Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

5 Youths Bond in Montana Group Sends Boys on Free Hiking Trip

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

5 Youths Bond in Montana Group Sends Boys on Free Hiking Trip

Article excerpt

Byline: John Carter, Times-Union staff writer

Five Northside youngsters were sky high after a free hiking trip to the mountains of western Montana last month.

"Hiking uphill was harder than I thought it would be," said 15-year-old Fredd Holmes of Durkeeville. "We all got tired, but it was well worth it because we saw so many things we'd never seen. It was a trip I'll never forget."

The trip that took the youngsters from busy city streets to remote wilderness trails was organized by Big City Mountaineers, a group founded in 1990 by Jim Kern of St. Augustine to help provide hiking trips to urban young people who probably otherwise could not afford it.

The five Jacksonville boys live in public housing units and were selected by the Jacksonville Housing Authority based on grades, disposition and essays they wrote, either about Montana or how a hiking trip could change their lives. Chappell Schools provided $7,500 to sponsor the trip.

"It's wonderful to see how the young people come together and react," said Kern. "But what's really surprising is to see how much the adults who lead the trips get out of the outings. It's really just one of those rare win-win experiences."

The Jacksonville youngsters making the trip were Holmes, 15, of the Oaks of Durkeeville; Roberto Rodriguez, 15, of Southwind Villa; brothers Bobby Pyne, 13, and Legorie Pyne, 12, of Centennial West; and Dante Chandler of Brentwood Park.

Ellene Jones, Holmes' mother, said she was "ecstatic" at the opportunity for her son to experience the Western wilderness.

"I was just so excited about it," she said. "In all honesty, I think I was more excited about it than Fredd was. In fact, I know I was. I've always taught him to reach for the sky, so that trip to the mountains just fit right in."

Robert Warren, head of the cellular biology department at the University of Miami, led the trip to Rattlesnake Wilderness in western Montana. …

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