SMUS Climbs Baldy
At OUR we are always excited when a new group of St. Michaels University School (SMUS) students arrives at the Village. Senior School students in grades 8–12 regularly come to the Village as part of outdoor education classes or experience week trips. Their five-day visits typically include a tour of the site, introduction to permaculture, viewing of The Clean Bin Project, hands-on time cobbing or in the garden, many games of ninja, a Walk on the Wildside, and–weather permitting–a trip up Baldy Mountain.
Starting at the Village, it takes about an hour and a half to reach the top of the mountain, first by walking up fairly steep roads to the head of the trail, and then climbing about a kilometre and a half of loose glacial rock to the top of the mountain, which is 366 metres above sea level. The amazing view makes it all worthwhile, however, and is especially gratifying for first-time climbers: due to the treed-in nature of the hike you don’t really get a sense of the elevation gained or the vistas to come until you pop out at a lookout just feet below the summit.
From the lookout, hikers get a clear view of Shawnigan Lake and some of the buildings that rest on its shores. Mostly uncharted wilderness until 1886, the introduction of the Esquimalt–Nanaimo Railway jump started the town of Shawnigan and it quickly grew to support first a mill and the two hotels built around the lake. While the resource industry has died down and tourism has slowed, Shawnigan Lake remains a bedroom community for Victoria, home to Canada’s largest boarding school, Shawnigan, as well as Dwight International School, and Camp Pringle, an active summer camp on the lake.
Both groups of SMUS students we brought up the mountain this fall did a great job on the hike, despite varied levels of hiking experience in the past. Once at the summit, we took a break to go through two guided writing exercises; the first ‘my time at the ecovillage’ was a 10-minute free write encouraging open thought and reflection in a private space. The second, a group project in which stories were written one line at a time (and other lines were hidden as we went) made for lots of laughs as wild and wacky plot twists were revealed at the end.
The two groups took different routes back to the Village, one more technical than the other, but both did a fantastic job and all students returned to the Village ready for lunch and a rest! We’re looking forward to taking other school groups up the mountain–weather permitting–and encourage others in the area to check it out. Just make sure to bring a buddy and plenty of water!