Emory & Henry College Offers Credit for Thru-Hiking

From high atop Roan and WhiteTop Mountains along the Appalachian Trail, two Emory & Henry College students earned college credit while studying in the great outdoors. They participated in the Emory & Henry College Semester-A-Trail Program – the only program in the United States that offers college credit for thru-hiking or other prepared hikes on the A.T. with an academic component and training.

Filmed by North Carolina videographer and renowned hiking enthusiast Chris Gallaway, E&H sophomore Sadie Burton and junior Tilghman Moyer, a transfer student from Temple University, shared their experiences along the trail during spring semester 2019. It was the first time both students hiked a portion of the trail to earn hands-on credit. Burton from Spartanburg, S.C., focused her journey on creative writing and photography with the goal of producing a documentary and Moyer from Philadelphia, Pa., developed a project in phenology, studying plant and animal life cycle events along the A.T.

“This is the definition of exceptional hands-on learning in a gorgeous outdoor lab,” said Jim Harrison, director of outdoor programs at the College who has also thru-hiked the A.T. with his wife in the 1990s. “Both students trained and learned how to hike the trail to be prepared. Prior to the trip, they learned wilderness first aid techniques and received instruction on packing, eating, safety and mental wellness. Being on the trail for long periods of time can be physically and mentally challenging, yet so rewarding and breathtaking.”

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The students talk about their experience in the video with Galloway and share how they both succeeded on their journeys. Burton logged 400 miles and ended her section in Damascus, Va. and Moyer completed his thru-hike of 2,190 miles and ended at Mt. Katahdin at Baxter Peak, the northern terminus of the A.T. Statistics show only one in every four hikers accomplish a thru-hike and it usually takes five to six months. Moyer finished in five months.

The program is open to all college students around the globe as well as any Emory & Henry College student. Students are welcome to transfer to Emory & Henry for a semester to engage in a once-in-a-lifetime experience while earning credits in a field of interest. Faculty from both colleges work together to set the curriculum and outcomes.

“This is truly unique to Emory & Henry and its place on our planet,” said Harrison. “We’re 14 miles from the A.T. and our students are blessed not solely to hike, but to kayak in all sorts of rivers and lakes; to go bouldering and rock climbing, and to take in all of the natural beauty in Southwest Virginia.” Students from across the country enjoy the Outdoor Program and the Adventure Team to explore and learn about lifetime outdoor activities.