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A Hike on the AT: From Deep Time to the Brown Mountain Creek Freedman Community

Last month, the Geology and Archaeology departments teamed up with the Outing Club to lead students, faculty and staff on a collaborative hike on a section of the Appalachian Trail. They were able to learn about the geology of the area and the history of a freedman community.

The trail, just a 30-minute drive from campus, runs along the banks of Brown Mountain Creek.

Professor Don Gaylord led the portion of the hike that focused on the archaeology and history of the area. The trail runs though what was the Brown Mountain Creek Freedman Community, which was a community established after the Civil War by freed slaves.

In addition to growing food for themselves to eat, the members of the community were also sharecroppers who grew tobacco on the slopes of the hills.

The land was eventually bought by the Forest Service. There have been no residents in the community for some time, but pieces of man-made structures, such as this wall, can still be seen.

James Dick and student leaders from the Outing Club came along on the hike. They made sure everyone made it safely through the tricky sections.

Clockwise from top: Emilia Musgrove '22, Jenna Kim '20 and Visiting Assistant Professor of Geology Cassidy Jay all took the time to have some fun on the trail.

Professor Chris Connors led the Geology Department's guided portion of the hike. The trail led hikers through parts of the Catoctin formation and the Blue Ridge basement complex, though most of the geological explanation was focused on the Catoctin formation at the north and south ends of the trail.

Hikers spent some time searching for pillows, features that can be found in the Catoctin formation on the south end of the trail.

In the photo below, Mickie Brown '21 and Chris Messerich '20 look at granite that is more than 1.1 billion years old.

"The rocks on the hike are ancient, even by geological standards," said Professor Connors.

"We wanted to get a variety of people together to learn more about the history of the area," said Sarah Wilson, administrative assistant in the Geology Department, "and we wanted to do the learning outside because participating in an activity outside is stimulating in a way sitting in a classroom can’t be."

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