“I think I might vomit” or “I just want to sleep” are responses you might hear when inviting a teenager to go on a hike. At the very least your request might be met with groans. Such is the notion that teens and hiking do not mix. Whether it is too much exertion with too little payoff or lack of thrilling excitement, teenagers may see hiking as an adult activity. Perhaps earning the Pathfinder Hiking 1 and 2 honors cured them of any outdoor desire they once had. Even efforts to convince them of seeing the beautiful outdoors may simply be met with, “I’ve got lots of nature photos on my phone.”
MPA students, however, do not necessarily fit that narrative. The out of doors is actually appealing to them. Getting off campus is a huge plus, let’s face it. It does not matter what the off-campus activity is, it is just “off.” Coping with being stuck day after day, week after week at a boarding school – even one with a beautiful campus – can be quite similar to coping with being cooped up at home in the lock-down year of 2020.
Each year the students discover they actually enjoy being outdoors with their peers. Experiencing beautiful Western North Carolina (WNC), a land of waterfalls and sweeping views, certainly helps. There are so many great areas to explore nearby. Much of WNC is just as much a “national park” as is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. All the water and all the vistas seem unending.
And yet, something deeper happens. Seeing new surroundings, looking up and out, and smelling the wild outdoors renews the sense of being alive. John Muir wrote of the need to “break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” Students innately know and experience this. They sense less stress and anxiousness after adventuring outside. They feel refreshed, reset, rejuvenated.
MPA students and staff are often out hiking somewhere on Sabbath afternoons. They are experiencing how enlivening it is to physically be in the wilderness, as opposed to simply looking at pictures of it. When asked why she liked hiking so much, sophomore student Nicole Rivera immediately replied, “I see God out there.” She continued, “I enjoy seeing trees. I even enjoy seeing dirt. I know that seems weird, seeing dirt.” Then she said, “I see the insects too, but I don’t pay attention to them like I would if I was indoors, or if they were on me.” She ended by saying, “It’s so therapeutic to be outside.”
She had no idea why she was being asked. The words just came right out. And, I knew exactly what she meant about dirt.
- Kevin Worth, Vice Principal of Finance
For more stories about Mount Pisgah Academy, check out our Skyliner Newsletter published on our website at www.pisgah.us/skyliner