Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trip

This past week, I had the honor to take a field course at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. The field course covered a variety of topics involving the land management of America’s most visited National Park. Throughout my trip, I learned a number of lessons that I decided to share with you all.

Every day of the five-day course, I spent the majority of the time being active outside. This allowed me to get my exercise while being immersed in coursework. I took part in sessions involving identifying and preparing wild edibles, survival skills, and environmental education - all while hiking through the park. In addition to the active component, I really believe that the hands-on experience allowed me to take in more information. If the weather is nice outside and you have outdoor space, I really urge you to take some of your traditional indoor programs outside - it can make a big difference!

Another lesson I learned was the importance of staying hydrated. Even though we mostly had low temperatures, I found myself drinking tons of water. When spending time outside, it’s important to carry more water than you think you need. According to the Mayo Clinic, men need about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water while women need About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) per day.

One night of consortium, we had the pleasure to hear an address about leadership from Great Smoky Mountain National Park superintendent Cassius Cash. Superintendent Cash hit on a number of topics on the state of the park including declining funding, something that local municipalities have also been dealing with. While it can be hard to run your programs on decreased funds, innovation and creativity can come out of it. When looking for innovative solutions, be sure to keep an open mind to all of the different possibilities.

Lastly, for the majority of the week, I had little or no access to internet connectivity. While I was initially worried about the lack of communication with the outside world, the time away felt great! If anyone gets the chance to disconnect on vacation, I would highly recommend it.

I really enjoyed my time learning in the Great Smoky Mountains. Hopefully, the lessons I learned can be of some value to you.

Until next time, Diquan


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