|Sensory forest walk|
Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia
At the Hike Inn we talk about the Appalachian Trail (AT) every day. By trail, we are 4.2 miles from Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the famous footpath. All guests, young and old alike, hike in and out of the Inn and experience firsthand the rolling ups and downs of the Appalachian Mountains. For many, this distance and terrain is a challenge, and they feel a great sense of accomplishment upon reaching the Inn. For some, as they look at the great AT map in the lobby, they are deeply inspired, and a dream is born. The Hike Inn wants to help more youth experience the Southern Appalachian ecosystem and the trail, invoking stewardship and fostering a lifelong relationship with nature and hiking.
|Interactive Leave No Trace game|
The Outside School, an education program at the Hike Inn, provides a unique opportunity for exceptional place-based service learning. The students hike 4.8 miles through Amicalola Falls State Park and Chattahoochee National Forest in the North Georgia mountains and stay at the Hike Inn, a LEED-certified backcountry lodge. The trail provides experiential outdoor education lessons on wilderness hiking and Leave No Trace practices along with forest ecology and earth science principles. At the Inn, the students have direct experience with green building sustainability techniques such as solar panels, composting toilets, native gardens and permaculture design, rain water catchment, and vermicomposting. School groups staying two nights have an option to day hike to Springer Mountain and the Appalachian Trail.
|Worm composting piques student curiosity|
The program’s foundation is comparing forest ecology and Leave No Trace principles with green building practices. Highlighted is the evolving human relationship with this land, from indigenous use, to the era of resource extraction, to the call for protection.
This leads directly to the shift from general protection of natural resources to the goal of sustainability in all aspects – from how we hike to how we design and live in our buildings. Our social and personal responsibilities of stewardship and civic engagement are informed by our increasing body of knowledge - namely ecology, conservation biology, and green engineering.
|Students on GATC outreach trip learn Leave No Trace|