By Juliana Brannan
For The Diamondback
The University of Maryland’s arboretum hosted a five senses hiking event Saturday, April 9, to celebrate Earth Month at the Wooded Hillock trail located across the street from Terrapin Trail Garage.
The arboretum serves as a resource to students, faculty, staff and visitors of the university. Its goal is to educate the community and visitors about the campus’ natural environment and model this university’s vision of a green university.
“We have an incredibly diverse plant collection. We have very dedicated staff who take care of that,” Meg Smolinski, the arboretum outreach coordinator, said.
The Wooded Hillock trail was conceived by the Environment, Technology and Economy program of College Park Scholars in its colloquium class. It was created with the Office of Sustainability and the scholars program’s support.
Wooded Hillock is one of the few natural areas remaining on campus, and the trail helps preserve it.
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“It’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see how it changes during the season changes,” hike attendee Elisa Ferrante said.
The hike started at 10 a.m. and included about 20 people hiking. The group of hikers was a mix of students, faculty and families. Student volunteers helped rake the leaves off of the trail to make it accessible for hiking.
“I joined this so I can be more outside and more hands on and just explore the campus more,” freshman bioengineering major Ananth Nair said.
The hike utilized all five senses and encouraged hikers to be present in the moment while getting a low impact cardio workout.
“I wanted to create another layer to it to expose people not only to this beautiful wooded area on campus, but to have a deeper sense of it,” Smolinski said. “Not just walking through the trail quickly, but thinking about what you are experiencing as you're hiking.”
The hike consisted of five volunteer group leaders who are all part of the Honors College Integrated Life Sciences program. Each of them had a different sense to engage with the hikers; smell, sight, touch, taste and sound.
“Usually the stuff we do is … just for the people who volunteer here. We’ll rake the hiking path or the gardens around campus, do some weeding,” freshman physiology and neurobiology major Grace Cong said. “This is the first time that we actually went out and hiked with people who don’t necessarily work with us.”
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The first sense the group leaders discussed was sight. The hikers discussed seeing woodpeckers, trees and the different textures of the trees.
Next was sound. The hikers heard cars from a highway close by as well as birds and the leaves rustling in the wind.
The third sense discussed was taste. Many participants had an earthy taste in their mouths during the hike.
Touch was the fourth sense. The hikers talked about the feeling of the different tree bark textures and the sun touching their necks.
“On a hike like that, it kind of gave you permission to kind of step out of the trail a little bit and feel the trees and feel the moss, and it felt really nice,” Ferrante said.
The last sense was smell. The hikers discussed smelling an earthy and fresh rain scent.
The Wooded Hillock trail is open from sunrise to sunset, and it is not too strenuous, as it takes about 25 minutes to complete. All are welcome and encouraged to hike.