From the Classroom to the Campground
On Sunday, May 5, just one day after Martin Methodist’s 148th Commencement Ceremony, English Professor Dr. Brant Harwell traded in his doctoral regalia for a pair of hiking boots and a wide-brimmed hat. Dr. Harwell teaches, among a variety of other English courses, Nature Literature. Dr. Harwell is a hiking and camping enthusiast and National Park advocate, and Nature Literature is one of his favorite courses to teach. Every student that takes his course is invited to go on a backpacking trip with Dr. Harwell in the summer.
The crew gathered and inspected their gear before heading to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Located on the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork is noted for having one of only two of Tennessee’s wild, undammed rivers. Accompanying Dr. Harwell on his journey were English majors Robert Austell, McKinley Heard, and David Lynch, and MMC Alumni (and former English majors) Austin Toy and Lydia-Wossum Fisher. Biology major Sydney Watson also joined the crew.
In addition to camping, the crew also embarked on a 21-mile backpacking excursion in the back country, during which the students hiked portions of the John Muir Trail. John Muir, known as the Father of National Parks, was one of the authors that the Nature Lit student studied at length. He authored “A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf,” an account of his walk from Indiana to the Florida Gulf in 1867. The students were able to live Chapter 2 of his book, in which he describes walking through the Cumberland Plateau.
“Experiencing nature in such a way made me appreciate and understand many of the concepts and ideas that we had studied during the semester,” recounted senior English major David Lynch after the trip. “Although it was difficult physically, I would argue that in order to be involved in nature, one must have a close personal relationship with nature.”
The hiking trip strengthened this literary learning community and allowed students to see firsthand exactly what inspired the works they read in the classroom.