Far from Home

“You need to fulfill your camping requirement,” the tall, built, bearded teacher who wears a Hawaiian shirt tells me. In order to graduate OVS, students must go to 2 campings a year. “You are going to Mount Pinos.” I don’t want to go.

Mount Pinos is located in the Los Padres National Forest. Its summit is 8,847 feet high, which is the peak of Ventura. I’ve been assigned to this Mount Pinos camping trip for 3 years. Relatively speaking, it’s an easy trip. Unlike the many backpacking trips that make you walk for 50 some miles. Once I went to Topa Topa backpacking trip last year and got bitten by a tick and had to dig a hole for bathroom. 

Mount Pinos still looks the same: the tortuous path, the fast-moving clouds, the pine trees… Good old Mount Pinos, here we go again. It gets bitterly cold when it’s dark, so we’d start a fire. Starting a fire is easy, but keeping it going is difficult. Taking one from warmth, from civilization, from your weekend… it just seems like masochism. I don’t get it. Do people actually go camping because they like to be tortured? 

Mount Pinos doesn’t have as much pine cones as it did in the previous trips. We only found 1 and a half pine cones this time. In the past, we’d burn all the pine cones we found and it would smell amazing. Maybe it’s because of the newcomers—there are way more campers than before. They would smoke stuff and play loud music. But Mount Pinos is still the same even without the pine cones. It still gives me the feeling of being far from home.

Photo credit: 100peaks.com

Camping Conundrums

At Ojai Valley School, the whole school is like one big family, similar to having around 120 brothers and sisters. One thing that makes the OVS community like this is the annual fall camping trip. This trip is used to introduce the new students to the OVS lifestyle, and involve them in our big family. The trip I went on was to the Eastern Sierras, by Rock Creek Lodge. This trip was anything but a walk in the park with numerous ongoing lightning and thunder storms, the flooding of our tents, and hours of sitting in cars and waiting out the storms.

The first day we got to the campsite our tent was a bit of a wreck, with broken poles and stuck zippers. The whole process of trying to set up the tent took around an hour, trying to hurry with the constant pressure of the storm sneaking up on us. That night, the lightning was less than a mile awhile away and when it would strike, the entire world to us would go white and then back to utter darkness.

On the third day, as we drove into the canyon back to our campsite, it was like a scene straight out of a horror movie; leaving the clear blue skies behind and entering the gray fog covered world ahead. As soon and we drove beneath the ominous sky, the waters came down.

When we arrived back at the campsite, Mr. Risser jumped out of the car and ran to a safe spot from the lightning to meet with the teachers. We were told to stay in the car, safe from the storm. We stayed in the crammed back of the truck for around an hour or two singing songs and eating quesadillas brought to us by the selected brave souls who were fearless enough to go out during the eye of the storm. We finally left the truck when darkness hit and sprang to our tents, straight into our sleeping bags.

Two days before we headed back to school, a select few of us hiked to the most stunning valley we had ever seen. Luscious, green grass spread as far as the eye could see, while crystal clear, blue waters intersected them at the white shores. Picturesque mountains surrounded the valley sheltering us from the world outside. We hiked along a waterfall at the end of our journey, and jumped into the mind-numbingly water. Even though we couldn’t feel our legs from the chilling water, it had no effect on us because we couldn’t bare to look away from our exquisite surroundings.

Although we endured many set backs during our trip, we were all heartbroken to leave, but excited to unfreeze our fingers and toes and take a shower.

Image Credit: gardenbetty.com