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Hiking to help

Niles brothers take on Iceland to raise money for cancer patients

June 23, 2008
By BOB COUPLAND-Tribune Chronicle
Two brothers celebrating milestone birthdays this year while also changing directions in their careers and lives have decided to take on a new challenge — hiking across Iceland.

Todd Pownell, 40, and his youngest brother, Travis Pownell, 30, will spend July and part of August on the 400-mile hike across Iceland.

The Niles McKinley High School grads have spent a year in training, which has included compass navigation, map reading, backpacking and hiking techniques. They will leave June 25 from Cleveland. Todd said they plan to travel 15 miles per day.

‘‘We are doing this for our own personal experience and renewal. Together we will share our observations of nature and will rely on each other for strength and decisions,’’ Todd said.

‘‘We decided years ago that the year I turn 30 and he turns 40 we would do something monumental, so we came up with the idea of hiking across Iceland,’’ Travis said.

In 2007, the pair took a backpacking trip of 30 miles at Olympic National Park in Seattle, which went well, and had thought about the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail but realized they were too long.

‘‘We decided on Iceland because it was something we could finish with the time we had this summer,’’ Travis said, explaining the two will start in northern Iceland and hike south.

The hike will also benefit the Gathering Place in Beachwood, which is a cancer support organization that helps individuals and families affected by cancer through programs and services.

The Gathering Place provides programs to those currently dealing with cancer-related issues including support groups, counseling, relaxation and guided imagery, massage and reiki, art and clay therapy and tai chi, yoga and labyrinth.

Todd, a jeweler who is owner of TAP Studios art jewelry workshop in Cleveland, and Travis, a professional ballroom dancer and also a dance instructor at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Warren, said their mother, Anna Marie Granny, was excited and nervous about the trip.

Travis said they chose Iceland because there are no natural predators, no mosquitoes, no trees and there is almost 24 hours of sunlight at this time of year.

‘‘We will have a lot of daylight for hiking,’’ Travis said.

He said the only danger is wind, rain and sandstorms and a few river crossings. Temperatures are expected to be between 30 and 70 degrees.

‘‘This will probably be the most challenging trip we have ever taken,’’ Todd said.

Travis said they probably will not see many people since Iceland’s population is only 300,000 and they are hiking through the interior in an area where it is very desolate. He said he and his brother plan to be careful as not to get hurt since they probably won’t be in contact with anyone.

‘‘We are not doing this to be macho but to have a different life experience. We didn’t want to be selfish in thinking of just doing this for ourselves so we are doing it for the Gathering Place and to help those with cancer,’’ Travis said.

‘‘We knew we wanted something good to come from this,’’ Todd said, explaining that bringing attention to the Gathering Place was an important part of their effort.

The brothers have set a goal of $3,000 and have already raised more than 10 percent. Donations can be made at any time.

To make a donation to the Gathering Place in honor of the hike, visit

Article Photos

Todd Pownell, 40, formerly of Niles, took part in a hiking trip last summer with his brother Travis Pownell, 30, of Niles. The two are taking on a new challenge this summer, hiking 400 miles across Iceland. The brothers, who are both used to the outdoors, have spent a year training for the challenge, which has included compass navigation, map reading, backpacking and hiking endurance techniques. Iceland is having its summer with nearly 24 hours of sunlight, which will help the two on the hike.



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