Click Selection

Search News Releases:

News Resources
on the Web

22 January 2007
First JSU Field Schools Hike of 2007
Tackles Dugger Mountain

Reprinted here in its entirety.

By Matt Kasper
The Anniston Star

Jacksonville State Field Schools hike leader Francine Hutchinson leads a group of about 20 participants on a hike along the Pinhoti Trail on Saturday. The hike was the first of the season for the program. Photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star.

A long, low branch stretches across the path of 24 hikers tramping Saturday along the Pinhoti trail on Dugger Mountain.

Each hiker ducks quickly, and the trek continues.

There are no mosquitoes, rattlesnakes or poison ivy to contend with. It’s perfect hiking weather, says Francine Hutchinson, who is leading the first Jacksonville State University Field Schools hike of 2007.

“This is the hardest stretch,” Hutchinson tells the group, talking over her shoulder as the group tackles the steep incline of the mountain.

Lace up your boots and grab a stick. The JSU Field Schools hiking schedule has begun.

A cave tour is planned near Fort Payne on Feb. 17, followed by a Little River Canyon hike in early March and a deep river canyon hike March 31.

“Our hikes are unique because of the high level of natural history and historical interpretation,” says Renee Morrison, assistant director of JSU EPIC and Field Schools.

Morrison says the hiking trails are treated on the hikes as outdoor classrooms.

“Our participants leave us with experience, knowledge and the pledge to return for more,” she says.

Hutchinson, who has been involved in past efforts to preserve Dugger Mountain’s wilderness characteristics, tells Saturday’s hikers that some 750 plant species have been documented on the mountain.

Less than a mile up the trail, she points to ground pine growing about 10 feet from the trail.

Saturday's hike offered a chance to study native plant life up close, including several species of fern. Photo: Kevin Qualls/The Anniston Star.

“I want to show you one of my favorite plants,” she says. The spores once were used in gunpowder, she explains, and Chinese researchers are experimenting with the plant as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease.

A little farther along the trail she pinches catbrier, a vine that produces edible leaves considered by some to have aphrodisiac properties.

The hikers push through ankle-deep leaves. Blue paint marks on trees reassure them that they are still on the trail.

“This is the first time I’ve been on a trail in Alabama,” says Barbara Haisch, an Eastaboga resident who says most of her hiking experience has been on trails in North Carolina.

“You can StairMaster in the gym or do the natural StairMaster here,” comments Llewellyn Cook, a JSU history professor.

For Bobby Floyd, a field assistant for JSU Field Schools, Saturday’s roughly six-mile hike offers a good inaugural jaunt into the woods, because it is medium difficulty and medium length.

“This is just a real pretty trail,” Floyd said.

“We do it in the spring, once we get more wildflowers blooming.”

For more information about the JSU Field Schools events, call 782-5697 or see the Web site at

Matt Kasper covers Jacksonville and Piedmont for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3546, 256-241-1991 or via e-mail at

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

Note: JSU faculty, staff and students may access The Anniston Star online through their affiliation with the University. Those not affiliated with JSU may have to subscribe to receive The Anniston Star online. If you already subscribe to The Anniston Star, you receive a complimentary online membership. This provides complete access to all the content and services of the site at no additional charge. Otherwise there is a $5 online monthly charge for their online service. Contact The Anniston Star for information.

Submit items for news releases by using the request form at