T.A. Dugger invades Sycamore Shoals via river crossing Friday

The army came from the north, forming a line of hundreds as they came down the trail. Their shouts and cheers were audible from across the park, their one goal as clear as their determination: cross the Watauga River.

T.A. Dugger’s eighth graders have been making the crossing for at least a decade, and roughly 200 of them showed up to make the hike this year.

“The kids were excellent,” principal Chris Berry said. “We had a good time with ranger Jason Davis.”

The students started at Watauga Flats before making the miles-long hike to Sycamore Shoals State Park.

While the students and teachers have lightweight clothing and barely anything in their bags when they made the hike, Berry said part of the purpose of the hike is to demonstrate what such a trip would actually have been like.

“You can see some of the day-to-day challenges,” he said. “They were either on foot or on a horse. They were carrying months of supplies, clothing and their musket.”

The hike is another part of city schools’ efforts to promote “Living History.” Instead of reading about history in books or by watching YouTube videos, students can take advantage of the area’s unique opportunities and see history play out in front of them.

The timing is perfect, he said, because students are currently learning about the Revolutionary War in their classrooms, so it is the perfect time to experience one of the most crucial periods of the war right in the community they know and love. Not many other areas in the country can boast the same opportunity.

“It is the experience,” Berry said. “We live in a beautiful area. For some kids, this is the longest hike they have been on.”

The hike has become an integral part of the T.A. Dugger experience for the students. Berry said the river crossing itself is their favorite part of the whole experience, especially during a period of drought in the east Tennessee region. The students had a chance to cool off for a while and learn about their heritage at the same time.

“This point in history was pivotal in the Revolutionary War,” Berry said. “This is tangible.”

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