The only lights that lit up consisted of a few street poles and the iridescence of students’ headlights filling up the parking lot, shining on the abundance of deer that suddenly appeared. A few car doors shut and students looked around acknowledging the reality that they were about to trudge through the park in the night. Director of the Augustana Outdoor Program (AOP) Ryan Brown asked students to come near him as he gave the group headlamps.
Thursday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m, Brown took a group of students on the school year’s first night hike at Good Earth State Park.
More than 20 students showed up to trek through the park during their first week of classes. Junior Meredith Reiner said there is no doubt that the first week of school can be a bit overwhelming.
“I thought this would be a fun experience to relieve stress from the first week of school,” Reiner said.
Some students were going on the hike to relax and others were out for an adventureto see more of Sioux Falls.
“We did some hiking during the internationals trip at the Badlands National Park and Mount Rushmore,” said freshman Berend Tomesen. “I was curious to see what hiking there is to do here in Sioux Falls.”
Despite the low light, Brown effortlessly guided the students through the park.
“It [the night hike] was a student-led ideaw,” Brown said. “At the end of last year, I did a survey of a bunch of folks that participated in AOP activities, and the night hike was the most requested of all activities.”
Halfway through the hike, Brown asked all the students to turn off their headlamps and told them to pay attention to the view as they walked through a meadow. Overlooking the meadow was a dark sky illuminated with stars and a full moon. Everyone stopped for a few minutes to soak in the night’s ambiance.
“Being in wild places brings a cornerstone to my life,” said Brown as he overlooked the meadow’s tall grass.
Sophomore Sarah Borrell said she has never been hiking before, and this hike was fun to try out. Her favorite part of the hike was this moment looking up at the stars.
Once students walked through a path that led them directly into the woods, Brown stopped everyone and asked if anyone had any scary stories.
Brown started with his own scary tale. Brown was a police officer for four years in Montana. One time when he was on duty, he and dispatch police officers were called to check out suspicious activity at a building.
While he and another dispatcher were at the location, they heard a door slam shut. Instantly they called the other dispatchers to ask if they knew what happened, but they said there was no noise at their end of the building and nothing was caught on video.
“So we cleared the whole place, and we were creeping around,” Brown said. “We put our guns away and then again we heard a loud boom, and the door slammed shut behind us!”
Brown explains that the two of them pulled their guns out and started running around looking for who was in there with them.
“We spent the whole night looking around and never saw anybody even though we heard the door slam twice in this 150-year-old building,” Brown said. “It was clearly haunted, so you should try that sometime.”
A few more students shared their scary stories as the students huddled together.
Students will have another opportunity to get outside with AOP Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 4 p.m. for a bike ride.