Blue Ridge

“The Mother Town”

It was a bittersweet morning as we packed up our tents for the last time and left the Mount Pisgah Campground bound for our next destination, Cherokee, NC. We traveled the last leg of the Blue Ridge Parkway over the highest point at 6053 feet and then made a brief stop to check out some stunning views through the clouds at Waterrock Knob. The trail to the top was steep but our determination was strong, and after a challenging hike we were rewarded by the sweat on our brows and a breathtaking view!

Group in front of BRP sign

Chris took a group picture at the Blue Ridge Parkway’s southern terminus.

Upon arriving in Cherokee, we ate a quick picnic lunch by the river and prepared for our guest speaker, Freeman Owle. Freeman Owle is an Elder of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee. An educator himself, he shared his story of growing up and being systematically and forcefully stripped of his culture and how that impacts his work with children of the Cherokee tribe today. He educated, inspired, and left us with powerful words reminding us of our impact. These words will surely stick with us when we return home: “There is no job that is greater than what you do. No job is more important than what you do.”

Group sitting on benches

Cherokee Elder Freeman Owle talks with us about growing up and becoming a teacher himself

After our experience one of our educators, Talicia Smith, was inspired to write a poem detailing the impact of our day saying:

“I stood where the mother town was.
Stories of family, faith and love
Stories of struggle, the war of men
Lesson we are still learning from them

I stood where the mother town was
Where trees were healing for the soul
The soil underneath my feet
Beaten by dances moving for peace

I stood where the mother town was
Where rivers flowed with ease
And elks track through the leaves
I stood where the mother town was.”

Yurt in front of mountains and clouds.

View from our final home – the Sky Ridge yurt village.

Finally we headed for the premier lodging of our trip, our luxurious yurts! After a week in the damp heat of the Appalachian mountain region, it was a very welcome treat! We have learned and experienced so much together and we ended the night with a heart-to-heart, tear-filled reflection of our day. Even though tomorrow is our last day, this experience will follow us into our classroom and beyond.