A Natural History Adventure on the Appalachian Trail

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Henry, Laura
Master of Arts in Earth Literacy
During the spring and summer of 2000, just before beginning the ELM program, I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail (AT) in what is called a thru-hike. During my hike I wrote a biweekly column for my hometown newspaper about my journey. Writing about the hike made it more fulfilling for me. As I hiked, I thought about other ways I could write about the AT. My partner, Brad Stone, is a nature photographer. The hike was his idea originally, and he captured our hike on over ninety rolls of film. We daydreamed often about doing projects together as a writer and a photographer. Being that we are both passionate about nature, I explored the idea of designing some sort of natural history guide to the trail, as well as writing about the experience of hiking with our dog, Willow. When I began ELM, I looked for ways to integrate my trail experience with Earth Literacy, not wanting to let the hike be just a fun adventure I had in my youth. Some of my initial assignments I fulfilled by writing about the AT. I also continued my newspaper column, but with a different emphasis—Earth Literacy. When the time came to choose an integrative project, I knew I could take the opportunity to create something more substantial about the AT. During my time as an ELM student, I was also substitute teaching in my local school district, experimenting with being an educator. I wondered about bringing that part of my life into my project as well. The idea for a book for young adults arose.