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Three alumni and a friend arrived on foot at the Old Well on Carolina’s campus Friday, completing a two-week walk from the coast that was inspired by the arrival of Carolina’s first student, Hinton James, more than 200 years ago.
Bryan Jones ’06, Nicholas Becketti ’05, Whitney Reeds ’05 and Jones’ brother, Eric, a student at UNC-Charlotte, arrived shortly after noon and were greeted by several dozen friends, media, GAA representatives and students and families who happened upon the scene as the new semester opened.
In 1795, James walked 170 miles from Wilmington to Chapel Hill to become the University’s first student.
Jones, who took time off from a Charlotte start-up company, and Becketti, a consultant with IBM in Washington, D.C., set out from Wrightsville Beach near Wilmington – where they had surfed during their college years – on Aug. 2. They hiked roughly northwest parallel to U.S. 421 for much of the trip before angling north toward Chapel Hill. Reeds and Eric Jones joined the trek along the way, delayed by work and school commitments that cropped up at the last minute.
On Friday, the four arrived at the Old Well, the source of water for the campus when Carolina opened in 1795, by coming up Cameron Avenue past Old East, the University’s oldest building.
GAA President Doug Dibbert ’70 and staff members presented the hikers with bottles of chilled water, gift packages of treats, deli sandwiches and the association’s “We Got Here First” T-shirts, celebrating the nation’s oldest public university.
But the trip didn’t officially end for the hikers until a few minutes later, when they each took a sip from the Old Well.
The hikers camped along the way. They endured blistering temperatures in the upper 90s and stretched their water from one service station to the next. Bryan Jones said the streams they had counted on for drinking water were too polluted to be cleaned with their water-purification equipment.
Becketti had to break away from the hike for a few days because of blisters that might have become infected.
They good-naturedly pointed out that while James faced his own hardships in the rugged 18th-century countryside, he could find pure water and, since he made his journey in February, didn’t face the sweltering heat. Nevertheless, they paid homage to him and those who followed.
“By following in Hinton’s footsteps, we hope to honor all the generations who made UNC what it is today,” Jones said.
They said they hope to repeat the trek next August and would like for other alumni and students to join them and make it an annual tradition.
The walk’s Web site is at www.hjwalk.com.