Geology department leads Brown Mountain hike

Hikers learn the history of the African-American community that populated the area in the 1800s


Isabel Ryan, ’21, climbs the trail. Photo by Arthur Rodrigues, ’22.

Arthur Rodrigues

Geology faculty members led a group of about 20 students and community members on a four hour hike through the Brown Mountain Creek Area. 

The trip on Saturday, March 2 covered 200 million years of geologic history and 100 years of anthropological history of African-Americans that lived in the area during the 1800s.

The students were split into groups, starting on either the north or south ends of the trail. On the south end, the hikers observed rock formations characteristic to the Blue Ridge Mountains such as lava pillows, which display the region’s volcanic past.

On the north side, anthropology professor Donald Gaylord taught over the history of the Freeman community that lived in the region, showing the participants the remnants of homes, levies and even a well that had withstood time and elements. These communities were mostly populated by African Americans, said Gaylord, highlighting their role in the area since the earlier settlements.

“It’s important that students understand the history of the region,” he said. “A hike like this really highlights a community that most wouldn’t really know about.”

Javier Peralta ’21, a geology major, said this was one of the main reasons he decided to brave the foggy morning.

“I really appreciated the opportunity to get out and see the region and see the things we talk about in class in the field,” he said.

The students present came from all kinds of majors and areas of interest, including geology, neuroscience and economics.

Irina Koleva ’22 said she was glad the department organized the trip, and that it was unlikely that she’d get up at 8:30 in the morning on her own to go experience Rockbridge County.

Members of the Outing Club were also present and helped the other participants on the more challenging parts of the hike. Due to the heavy rains the week before, part of the usual trail was not useable. Instead, a river crossing was setup using a fallen tree and some rope.