A life-long wanderer, Ron Cooper was restless again and looking for a challenge. The “Triple Crown” hiking trails called to him but time, talent, and his wife’s support were in short supply. Undeterred, Cooper searched for a shorter trail with a purpose higher than simply enjoying the wilderness. He found it in the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Although recognized as a National Historic Trail by the National Park Service, the original path taken by more than 15,000 Cherokee Indians on their forced march from Appalachia to the new Indian Territory in 1838 had never been properly identified and mapped. Cooper was determined to do just that, and spent several years researching this dark chapter in American history.
In January 2011, Cooper began walking the Trail of Tears as closely as possible to – and often directly on – the original roadbed. The journey of 835 miles took him through six states and lasted more than three months. He is the first person in modern times to undertake the trek and was therefore compelled to write a book about the experience.
“It’s My Trail, Too: A Comanche Indian’s Journey on the Cherokee Trail of Tears” is part trail guide and part memoir, with Removal history woven throughout. Cooper also shares the challenges of long-distance hiking and his philosophy and experiences as a 21st century Native American – a perspective that is rarely heard and thoughtprovoking.
“It’s My Trail, Too” was independently published on Oct. 15, 2012, in advance of the 175th Anniversary of the Trail of Tears in 2013.
Ron Cooper currently lives in Whittier, N.C. and is employed at the Harrah’s Cherokee Casino and Resort.
He will be presenting photos from the trip and signing his book at Books Unlimited in Franklin on Friday, Dec. 21, from 5 to 8 p.m.