks, and as his teammates hurried ahead, he expressed frustration to a Naval midshipman.
“My feet hurt,” Tyce said.
“Everybody’s do,” said Ben Huynh, a senior at the Naval Academy. “It’s about pulling through.”
“My toes are numb,” Tyce added. “Completely numb.”
In school, Tyce had a 3.4 GPA, but he struggled with physical demands. Growing up in Hillside, N.J., he attended Philip’s Academy Charter School before transferring to St. Benedict’s. Every day, he walked past a sign bearing the institution’s motto: “Whatever Hurts My Brother, Hurts Me.”
The trail tested that. The freshman class had not had a chance to interact much in person and on the trail their differences stood out. While Tyce languished at the back, Joshua Johnson, a speedster from Newark, pushed a pace that was hard to keep up with. “Did your mom breastfeed you protein shakes?” Noah Bridges asked Joshua.
The elks alternated between reciting rap lyrics when moving with ease and stretches of silence when the going got tougher.
During one stretch, they passed four hikers, all of them white, and noted that they had not seen any other Black hiker outside their group on the popular trail.
“I think it’s just something more common for Caucasian people to do,” Joshua said.
To pass the time, they debated whether it would be easier to climb Mount Everest or complete the Appalachian Trail’s entire 2,193.1 miles.