Greg, the Senior English teacher at my school, and I decided to offer a two-week hiking class for high school students during January. One of the academic sessions of our school year, J(anuary)-Term, occurs during a 14-day window beginning after Christmas break. J-Term is an intensive setting in which students are involved in local ministries, international mission trips, STEM classes, and other creative offerings designed by the faculty. Greg and I wanted to provide an active course designed to transfer the traditional classroom into the powerful setting of nature.
On the other hand… our concern – who would be crazy enough to hike from 8:15 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon in the depth of winter? The answer… 24 students signed up…. voluntarily…. enthusiastically…. with smiles on their faces. Seven seniors, fifteen juniors, and two sophomores gathered together on January 3rd to begin the adventure of outdoor trails in Ohio in winter.
On day one, we caravanned about 40 minutes from campus to a MetroPark in Englewood, Ohio. We hiked every trail in the park and logged about 11 miles. We ended up at the home of a school family for hot chocolate and donuts. At the end of each hike the victorious hikers received an honorary carabiner for his/her backpack.
I was able to take the students to one of my favorite spots in the area – Caesar Creek State Park. Snow had fallen overnight and turned the forest trail into a beautiful winter path. The slippery changes in terrain added to the adventure causing many to fall on the snowy turf. I led the way with a perfect two-armed flailing, trekking pole throwing, seat drop. With everyone’s pride still intact, the 12-mile loop trail was circumnavigated with a great sense of accomplishment and appreciation for God’s creation.
Greg and I decided to vary the context of our adventures and so one day’s agenda found the hiking class catching the public transit system and entering the downtown metropolis of Dayton, Ohio. With a 2010 census population of 141,527 and a land area (most of it cement) of 56.5 square miles, the group found little problem in walking past some historic areas like the gravesites of Orville and Wilbur Wright and enjoying a 12-mile urban hike around the city.
Another day of J-Term required the class to take a lengthy hike along the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail. Two dozen of us walked from Xenia to Yellow Springs, ending up at Young’s Dairy for ice cream – a hiker’s favorite no matter what the weather.
The brave students joined Greg and I as we visited the trails of several other MetroParks, hiked in freezing temperatures, got caught in a thunderstorm on a warmer day, and logged over 100 miles in just ten days. Not bad for January… but all the students seemed to come equipped with diligence and determination. I enjoyed every minute of the adventure.