Mountain Sun Students Backpack The Foothills Trail - Brevard, NC


May 22, 2017

Courtesy photo

Sixth and seventh graders with teacher, Kim Skeen, in front of one of the waterfalls they saw on their journey.

On May 2, Mountain Sun Community School's sixth and seventh graders and their teachers Kim Skeen and Nick Pearl put on their backpacks filled with all the gear and food they needed for a three-night, four-day adventure on the Foothills Trail.

The Foothills Trail is 77 miles long, starting in Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park. The MSCS students completed a 20-mile section, starting at Bad Creek in South Carolina and ending in Gorges State Park in North Carolina. They participated in every aspect of the trip: route planning, menu planning, gear preparation, shopping for food, and researching the Foothills Trail history and the flora and fauna of the area.

Skeen, outdoor education teacher, said, "This trip was an excellent opportunity for the elder students to demonstrate and use all of the wilderness skills they have learned throughout their time in the Monarch class."

The students had to use their map and compass skills to navigate and figure out which way to go at intersections. They also built fires started with tinder bundles and a spark from a piece of flint, and they had to be sure camp was set up in a way that kept them dry and safe.

"The first day we set out on the trail the weather was perfect and spirits were high," Skeen said, "We hiked about four miles and then had to do some scouting and orienteering to find our campsite for the night."

Some of the highlights from day one were crossing the Thompson River and finding a scorpion in the campsite.

The students estimated to hike 8-10 miles on day two.

"The terrain was steep, challenging and beautiful," said Skeen.

They saw waterfalls, crossed the Horsepasture River, got a view of Lake Jocassee, identified many species of wildflowers, and saw blue ghost fireflies in their campsite the second night.

"The students did excellent, encouraged one another, and had positive attitudes all day," said Skeen.

"I found more inner strength. It was really challenging, but I think we were all really proud of ourselves at the end of the day," said Kathryn, a Monarch student.

On day three the rains came along for the climb up Chestnut Mountain. The students' wilderness skills were put to the test during the evening's torrential downpour.

"Fortunately, spirits stayed high," said Skeen. "We had fun huddled under a tarp cooking and eating dinner that night. We also had a surprise visit from Monarch lead teacher Becky Langer-man. The students were so excited to see her and to share all the stories of their adventures."

The students participated in a silent hike on day three. They reflected on how they have grown, what they have learned about themselves, and what they plan to share with the younger Monarchs and Acorns who will be moving up.

"We also made time to reflect on each students' own Hero's Journey, which has been one of the overarching themes in the Monarch class this year," said Skeen. "The students were asked to think about their own personal journey and how they see themselves as a hero."

The students felt the experience was more personal because the group was smaller; there was an opportunity to express themselves more freely and create tighter bonds.

"I didn't know I had so much strength. It was a solid 20-mile hike. Not many other schools do this. It was an awesome way to close out my time in the Monarch class," said Anson, Monarch student.

"This experience was unforgettable and beautiful in so many ways," said Skeen. "Nick and I witnessed the students demonstrate their knowledge, and it is apparent how much they have grown. They overcame many challenges with grace and inner strength. These students have a unique opportunity to get to have this kind of experience at such a young age. The days and nights spent together and the challenges that they overcame will be with them as they take on their next adventure...middle school!"

(Mountain Sun Community School is an independent, nonprofit school serving preschool through middle school and utilizes Montessori and other methods to provide a unique, inspired education for each child. Mountain Sun Community School is currently enrolling students for the 2017-18 academic year. For more information, visit or call (828) 885-2555.)


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