Sarah Crooker

Contributing Writer

Contributed photo by Sarah Crooker

Contributed photo by Sarah Crooker

My name is Sarah Crooker and I was a co-leader alongside with Hannah Elliott for the sustainable living winter trip. For this trip, we were able to “live off the grid” as you can say. Our accommodations were cabins and the only heat source was a wood stove so we had to chop our own wood if we wanted to stay warm. For the restroom situation, we had outhouses and if someone had to use the bathroom at 2:00 a.m., they had to go outside.

Our hosts were Ed and Alreen Decker who own Once Upon a Time in Maryville, Tennessee, where we stayed. They were absolutely wonderful. This trip was bittersweet for me because it was the last trip I was able to lead. I am a senior now and I was able to go on a alternative break trip all four  years of my college career and lead two (I lead the Carolina Tiger Rescue trip last year). It was an amazing experience being apart of this program and I am so happy I got the courage to sign up for a trip my first year.

Contributed photo by Sarah Crooker

Contributed photo by Sarah Crooker

During the week, our group was able to get our hands dirty. One day, we learned all about homesteading by Ed teaching us how to chop wood and Alreen teaching us how to make blackberry jam (which we got to each take home a little jar of). We also had the opportunity to learn about the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian Tribe. We walked alongside the Trail of Tears, worked at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum doing maintenance on the grounds and we even got to build a new hiking trail. Overall, this trip was amazing and I am so honored I got to share my experiences with such an amazing group and organization such as Once Upon A Time.

Sarah Crooker can be contacted at


Other articles in this series:

“Students experience winter Alternative Break trips: Youth development and education”

“Students experience winter Alternative Break trips: Helping those with disabilities and special needs”

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