Annual hike offers a first-hand – and chilly – look at history

Published 9:21 am Monday, October 20, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks For more photos visit

Eighth-grade students at T.A. Dugger Junior High School completed their annual pilgrimage from Rocky Mount Historic Area to Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, ending with the highlight walk across the Watauga River.
A procession of 166 students, TAD teachers and administrators, as well as Sycamore Shoals Park Interpretive Ranger Jason Davis, completed the 8-mile walk. A yearly tradition for the TAD eighth-grade students, the trek follows the same path the Overmountain Men took on their way to Sycamore Shoals on their way to Kings Mountain.
TAD teacher Chris Berry was in charge of this year’s excursion. The trip was originally timed to coincide with the date of the Battle of Kings Mountain, but was delayed because of bad weather. The students are studying the American Revolution, and the experience is compatible with lessons in both American and Tennessee history.
The group started their day at 9 a.m., crossing the river at approximately 2 p.m. While all 166 students made it safely across without any major mishaps, a few slipped, taking an unplanned dip in the chilling waters of the Watauga River; others took deliberate tumbles into the water. Splash fights broke out among many of the students, and all seemed to have a good time as they made the crossing.
“It was awesome and very cold,” declared Aidan Taylor as he made his way out of the river.
Taylor wasn’t the only student to think the river crossing was the highlight of the trip.
Sierra Norwood also said that was her favorite part. “It was fun,” she said, “because I have never done it before.”
Kenzie Lowe agreed the river crossing was fun, but said the whole field trip shed new light on the Overmountain Men
“They were brave soldiers for doing that,” Lowe said. “It had to be harder for them because it was not as civilized back then.”
Students seemed to enjoy their day-long field trip to reenact history.
“It was a long walk, but it was worth it,” said student Evan Perkins.
During the march, Davis dressed in colonial period clothing and accompanied the students from Rocky Mount to Sycamore Shoals. Along the way, he would stop and share stories with the students or explain some of the aspects of the clothing and weapons that would have been used by the Overmountain Men.
Berry declared the trip a success and said the weather cooperated with the group for this hike. The original walk was scheduled for Oct. 3 but storms postponed the event until Friday.
He praised the group for making good time on their hike, and noted the goal of the trip is to give the students a better idea of what the Overmountain Men did when preparing to fight the British soldiers at Kings Mountain.
The trip was timed perfectly, Berry noted, occurring just as a lesson – a state standard – on the American Revolution was being taught.
“Men from Southwest Virginia, Piney Flats, Bristol, in our communities, all gathered here at Sycamore Shoals before going to Kings Mountain,” Berry said. “The students are getting the chance to interact with history. We are right in the middle of the lesson so it means something more to them. It brings the American Revolution and the contributions of the Appalachian people to the front.”

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