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Saint Mary’s students start hiking club, explore local trails

| Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Whether it’s climbing an old fire tower to get a better view of the Appalachian Mountains with her cousins, hiking through Austria with her geology class while studying abroad or simply a weekend stroll with friends, senior Kenzie Looney has dabbled in hiking for at least a few years.

Experiences like these inspired the psychology major from Clarkston, Michigan to help found Saint Mary’s new hiking club, Trail Belles, this past July. 

Courtesy of Kenzie Looney
Club members snapped this selfie at Trail Belles’ first hike in the Saint Mary’s Natural Area last Sunday.

The club plans to offer local, biweekly weekend hiking opportunities for members of the tri-campus community to socialize and enjoy the outdoors.

“The purpose of the club is to get out and explore nature with other people who enjoy exploring nature and just appreciate the land that God has given us,” Looney said. “We have a really cool nature trail on campus, and people don’t know much about it.”

Getting more hikers on the trails in the College’s 100-acre Nature Area is one of her main goals. Last Sunday, Trail Belles held their first event, a two-mile “get to know you” hike through the Nature Area.

“It went pretty well,” Looney said. “We had quite a few freshmen there who were really excited.”

Along with continuing to explore the on-campus trails, the club hopes to offer a variety of local excursions at both state and city parks.

“Lexi [the other co-president] and I have researched a lot of different hiking spots around campus and in the local area,” Looney explained. “Right now, our goal is to get numbers up and go to Potato Creek a few times. In the spring, our main goal is to have a hiking meeting at the Dunes and hike the trails there. Lexi also mentioned St. Patrick’s Park, so that’s a possibility as well.”

Bridget Starner met Looney when she was a RA in Starner’s dorm last year. Starner — a junior psychology major from Hershey, Pennsylvania and the vice president of Trail Belles — added that South Bend’s Rum Village Park is another potential hiking destination for the club. 

Growing up in central Pennsylvania, Starner spent her teenage years hiking and admiring the waterfalls of the Northeast. She got involved in Trail Belles to continue enjoying the outdoors while school is in session and to meet new people.

“We started the club because we wanted people to get out and enjoy nature, especially with the pandemic going on,” she recalled. “We wanted them to be able to get a break from school work and be outside with others, who like me, have the same interest as them.”

Being a new club, she added that the officers have been active on their personal Instagram pages, in an SMC Facebook group and at the College Involvement Fair earlier in the semester gauging the interest of potential members and their preferred hiking outings.

“Anyone is welcome to join,” Starner said. “We just want to let people get outside and have a carefree time.” To learn more about Trail Belles and get involved, SMC students can check out the club’s Belle Tower portal. Members of the Notre Dame and Holy Cross communities should email co-president Kenzie Looney at [email protected] for more information.

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