When I write about the thirty years I taught in the public schools, I often focus on the problem students, the lack of parental support, and political pressures that seem to come from all sides, but there was a positive note to teaching that made up for the long hours and challenges that walked in the classroom each school day.
In the 1990s and into the 21st century, I was co-advisor of the Campus Chess Club and Environmental Club. Chess was easy. Students interested in playing chess came to my classroom at lunch. There were no field trips or fund raisers, and playing chess helped take my mind off my job.
During those years, my last class of the day was journalism so every day ended on a positive note. There is very little that is comparable to a classroom full of motivated, often incredible students.
The Environmental Club was another positive note. Neil, the co-advisor, was the primary organizer although most of the work and organizing was done by students. There were monthly weekend hikes where me, Neil, Marshal (now gone due to complications during his battle to beat leukemia),and sometimes a few other teachers/parents chaperoned students on hikes in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Eventually, district administration stopped giving permission for the hikes due to increased insurance/liability issues.
However, one of the hikes went up Ice House Canyon (starts at 5,500 foot elevation) to the Saddle (7,500 feet) where several trails branched out to Cucamonga Peak (8,858 feet) and the three T’s: Timber Mountain (8,303 feet), Telegraph Peak (8,986 feet) and Thunder Mountain (8,587 feet). I understand it is possible to hike all three peaks in one day.
The single-track to Icehouse Saddle climbs over 3.6 miles and is an exceptional hike.
I was the advisor/teacher for journalism and many of the students that were in the chess club and the environmental club were also in my journalism class, and we spent a lot of time together sometimes as late as 11:00 PM and as early as 6:00 AM.
The hikes through Ice House Canyon to the Saddle are fondly remembered because my journalism students started a tradition of water gun fights near the end of that day-long hike, and I was often the target: journalism students versus Lloyd. My small squirt gun was not up to the task of dealing with several students ganging up on me each with a squirt gun.
To level the playing field, I bought a squirt-pump machinegun with a gallon water tank, and it had a range of maybe 20 yards and it fit in my backpack so no one knew about my secret weapon.
The hike I think of most was the one where we went up to the saddle a few days after a weeklong blizzard that blanketed the San Gabriel Mountains in snow. We arrived early on a Saturday morning with several teachers and cars loaded with students to discover the trail was covered in virgin snow—no one had been up the trail since the blizzard and in some spots where the trail had snow melt running over it, the water had frozen into black ice.
Fortunate for us there was a Forest Ranger ready to hike up to a campground beyond the Ice House Canyon Saddle because several campers had weathered the storm there. The only way to reach that campground was on the trails you will see in the embedded video I found on YouTube. That means the campers carried all their gear and food up that trail to the campground higher than the Saddle.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga.
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