Hike for Mental Health October calls for getting fresh air to support the cause

Photo+courtesy+of+Brady+Rudh.

Photo courtesy of Brady Rudh.

Travis Nelson

With the beautiful scenery of fall colors surrounding the area as October arrives, one of NMU’s newest traditions will take place outdoors.

The Conservation Crew, a club at NMU in its third year, is taking part in the Hike for Mental Health October initiative for a second time on Thursday, Oct. 1. Conservation Crew is an NMU student-led organization dedicated to preserving the local environment of Marquette through conservation efforts and educational programs, as described in the club’s Facebook page. 

The group works a little bit different than most; instead of having a dedicated treasurer or a dedicated president, they have five co-leaders who equally share roles, sophomore Fisheries and Wildlife Management major and co-leader Brady Rudh said. Isabel Mueller, a junior majoring in environmental studies and sustainment, is a leader that does similar things for the group. Right now because of COVID-19, they’ve split up our duties a little bit more because they’re not together all the time anymore, Mueller said. 

“We pride ourselves in our group in being very accepting of everyone’s ideas; you know we want everyone’s input in our group. Being co-leaders, basically what we do is the cruddy work that no one wants to do like the planning and organizing of shots and the behind the scenes meeting that kind of keeps everything flowing nicely.”

Mueller is currently living in Sheboygan, Wisconsin during the pandemic, and has focused on organizing, planning and managing social media for Conservation Crew. The group’s newsletter is coming out soon and workshops are taking place by video instead of in person, and a lot of work is still behind the scenes, Mueller said.

“We all kind of work together to make really cool plans and try to make more environmental activities and things that’ll raise people’s awareness,” Mueller said.

Hike for Mental Health is the organization that creates this platform for small groups like the Conservation Crew to go and hike for a good cause. With sponsors from Hike for Mental Health paying the way, profits go towards the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, among other groups, and towards trail maintenance, Rudh said. Conservation Crew recorded 328 miles a year ago for Hike for Mental Health October, and they’re looking to shatter that distance this year.

“Personally, I think it’s an incredible cause. It’s awesome because it benefits so many things in so many ways. The people who’re going out get time outdoors especially with COVID-19 and everything. Normally you’re all locked up; it’s nice to get outside and enjoy the outdoors for a little bit,” Rudh said. “Also, you’re donating money to organizations that raise money and awareness for people who’re affected by mental illness.”

Conservation Crew held six to seven hikes last year, Rudh said, but this year could be expecting more because of how important it is to get outside during the COVID-19 outbreak. What makes the Hike for Mental Health October initiative so unique is that community members and students can still contribute to the cause without going on the Conversation Crew’s hikes. Anyone can go out and hike during the month of October as long as they’re with another person, and they can submit their miles to Conservation Crew and contribute towards the cause, Rudh said. For someone like Mueller who currently isn’t in the area, they can still participate.

“I’m actually really excited because I have a lot of family and friends here that love to hike; obviously we don’t have anywhere near as great a trail network as Marquette does,” Mueller said. “I’m going to miss that for sure but I’m definitely going to go up there sometime in October.”

Despite being outside, Conservation Crew will have COVID-19 protocols that hike participants will need to follow. Protocols include mask wearing, staying socially distant, car pooling is not encouraged unless it’s a family member and participants are encouraged to bring hand sanitizer, Rudh said. 

Any positive COVID-19 cases traced from the hike or if a participant is in isolation, everyone who attended that hike will be notified, Rudh said. Even with protocols, they don’t take away what impact a glimpse of normalcy will have on people.

“I think getting outside and having some sort of normality right now is absolutely vital,” Rudh said. “I mean you’ve seen COVID-19 cases rise all around the country, so it’s really good to get outside and enjoy some fresh air; spend time with friends but in a way that’s safe and relatively socially distant.”

The hikes are limited to 18 participants, including three co-leaders from the Conservation Crew, Rudh said. As of Sept. 30, there were 10 spots left for the first kick off hike on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Sunset Park in Presque Isle, according to The Hub. Anyone interested can still register, and should stay posted for the upcoming hikes, as the schedule will be updated as the month goes on, Rudh said.

“It’s a great opportunity and I think that as a student organization we should be promoting mental health, and obviously we don’t necessarily communicate or directly have connection with the Appalachian Trail Network that originally organized the Hike for Mental Health October,” Mueller said. “It’s just kind of something we do as part of their fundraising.”

All students interested in either joining the club or the email list for the newsletter can reach out to Conservation Crew on Facebook or Instagram, Mueller said. The newsletter is replacing in-person meetings and it allows the group to share what they’re passionate about, and have contributions from the community.

Hike for Mental Health October will officially be underway on Thursday, Oct. 1, and all participants who are looking to get exercise and contribute to a great cause in mental health and trial maintenance are welcomed.