By Mike Durchholz ’21
When USI students and employees left campus due to COVID-19 earlier this year, the hardest part for Shannon Hoehn, Applications Administrator with Information Technology, was not having access to the trails. "I felt like they were something I could not live without," she says. "It wasn't the dual screen monitors or the iMac in my office, it was the fact that I couldn't walk the trails."
In addition to the paved USI-Burdette Trail, campus also boasts three wooded trail systems: the Bent Twig Trails, Screaming Eagle Valley Complex and the Persimmon Grove Trails. They offer several connecting routes within them as well as individual features.
The Bent Twig Trails are located within the western woods of campus, between the Griffin Center and the former Children’s Learning Center, and offer views of Reflection Lake, rocky creek beds and the USI campus. These trails are great for beginners, or anyone looking for a quick and easy hike.
The Border Trail is part of the Bent Twig system, with a trailhead by the former Children’s Learning Center that pops out at the Griffin Center. “Border Trail is easy to find and short. It’s relatively flat and you can get around the lake in 20 minutes,” says Christopher Norrick, Assistant Director of Operations with Creative and Print Services and frequent trail user.
The Screaming Eagle Valley Complex is a system of dirt and grass trails that follows the disc golf course and continues all the way to the Broadway Recreational Complex. These trails also include cross country routes. There is an access point behind O’Bannon Hall, opposite the access point to the USI-Burdette Trail, as well as from the Broadway Recreational Complex. You can also enter the trail system from several points along the disc golf course.
Lastly, the Persimmon Grove Trails can be accessed from the USI-Burdette Trail and take users east toward Eicher Barn and the baseball fields, as well as looping back to the USI-Burdette Trail at several points between campus and the Broadway Recreational Complex.
This trail system boasts beautiful flora and fauna. In the spring, wildflowers, jack in the pulpit, trillium and bloodroot can be found. But Norrick also enjoys the ferns, rocky streams, box turtles and salamanders that appear in the fall.
“Leaves start turning, and you can find things like persimmons starting to ripen, and we have quite a bit of spotted touch-me-not, also known as jewelweed. It is a nice orange flower that forms in a little bush,” he says, “the ripe seed pods explode open when touched.”
Conner Jarrell ’24 loves exploring the Persimmon Grove Trails with his friends because the trails offer a nice balance of flat and steep hiking. “It’s a good way to take your mind off things, to clear your mind and not have to worry about anything, and it gives you some exercise too. It’s a win-win,” he says.
Mark Gregory, Assistant Program Director for Outdoor Adventures with the Recreation, Fitness and Wellness Center, hosts weekly campus hikes at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. They begin at the RFWC and cater to the abilities of the hikers present.
“Anybody can do it,” Hoehn says of hiking. “It is good for all ages, and it is relaxing to be in the woods, connected to nature.”
Photo Credit: USI Photography and Multimedia
A guide points something out to students on a hike on a USI trail