by Cori Hilsgen
If you missed the first hike, you still have a chance to catch the next four at St. John’s Outdoor University.
The Outdoor University is hosting its first hiking series using the book “The Nature of St. John’s” as a guide.
“This is a series ‘where book club meets hiking club,’” said Jenny Kutter, department coordinator for Outdoor University.
The book, published in 2015, is a field guide to the natural and human history of St. John’s Abbey Arboretum, divided into six hiking trails that include Prairie-Wetlands, Savanna-Prairie, Chapel, Deep Woods, Old Road and Pine Knob.
Each chapter of the book includes a map, description of the trail, history about the landscape and a short list of plant and animal species that can be found.
Using the field guide, along with the experience of the hike leaders, Kutter said organizers hope people will enjoy both the benefits of an outdoor hike as well as gain skills and knowledge for “reading the landscape,” which will give them a deeper connection to the land.
Environmental educator Kyle Rauch is planning and leading the hiking series. He will be leading each of the hikes and a different special guest will accompany participants on each of them.
Rauch said leading interpretive hikes has been, in some way, a part of his 12-year career in outdoor education. This hiking series, however, will be different from others he’s led because the chosen hikes are based on the layout of a book.
He said each chapter of the book leads the reader along a trail that, as hikers, participants will walk allowing them to experience firsthand the material discussed in the book in addition to other wonders of the Abbey Arboretum during the upcoming hikes.
Rauch said the hikes will complement the book and a field guide always complements a hike.
The first Prairie Wetland and Savanna Trails hike took place Sept. 19, but there is still a chance to join any of the remaining hikes. Participants are encouraged to read the field guide before joining each hike. The distance and terrain of each hike will be different, but they are usually between 2-4 miles long. People can join one or all of the remaining hikes.
Hike 2 will take place from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13. It is a 3-4 mile hike of the Deep Woods Trail. Participants should read pages 95-130 of the field guide and meet at the Sugar Shack.
Hike 3 will take place from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6. It is a 2-3 mile hike of the Old Road Trail. Participants should read pages 131-154 of the field guide and meet at the Old Entrance Road gate (past the St. John’s Prep School).
Hike 4 will take place from 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Dec. 14. It is a 3-4 mile hike of the Chapel Trail. Participants should read pages 65-93 of the field guide and meet at the Abbey Bell Banner.
Hike 5 will take place 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, Jan. 18. It is a 3-4 mile hike of the Pine Knob Trail. Participants should read pages 155-179 of the field guide and meet at the Old Entrance Road gates (past the St. John’s Prep School).
The hikes are open to the public and are family-friendly. Dogs and bicycles are not allowed in the Abbey Arboretum. No registration or fee is required.
The guidebook is available for purchase at the St. John’s University Bookstore, in person or online, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other booksellers.
For additional information, visit the csbsju.edu/outdooru/events website and click on the Monthly September-January Hiking Series.