Join us in welcoming Aaron Searcy, who joined the Great Smoky Mountains Association team in January as the new publications associate. A writer, editor and occasional farmhand based in Knoxville, Aaron comes to us fresh from a stint abroad in Australia, where he earned a master’s degree in writing, publishing and poetry from the University of Melbourne. Get to know Aaron below:
I couldn’t be happier to be stepping into the role of publications associate, which is a title also held by the talented Valerie Polk at GSMA. I will largely focus on the textual realm of publishing and editing for GSMA’s books, periodicals, and many other print and digital interpretive products—which will, in turn, free up Valerie to bring more of her film and videography expertise to bear, so to speak. As an extra hand on deck in the editorial department, I look forward to contributing to GSMA’s existing publications and exploring new possibilities for interpretive products, like audiobooks or e-books, that having an additional team member might afford.
As may be the case for many who grew up nearby or visited the park regularly as children, what I love about the Smokies is ever-changing and evolving and, more often than not, a reflection of what I bring to them. As a child, I mostly loved eating the packed sandwiches I brought to the trail when my parents carved out the time to take us to the mountains. Only much later would I come to appreciate for myself the peace and beauty that can be found along those same trails. Now, with a firmer but still-developing grasp of the ecological and cultural history of the Smokies, I love the park for what it protects and celebrates—a vitally important refuge for biodiversity and diverse people, too.
I’m awfully fond of Mount Sterling and the Big Creek area in general, over on the east side of the park. This may be because this was always the convenient destination for my family, but Mount Sterling seems particularly special with its fire tower, panoramic views, waterfalls, and rumored history involving Civil War deserters and fiddle tunes.
That might have to be Wilson’s Promontory, on the traditional lands of the Boon wurrung and Gunaikurnai peoples in Victoria, Australia. I was lucky enough to live near this park for a few years, and I especially loved the variety of life and landscapes that can be found there. Many go for the famously squeaky beaches or the kangaroos and wombats, but there are also swamps, lush forests, and fern gullies not too dissimilar in their own way to some of our own green mountain coves here in the Smokies.