In January, I got to take a Day Hike with the Komodo Dragons middle school class at Kingfisher Academy. Though almost every outdoors program at Kingfisher has fallen on a rainy day this school year, our day hike was a beautiful blue sky day with temperatures in the 60s!
We decided to go to Kennesaw Mountain for three reasons: (1) It’s only a 25 minute drive from school; (2) The mountain provides a beautiful, difficult, and varied hike; and (3) The Civil War history of the park is particularly relevant to today.
Let’s start with (3): I thought the students would be intrigued by the query about the battle that I presented: “If the Union had not been able to win the Atlanta Campaign, Lincoln probably wouldn’t have been re-elected; and without Lincoln as President, the Confederacy may not have been defeated; and slavery may not have ended for another 20 or 30 years. How would that affect America today?” Of course, much of this is speculation, but what an intriguing question! Where would race relations be today? Where would our economy be? Would the South still be a separate nation? Could Obama have been elected?
Despite my interest in these questions, the students were more intrigued by the cannons and earthworks on the mountain. Luckily I’m not just a social historian and know a little bit about military history.
On top of the mountain, we were able to see all the way to Stone Mountain, Perimeter Mall, Buckhead, Midtown, and Downtown. Buzzards circled in the sky. We even saw a hawk (though another hiker claimed it was an eagle).
One of my favorite aspects of day hikes is watching participants discover new things about themselves. I saw one young woman thrive in the outdoors and lead much of our hike. Another young man actually brought plastic zipper bags to collect “specimens.” He and I walked in the rear of the group much of the time, finding insects, rocks, and even some coyote feces (which I still have sitting on the desk in my office–I have to remember to bring it to school next Tuesday).
We even explored a small cave that we found in the “Pigeon Rocks” area of the park.
Though the group was exuberant and very competent, by the end of our hike, spirits were down and legs were dragging. I see this happen regularly on hikes and often wonder whether I should plan shorter distances. However, I see great merit in helping people learn that they can do more than they thought they could. Nevertheless, it’s always a balance between too “easy” and too “hard” of a hike.
This one was lots of fun, and I look forward to the next time in the woods with these students – ON CUMBERLAND ISLAND!