Learning in the Wilderness

About one-and-a-half years ago, I was chosen to be part of the Class of 2016 which Tremont was sponsoring.  It was a group that was created to teach about nature and ecology to high schoolers that were graduating in 2016.  While being part of this program, I have learned many things about myself and about the Smoky Mountain National Park; some of which I will discuss here.

One of the major things I have learned about is how to better take care of the world we live in. I have learned of the detriments of invasive species and how we can help stop the spread of these species. I’ve learned how much I am actually able to do.   Before joining this program, I would have never believed that I could hike up to seven miles a day with 50 pounds on my back.  One of the best things I’ve learned, however, is knowing that kids like me can all come together for one purpose—to take care of the park we know and love.



What 2016 means to me

As I first came to the program, I had no clue about all the wonderful experiences and memories the 2016 class would give me. I have learned all about the park and its inhabitants, both human and animal alike. This program has really taught me what it means to live next to such a wonderful oasis of nature in today’s ever-expanding world. Through Tremont and this program, I’ve met tons of new people, seen loads of new places, and learned numerous invaluable skills that I will use throughout my adult life to become a better person and teach others about our magnificent National Park..

Sterling Fisher

2016’s Influences on Me

When I got to Tremont, for our first Summer trip, I was excited; but I was nervous as well. I was nervous because I did not know if everyone in our group would get along, or if any of us were alike. I quickly found out that we were different in some ways, but alike in a lot of others. I guess that is why we became just like a family. I learned, from that experience, that meeting new people, and making new friends, is a great adventure, in itself.

I have also learned how to identify more trees, birds, and plants, than I had previous knowledge of; as well as to identify some bird calls.

Although, I believe that the most important lessons that  I have learned, so far, are 1.) Teamwork is the solution to any problem, no matter its size or intensity, and 2.) I learned, from climbing the Alpine Tower, that if you push yourself, and forget the silly fears you have , such as fear of heights, then you can open up gateways to the world, and do anything and everything that you set your mind to; and I want everyone to know that that is the best way to live your life!

– Bella Weeks

Making Memories

July 2013, on the eighth through the thirteenth, we took our second trip as EYS Class of 2016. Since last Summer, we have had three new people join our group, and I know that we all enjoy each other’s company. We are very happy to have them in our group. (Samantha, Shaderick, and Krisitan. Please forgive me if their names are spelled wrong.) 

Last Summer our trip was mainly to get to know each other, and to learn about the natural history of the Great Smoky Mountains. This year, however, we learned about the cultural history of the GSMNP. We hiked to the Walker sisters cabin, which is near Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. We also talked to a woman named Robin, who grew up living with the Walker Sisters. She talked to us about each of them, and how they worked together, as well as what life was like back then.

We also climbed a 60ft Alpine Tower, at Maryville College. That experience was fun, but it also gave each of us a chance to push our limits, and encourage others to do the same.

Our backpacking trip was three days and two nights. Luckily, unlike last year, it did not rain on us a lot. In fact it only rained on us once, and we already had our tents set up.

The backpacking trip was loads of fun. We learned, talked, and laughed a lot. The five of us who were initially in the group grew closer, and we all got to know the new people. Plus, we were a little sad about not having  last years group leaders, Caleb and Gina, but John and Casey were just as crazy and fun. We grew close to them as well.

Before we started our backpacking trip though, we drove trough Cades Cove. We got stuck in a couple of bear jams, but we ended up not  seeing any bears. Though, we did see some bear scat on the backpacking part. We also walked through Elkmont and hiked to a cabin, that not a lot of people get to see.

All in all, the trip was fun, we had some hilarious moments, and some slightly depressing ones; we got to eat trail food, I definitely stepped away with a lot of new knowledge about the cultural history of the GSMNP, our group grew closer to each other; plus we are one step closer to becoming great leaders for the preservation and conservation of our National Parks.

 – Bella Weeks

A Natural Common Ground

On a beautiful Saturday this month, the Youth Leadership Class of 2016 united to spend a fun day exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With folks in the Class coming from both Tennessee and North Carolina, this was a special day to spend bonding with each other and connecting with the Park. We started off the day at Oconaluftee Visitor Center in Cherokee, North Carolina, where we spent the morning touring through the Mountain Farm Museum. At the museum, we explored the outdoor structures, including the farmhouse, barn, and corn husker, which gave us a realistic sense of how families may have lived 100 years ago. The visitors center, adjacent to the Mountain Farm Museum, featured extensive exhibits on the cultural history of the Smoky Mountains. There were several personal accounts recorded from European settlers of the Mountains that instilled a sense of pride in the work that they did settling the area. Pictures of settlers covered the walls, and their weathered yet smiling faces portrayed their hardworking and simple lifestyle. These personal accounts afforded us the opportunity to understand the daily life of a settler in the Smoky Mountains by giving detailed descriptions of the maintenance of their homestead and everyday chores. After a delicious lunch on the porch of the visitors center, we headed to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Among all the artifacts that reflected Cherokee Indian culture, some of the most striking were the handmade jewelry and clothes that were used to distinguish between different leaders and statuses in the community. Equally as interesting were the accounts of Cherokee Indians on the Trail of Tears. The experience in the museum was authentic because of the personal stories that gave us a better sense of the events at the time. It is inspiring to see such a resilient and strong group of people take pride in their culture and unite together to preserve their lifestyle.

The importance of community and relationships with other people is one lesson that we can all take away from spending time in Cherokee this month. As a group of youth stewards for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is our job to make everyone feel welcome to explore the Park. Whether it is mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, or hiking; connecting with the great outdoors is a great way to build relationships and unite people on a common ground. I love sharing my experiences in the Park and inviting people in my community to engage with the striking beauty of wilderness as well.

Needless to say, the Youth Leadership Class of 2016 will continue to welcome all people into Great Smoky Mountains National Park, keeping it one of the greatest places to visit, explore, and enjoy for years to come.

-Erin Erickson.