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Field Trips Explore Bearwallow Mountain

All students from FernLeaf Community Charter School got to go hiking and play on a mountaintop this week, as the public charter school held its annual fall field trips on Bearwallow Mountain. The field trips took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 12 and 18  and involved students from every grade at FernLeaf—approximately 520 students from kindergarten through ninth grade. The field trips were supported by Conserving Carolina, a local land trust that helped protect Bearwallow Mountain and create a network of hiking trails in the area.

FernLeaf’s executive director, Michael Luplow says, “FernLeaf’s annual schoolwide hike to the top of Bearwallow Mountain was born out of an observation that many of the children who grow up in this area have never been given the opportunity to learn about or experience the tremendous wonder and beauty that is all around them.

“Through this unique opportunity, FernLeaf students and staff are able to participate in a remarkable group experience that among many things, serves to strengthen our community, helps students build new relationships, and nurtures a deeper connection with the natural world.”

The students hiked up a one-mile trail through a rocky forest, stopping to climb on boulders and check out natural things like plants, mushrooms, or fall leaves. At the top of the mountain, the kids reached an open pasture with grazing cows. From the pasture they could see panoramic mountain views in almost all directions. On the mountaintop, they gathered for a mindfulness practice and ate lunch. The kids also had free time to play on the mountaintop in their own way, from turning somersaults to flying kites to looking for bugs under rocks. All students were included, including those with disabilities, who were able to reach the mountaintop by way of a gravel fire road. Finally, the students returned to their school busses, completing a two-mile round-trip hike.   

Pam Torlina, with Conserving Carolina, says, “Field trips to Bearwallow Mountain are a wonderful way to connect young people to the land. They offer an opportunity to discover and appreciate the natural wonders that exist in their communities.

“These trips offer exercise in the fresh, mountain air and a sense of accomplishment after hiking to the summit of the mountain. Kids get to run and play and gather with each other, taking in the breathtaking view and discovering new things throughout the day.  We hope that these experiences will inspire appreciation for the natural world and a desire to preserve and protect these special places.” 

Conserving Carolina also supports field trips to Bearwallow Mountain by Edneyville Elementary School every spring. The Bearwallow Mountain Trail is open to the public, as part of a growing network of connected hiking trails in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. Conserving Carolina worked with private landowners to permanently protect 476 acres on Bearwallow Mountain, so this beautiful place will always be there for community members to enjoy, as children and throughout their lives.  

Conserving Carolina is a local, nonprofit land trust working primarily in Henderson, Polk, Transylvania, and Rutherford Counties as well as the Landrum, SC area. The mission of Conserving Carolina is to protect, restore and inspire appreciation of the natural world. To become a member or volunteer, go to conservingcarolina.org. 

FernLeaf is a public charter school located in Fletcher, NC offering an elementary through high school experience like no other. To learn more about FernLeaf, visit fernleafccs.org.