TSU HBCUs Outside x Vandy Black Cultural Center Hiking trip was amazing, to say the least. Vanderbilt’s Black Cultural Center decided to reach out to us after seeing the success of our Kayak Trip and wanted to collaborate on an event. So, we landed on a hike at Long Hunter State Park. This trip consisted of a 3.7-mile loop trail with elevation changes, making the hike not a simple walk in the park. Yet, it was joyous due to the scenery surrounding us and the upbeat students. Ambassador Blake Wright led TSU students, while the Vanderbilt Students were led by leader Danait Issac.

The trip began with everyone meeting at the TSU Agricultural Biotechnology Building at 10:45 am. Light snacks were provided to give the participants some energy to start the day. Everyone was a little timid and kept to themselves since no one really knew each other, so I tried to break the ice. I asked everyone to take a nice group photo before heading to the park. It was a little bit of a struggle because no one else was in the building except us, so no one could take our picture. I had to get a little creative and use a brochure stand to prop my phone up, which everyone found amusing to see me struggle to set up. We then took the picture, and it was time to head to the park. The Vanderbilt students carpooled amongst themselves while we did the same.

Once we arrived at the park around 11:30 am, we met with the Vanderbilt students, and all formed a circle to introduce ourselves. We told everyone our major, hometown, and a fun fact about ourselves. May I add that a Vanderbilt student brought their dog, which was adorable! Everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves as they were introduced to new black faces who also enjoyed the outdoors as much as they did. We conversed on what outdoor festivities we enjoy and what we look forward to doing in the future. After everyone introduced themselves, we were off to the trail to begin our hike.

The beginning of our hike was calm and serene. Surrounded by trees that had their leaves off for the winter season. Hearing the crunch of the leaves beneath our feet was soothing. Students began to intermingle and make more conversation about their lives and what they enjoy. We then came across a fork in the trail that either led to the lake or would take us deeper into the forest. Everyone decided to go to the lake first to catch a nice view. The lake was a sight to see. The shallow waves crashing upon the shoreline allowed students to get very close to the water, and they began to take their pictures and skip rocks across the lake.

Once everyone was ready, we then continued the hike. The trip consisted of dirt trails and sometimes rocky terrain. It was a workout, I should say. Some parts were elevated, while other parts were relatively flat. Yet, the views made up for the burning calves. One student brought a digital camera, while another brought a professional one. We got beautiful shots of the trees, lake, and, of course, the smiles on our students. Seeing them so happy to be out and enjoying nature was heart-warming. Some students were stressed with school or personal problems and said this trip helped them forget and be in the moment. We took numerous breaks along the trail and used the phrase “red light” to tell people ahead to stop so other people could catch up or take a break. 

After the hike was completed, everyone was exhausted but exhilarated. They were happy to have done this trip and I was glad they enjoyed it. We all gathered in a circle and did a one-word story. This is where everyone is in a circle, and each person says one word, and then the person that goes next says another word that flows with the previously said word. This was a good activity to end the trip. This hiking trip was a tremendous success, and I hope to do it again in the future.