Friday, August 13, 2010


Written by Kimberly Williams, Landscape Protection Coordinator at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Threat of severe thunderstorms, humidity so thick you could part it, and a 500’ foot rise in a mile did not deter ten teachers representing multiple schools, communities, and states along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. These teachers are part of Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s and the National Park Service’s coordinated Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) Program. Trail to Every Classroom is a professional development program for K-12 teachers. The program promotes conservation, civic participation, and healthy lifestyles by using the Appalachian Trail as an educational resource. TTEC promotes multi-disciplinary / whole school approaches to curriculum development and provides toolkits on everything from grant writing, experiential education, to hike leadership.

At the weeklong summer institute in West Virginia, teachers choose from multiple workshops, and ten signed up for an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail. For many, this was their first over-night camping trip, their first lugging of a 30 lb. pack all day, and their first jaunt out on the Trail. For all it was a first-hand experience to learn about the culture of the Trail, Leave No Trace Ethics in practice, and a miniature experience of the day in the life of a thru-hiker.

With determination the group prevailed, making it three miles to the top and to Ed Garvey shelter, the first shelter North of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. As temperatures soared into the 90’s in Mid-July, these teachers bonded as they ascended with laughter, conversations, and inquisitiveness about the Trail and the surrounding environment.

Teachers were broken out into groups, each with an assignment and discoveries to make: preparing meals on gas-powered stoves, hanging bear ropes, the wonders of composting privies, siting and setting up tents, and a half-mile several hundred foot descent to filter water for the entire group. Ridgerunner Faren MacDonald joined the group at the shelter, and answered questions and discussed her experience on the Trail.

One of the teacher’s greatest discoveries was to find a teenage group (led by young adults) on an overnight trip. Being the same age group as their students, the teachers conversed and built a friendship with the younger camping companions. Later into the night it was a picturesque moment as the young teens peeped, listening through the rungs of the loft of the shelter as the teachers told ghost stories; one in particular telling the travails of her hobby as a ghost hunter.

The next day all remarked that the three-mile hike out seemed to be done in no time. There is something about an overnight backpacking trip that can bond a group together. It’s a magical mixture of communally forged memory, of shared sweat and laughter, of sharing tent space, and hearing the wild noises in the dark of night. Whatever the mixture was, it put a smile on this group of ten as they rode back together in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy van. The experience surely imparted a sense of love, respect, and curiosity about the Trail into these teachers and will be passed on to their students.

North Carolina NCCAT participants

North Carolina NCCAT participants
At the Wayah Bald Fire Tower

Mary Jane

Mary Jane
On top of Silers Bald