Project Discovery group to ride Rocky Mountains of Colorado

A Project Discovery group from WCU rides the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in Colorado in 2016.

A group of students and adults from Western Carolina University’s Project Discovery program is heading to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to test their bodies and minds with a bicycle ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

Three area high school students who are enrolled in Project Discovery – Dhruv Senghani and Zachary Cline, both from Swain County High School, and Megan Powell of Madison County High School – will join program Director Todd Murdock, program counselor Cora Flottman and Haywood Christian Academy rising sophomore Griffin Murdock in flying to Denver, Colorado, on Saturday, June 23. They will meet up with program counselor JennieV. Sorrells, who will be driving a support van pulling a trailer loaded with mountain bikes and other equipment from North Carolina to Colorado. From Denver, the group will travel by van to the small town of Kremmling, Colorado, to start the ride on Sunday, June 24.

Funded through the U.S. Department of Education, Project Discovery works to identify and assist individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. Many of them become first-generation college students. Project Discovery currently works with about 770 students from seven high schools and seven middle schools in Western North Carolina, Murdock said.

The cyclists will ride about 400 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route over a span of two weeks. The full route extends nearly 2,800 miles from the Alberta province of Canada to Antelope Wells, Mexico, closely following the continental divide. The section of the route to be ridden by the WCU group crosses the divide three times, Murdock said. The students and adults will end their ride at Indiana Pass, the highest point on the entire Great Divide Route at 11,910 feet, and return to North Carolina on Saturday, July 7.

Both Senghani and Cline are rising sophomores at Swain High, while Powell is a rising senior at Madison High. As in previous summer adventure trips offered through Project Discovery, the students will have a chance to take on the role of “leader of the day” as they pedal through the Rocky Mountain valleys and up and over the passes, Murdock said. The hardest day will involve 51 miles and more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain on the bikes, and every day will be made more challenging by the thin air of high altitude.

“It’s an opportunity to learn some things about leadership and practice them,” Murdock said. “It will help the students build resilience and self-efficacy and develop a stronger sense of who they are.”

The students conducted personal fundraisers to cover the cost of their round-trip airfare to Colorado. The remainder of the funding for the trip is being covered by donations to the program, Murdock said.

Another Project Discovery group from WCU cycled 320 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the summer of 2016.

For more information, contact Murdock at tmurdock@wcu.edu.