Her fellow classmates are preparing for graduation at Anderson County High School (Kentucky) while she continues her journey along the Trail of Tears.
Emma Swensden, 17, began her trip in Charleston to trace nearly 1,000 miles of the steps the Cherokee Indians who were forced to Oklahoma from their lands in seven Southern states.
She graduated early and even missed her prom to begin her trip in late March.
Accompanied by her dog, Rune, and an Arabian mustang horse appropriately named “Blaze,” Swensden decided to make the trip along the trail because her educators felt she needed more experiences in her life. She had been homeschooled prior to her high school education.
One of the most prolific historical Trail of Tears events began at Fort Cass at the Cherokee Indian Agency, which is present day Charleston.
Swensden plans a career in law and she began researching options, choosing this trip to give her an unforgettable life experience.
Since she left Charleston, she has traveled hundreds of miles through the state of Tennessee, into Kentucky, Illinois and now into the Ozark region of Missouri.
“I am taking a few days break for myself and the animals,” Swensden said.
This week, she will continue her ride.
Along the way, Swensden, Rune and Blaze have experienced bad weather and adversity, but she hasn’t and doesn’t plan on giving up her quest.
Blaze had an issue with a sore spot on his back.
All through the trip, vetrenarians have attended to him and Rune. After a few days rest and an adjustment in equipment, Swensden, Rune and Blaze were able to continue their journey, traveling sometimes just a few miles each day, and other days, over 20 miles.
The journey took the Cherokees up to five months to complete.
Through the dead of one of the most significantly cold winters, they trod the land and crossed frozen rivers to reach present day Oklahoma — their new land.
A Facebook page named “Trails and Tears Through Time” has allowed hundreds of people to follow her journey.
Her friends list has grown significantly in number since its inception.
Initially, no one knew of her quest, but that has changed as she has travelled through towns along the Trail of Tears route.
At present, over 600 people are following her updates daily.
Along the way, residents in the towns have given her shelter and food, as well as providing pasture land for Blaze and entertainment for Rune.
“I am proud, but scared at the same time,” said Emma’s mother, Susan Harris, the day Swensden set out on her horse with her dog walking along side her.
As people in each state learned of her adventurous and historical ride, media involvement has given light to her story.
“There have been so many kind people along the way who have helped.
Words of encouragement flood her Facebook page.
Coincidentally, with the outpouring of help from individuals, Swensden has experienced most problems when it came to camping on public land. Tennessee State Parks wouldn’t allow her to stay overnight — which is somewhat relative to the Trail of Tears ride she is making.
According to accounts along the trail in 1838-39, some landowners along the way denied helping the Indians as they journeyed through the small towns and villages enroute to their new lands.
She continues to receive support elsewhere as well as tracking her route.
Swensden is expected to begin her college orientation in late June.
Her plans are to complete her journey six days before she leaves for orientation.
From the road, her current Facebook post is dedicated to her classmates who will walk the stage while she is continuing her ambitious and courageous trip of a lifetime.