Into the Wild

customImage  Mr. Macdonald’s advisory group stands on the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains after hiking to the summit of Humpback Rock. All Photos courtesy of Mr. Mac.


Mr. Macdonald’s advisory group stands on the Appalachian Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains after hiking to the summit of Humpback Rock. All Photos courtesy of Mr. Mac.

When sitting in the library on the west side of Old Main, students have a clear view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The legendary Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known simply as the A.T., runs along the these rolling mountains. Completed in 1937, the A.T. is the longest hiking-only trail in the world at 2,200 miles. Each year, approximately 1,000 thru-hikers attempt to complete the entire A.T. in a single season. In the world of hiking, successfully completing a thru-hike of the A.T. places an individual in the elite ranks of outdoor adventurers. 

On a warm September weekend, Mr. Macdonald introduced his advisory group to the wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail. After careful planning and preparation, the group ventured into the wilderness for an adventure. Mr. Macdonald recapped the weekend: 


“We hit the mountain right after school on Friday afternoon with the entire advisory--Bryce, Malone, Marwan, Kelby, Dao, and Tyler. We began at Humpback Rocks and hiked south on the Albright Trail until we reached the Beechcraft Bonanza airplane wreck from 40 years ago. Nature had definitely reclaimed this wreck as there were only bits and pieces of a wing left. We then continued south, connected to the A.T. and dropped down to the Paul C. Wolf shelter.” 


Mr. Macdonald continued: “This is a well kept and well-loved shelter with plenty of floor space, a nice deck, a pit toilet, a fire pit and a nice stream nearby. Kelby heated up the soup that we brought, and we enjoyed it along with a hiker we met on the trail. Afterwards, the boys cleaned the dishes and tried catching fish with their camping mugs. Malone caught one. We played a card game after struggling to get the bear bag on the hook. During the game we came up with trail names for each other like "Bear Bag", "Lil Fish" and "Lollipop." 


“The next the morning, we hiked 7 miles and 1,800 feet of elevation to Humpback Rocks. We enjoyed the view and took lots of pictures. Marwan was picking leaves and letting the wind catch them up over the mountain as the boys watched above.”


For Mr. Macdonald, this trip was an opportunity to introduce his advisees to the wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is an ideal guide. 

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Macdonald travelled and hiked around the world his wife, Cara Macdonald. The duo explored some of the most famous natural wonders on the planet and recorded their journey in documentary films for the series Lonely Planet. 


Equally important to the time in nature, the weekend on the trail allowed Mr. Macdonald to strengthen mentor-mentee relationships with his advisees. Advisory trips are a cornerstone of MSA’s student-life program as they allow dynamic interactions between teachers and students. 


Dao Tran, one of Mr. Macdonald’s advisees, commented: “Family isn’t confined to your parents and siblings. Family is defined as the people you spend time with growing up. My advisory group is like family to me, and Mr. Mac’s advisory trip allowed me to spend quality time with my MSA brothers in the mountains of Virginia.” 


Next time Mr. Macdonald’s advisees gaze out the window while studying in the library, they will recall the great memories of being on the A.T. with their classmates and advisor. A few might even consider thru-hiking the entire 2,200 miles one day.