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SMS hiking club sets aside technology, enjoys nature

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The Shelbyville Middle School hiking club poses for a photo during avisitto Turkey Run State Park over the weekend.
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Shelbyville Middle School students pose for photos and take in the scenery at Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

A trip to Smoky Mountains has become a tradition for Shelbyville Middle School students over nearly a decade.

The school has also taken students to Symbiosis Park outside of Waldron on weekends where they go to different stations that have various activities.

Once he retired from coaching the high school baseball team, Scott Hughes decided last year to start a hiking club. He knew he wanted something that was more than a weekend trip to Symbiosis but less travel than a trip to the Smoky Mountains.

A science teacher at the school, Hughes was hoping to go on five hikes this year, but because of bad weather, a trip to Spring Mill State Park in Mitchell, Ind. was canceled over Fall Break.

The club most recently visited Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Ind., 24 miles southwest from Crawfordsville, over this past weekend.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students are allowed to join the club, which has 80 members in its second year. Hughes is wanting to set up a two-year rotation so that students get to visit different state parks each year. He said they will probably always do Turkey Run every year because of the scenery and the hiking quality, but otherwise, he wants to include a variety of parks.

That could include the Blue River Trail as a winter walk, he said. He would like to include trails that are at least five miles. Blue River’s is 31/2.

The club went to Mounds State Park in Anderson in September, and have two more planned for the spring. The first trip’s location in April has not been decided, but Hughes mentioned Spring Mill, Brown County and Eagle Creek parks as possibilities. The group plans to visit Clifty Falls State Park in Madison in May.

Hughes issues a challenge to his students with each trip. He encourages them not to use any technology other than to take photos.

State parks often don’t have very good – if any – reception anyway, he added.

“You’re connected with nature and disconnected with technology and that’s kind of cool,” he said.

It’s a bigger challenge during the Smoky Mountains trip, he said.

“They’re with their friends, they end up enjoying that,” he said of being away from their personal devices. “That’s definitely something that’s changed. There’s definitely a lot more technology and social media where we’re constantly checking. I think our brains are being wired to check email.”

It’s up to each member whether or not they go on a hike. Seventy students went on September’s trip to Mounds State Park; a combined 45 students and teachers went to Turkey Run over the weekend.

T-shirts and journals to record their adventure are available for sale.

Students interested in joining should text the message @smshike to 81010 and meet with Hughes to fill out a club contract.