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Hikers gather with their back­packing gear in the parking lot at Hayden Park
Courtesy | Charles Steele

While many stu­dents snooze their 7 a.m. alarms on Wednesdays, a small group of eco­nomics pro­fessors and stu­dents trek through Hayden Park. 

The group has hiked with light packs, since Sept. 22.

“It’s a lot of fun,” freshman Anna Coln said. “I really enjoy hiking, so it’s nice to get out with other stu­dents and faculty here.”

The size of the hiking group fluc­tuates every week. Last week’s outing included 10 people. Yes­terday, just four set out on the hike.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Roger Butters and Chairman and Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Charles Steele spent time hiking together when they orga­nized an eco­nomics con­ference and hiking trip in Montana this summer. The day after gath­ering in a room donated by Montana State Uni­versity for the con­ference, they took off to hike with a group of 16 people, each asso­ciated with Hillsdale. 

“We thought, ‘That was a lot of fun,’” Butters said. “‘We should do that all the time.’”

After returning to campus, they decided to organize a group to con­tinue staying in shape. After inviting stu­dents, faculty, and the Outdoor Adventure Club, their first group came together for a short prayer and con­vo­cation before heading out in pouring rain for their first Wednesday hike.

Despite Hillsdale’s mostly flat terrain, Butters said the single track mountain biking trails remind hikers of the moun­tains. Steele said many places to backpack in Michigan aren’t dif­ferent from what they have available in the park.

“I def­i­nitely want a mountain to be built. I’ve insisted on that ever since I got here,” Steele said jok­ingly. “You make do with what you have.” 

The group isn’t training for a par­ticular event, and there’s no par­ticular skill set or goal required to join the group. Steele, an avid ultra­ma­rathon athlete, finds this type of workout to be a good oppor­tunity to crosstrain during his off-season. 

“There are dif­ferent reasons why people might want to do this. Some people are just doing it because, ‘Oh, this sounds fun,’” Steele said. “If you’re slow, go slow; if you’re fast, go fast. The idea is just to go out and do stuff and get better at what you do from where you are.”

Steele said the idea of spending all his time indoors hor­rifies him. He loves the out­doors, rain or snow, and described the dif­ferent kinds of animals he’s spotted during his time outdoors. 

“Anytime there’s a roof over my head, it’s not quite as good as when I’m outside,” he said. “We get to see the sun come up. You some­times will see the coolest things that nobody else gets to see because they’re all asleep or they’re sitting at home drinking coffee.”

Coln hiked with the group twice after hearing about them from the Outdoor Adventure Club. She has pre­vious expe­rience hiking and back­packing with her family, she said.

While the group doesn’t have any trips planned yet, if enough people are inter­ested, Butters said it would be fun to think of back­packing trips they could do in the neighborhood. 

“There’s some very pretty trails here in Michigan,” Butters said. “There are places you can go and do some very enjoyable backpacking.”

Anyone is welcome to join the group. Steele rec­om­mended throwing a few books and a water bottle in a backpack, adjusting for pref­erence and strength, and arriving at Hayden Park to start at 7 a.m. sharp.

For stu­dents con­sid­ering coming next Wednesday, Butters has a simple piece of advice. 

“Just come,” Butters said. “Stop thinking about it, and just do it.”