The leaves are changing and the summer days have come to an end, which makes for a great excuse to get outside and do some fall hiking before winter takes over. UMD’s RSOP volunteer staff has come up with a new program that does just that, but with a stealthy kick, introducing The Secret Waterfalls of Duluth hiking series. Last Thursday, Oct. 3, three adventurous RSOP volunteers embarked on the first of three hikes in the series, revealing the hidden gem of Tischer Creek to fellow students.
“I am a huge fan of hiking, and waterfalls are my favorite physical feature,” said sophomore RSOP volunteer hike leader Brooke Wetmore. “I wanted to lead students on this discovery experience so they can go on their own time and show people someday, as well.”
For each outing, the hikers meet at the trailhead near the entrance to Romano Gym. Until that point, the location of the day’s hike is kept secret. Depending upon where they are going, the group will either get there by foot or use UMD rental cars.
“The fact that the hike location was kept a secret made the hike more exciting,” freshman Haley Carr said. “It was really nice to get off campus and do some exploring. I can’t wait to bring friends back.”
Registration for the hikes is taken care of at the RSOP office. The fee for the hike is $4 and the hikers are expected to dress accordingly. Upholding the reputation of the outdoor club, the hike prevails rain or shine.
In the beginning of every year, RSOP members get together and brainstorm new activities that will get students out and exploring Duluth. Tim Bates, the RSOP community program specialist, sprouted the idea and let the student volunteers run with it.
“These hikes provide an excellent opportunity to get involved with getting to know Duluth and the cool places you can go,” said sophomore Matt Weingart, another student hike leader. “It’s also a great way to meet new people and share stories that can gateway into more activities.”
The three student volunteers are responsible for advertising the hikes, planning out the location and then leading the hikes. The advertising strategies they used were fliers created by the RSOP graphic design team, a written description in RSOP catalogue and word of mouth.
In preparing for the hike itself, the volunteers go out to various trails recommended by Bates and use their own discretion on what they think the students would enjoy safely. When the trail is chosen, the volunteers do background research so they can also educate the hikers with fun facts along the way. For example, during the Tischer Creek hike, the students were exposed to and informed of the damages from the 2012 Duluth flood.
“The natural history and the North Shore rivers and streams played a significant role in how Duluth originated,” said junior Adam Chenoweth, a student hike leader. “Knowing this information can really get you in touch with the place you live.”
These three students have previously participated in the RSOP volunteer program by going on RSOP trips and adventures and now have chosen to become volunteer leaders. Their positive experiences inspired them to expose the fun to other students.
“It was definitely worth coming out here on this rainy day,” said junior Etienne Lombard. “I have hiked around Duluth a lot and didn’t even know this was here. It was a good secret.”
The student leaders hope to continue the Secret Waterfalls of Duluth hiking series in the future, adding more secrets to their collection.
“The first hike of the year was glorious,” said Weingart. “I feel more at home in the nature and love to share my experiences finding new trails and waterfalls with others.”
The final two Thursday hikes will be on Oct.10 and 17 from 3:30–5:30 p.m.
BY ROSY BRAY firstname.lastname@example.org