Unique College Course Has Students Hike the AT

Virginia's Emory & Henry course is a combination of the academic and the physical
By Steve Huff,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2023 2:40 PM CDT
Unique College Course Has Students Hike the AT
A visitor walks on a trail bordered by wildflowers in Forillon National Park near the spot where the International Appalachian Trail from Maine ends.   (AP Photo/Cal Woodward)

The roughly 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia up to the international border between Maine and Canada, has inspired books, journalism, and of course, visual art. However, it isn't just a pursuit for wanderers on a spiritual walkabout or people tired of the noisy, blaring, tech-saturated world outside the trail boundaries—it's now also part of an educational curriculum. Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, about 15 miles from one of the trail's many entrances, has resumed a course of study that largely consists of hiking the AT, reports WVTF-TV. Students opt to hike the entire thing or a shorter 470-mile stretch of its southern portion for college credit, per Backpacker.

Participants in the Semester-A-Trail course learn self-sufficiency skills such as no-frills cooking and first-aid basics as they prepare for the considerable challenge of walking through the wilds laden with camping equipment over such a great distance. "It's really an incredible physical tax on the body," Jim Harrison, director of outdoor programs for the college, tells WVTF. "We're preparing students physically." If that sounds more like the military than college, note that the course also will help students hone nature-writing skills and learn about Appalachia's complex blend of culture and history.

The coursework is done either before or after the hike, and a FAQ explains more about the logistics. Emory & Henry's student newspaper, the white topper, reports that students are transferring to the college just to participate in this program. "It's also cool that the program helps whip you into shape," says one such transfer, Lindu Hu. (More Appalachian Trail stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.