The Junior Backpacking trip was initiated by former Headmaster, Dr. James P. Hendrix, Jr, an avid outdoorsman, fly fisherman, and champion of experiential education, which means learning by doing. By hiking and camping in an exquisite area of the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina, students learn the basic skills of backpacking while learning about the natural environment. As students come to rely on themselves and a group of classmates to meet the challenges of the week, they also learn much about one another. Because this trip is a very new venture for most students in a setting which is far removed from daily life in Greensboro, it provides a unique and memorable experiential educational experience.
The trip is located in a beautiful 50-square-mile section of the Pisgah National Forest southwest of Asheville, near Brevard, North Carolina. The area is rich in flora and fauna, springs and streams, forests and rock formations. The massive curved granite cliffs of Looking Glass Rock are the prominent geographic feature of this region. The Davidson River has its source waters here, flowing toward the French Broad River, which eventually empties into the Ohio River that joins the Mississippi and ends in the Gulf of Mexico. The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way along the northern boundary of the region. Elevations range from 2400 feet to over 6000 feet, exposing us to a wide range of mountain environments.
This adventure has physical, mental and emotional dimensions. Students are stretched to come to know themselves, their classmates, their group leaders, and their environment in ways that everyday life in Greensboro does not permit. From antiquity to the present, observers have commented upon the rich benefits - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual - to be derived from such experiences. After this week, students are able to read with different insight and understanding some of the authors such as Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman, etc. that are integral to our literature curriculum.
The experience also serves as a springboard into senior year. Post-trip activities draw on the many dimensions of the junior trip experience and help to focus the energy and goals of the class as it takes on its important leadership role as the senior class of the GDS student body.