Students in grades PK-8 will embark on Class Hikes on Friday, January 25. Read more about this school tradition in an article written by science teacher Matt Inman, who also serves as the Outdoor Education Coordinator at Lower Campus.
By Matt Inman
The history of class hikes at Ojai Valley School is a long and storied one. Beginning more than 40 years ago, early Spuds at the Upper Campus were charged with traveling out of the valley from their newly constructed campus, over the mountains near the shoulder of Hines Peak, hiking throughout the night by flashlight, to arrive at the Middle Lions campground just as the sun was rising. Amazed hikers arrived to find a massive breakfast feast staged by their teachers awaiting them. This bonding experience was a memorable challenge called the “Topa Topper.” It was a legendary event that fostered the students’ sense of unity, and caused them to coalesce into one interdependent team.
Gradually, throughout the years, the Lower Campus absorbed and built on this tradition. First came a spring hike for the eighth graders, with an annual route up to Nordhoff Peak, where a fire lookout tower used to exist. Students back on campus wished their departing role models well, and then trained the school telescope at the peak where they would eventually see their mentors and peers waving at them with excitement.
In the early 1990’s, the value of this experience was recognized and expanded into younger grades. Class by class, additional destinations were added that were unique to each group. After several years of exploration, the seventh graders settled on a hike up Howard Creek to the ridge overlooking town, and down the Gridley Trail. With the help of science and woodshop teacher Ryan Lang, sixth graders established a class hike near the confluence of the two Matilija Creek forks that was integrated into their Watershed Program.
With a middle school program firmly in place, fifth graders began walking downstream from the decommissioned Beaver Camp on the Middle Sespe Trail, arriving at the old Lions camp/Piedra Blanca trailhead. Fourth graders now visit a favorite destination of former school president Mike Hermes (L54) known as Turtle Pond, while the third graders get their first look at the legendary OVS swimming spot known as the 10’ Hole. Second graders now hike a short distance to the famous White Rocks formations where they have lunch and scramble on the Chief, Big Elephant and Little Elephant formations.
In recent years, Kindergarten and First grade students joined together to tour the Ventura River Preserve, a local trail system managed by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. Even our youngest students in the Pre-K have jumped in to explore the Ojai Meadow Preserve just several blocks from school!
One of the biggest changes throughout the years was the formation of an iconic All-School Class Hikes Day. This his much-loved event is the culminating day of our first semester. Students arrive at school in their outdoor gear, make their own sack lunch at the Wallace Burr Pergola, and join the logistical migration of loading into buses and vans for transport to their trailhead. It’s an exciting way to end the semester, and one that symbolizes the strength and unity of all that OVS has to offer.
Class Hikes are just part of the Adventure!
At Ojai Valley School, we offer one of the most comprehensive outdoor education programs of any independent school. We engage students in environmental studies and exploration of the mountains, canyons, deserts, and beaches in the West. Students in grades 6 to 12 have the opportunity to go on camping trips and weekend adventures that include rock climbing, mountaineering, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, horseback riding, and much more. As we strive to develop the intellectual and personal growth of all of our students, Outdoor Education is a core part of that experience as they learn to overcome real challenges that may be physical, social, organizational, and personal. (It’s also super fun.)
Check out the Calendars below to learn more about Upcoming Trips!