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.”