Summits and S’mores

By Emma Grace Howlett ‘25

Sweeping mountain slopes glistening with snow, cascading waterfalls, and towering, flowering yucca plants. Bright orange Indian paintbrush flowers, majestic ponderosa trees, shady valleys, and clear amber streams. The San Gabriel Mountain range is within half an hour from campus and offers a breathtakingly beautiful respite from everyday college life. Campus outdoor organizations such as On The Loose (OTL) support outdoor excursions almost every weekend, providing an inclusive community through which to enjoy nature’s wonders.

My first hike with OTL was a summit expedition up the monumental Mt Baldy, a 10,064-ft tall behemoth. I had plenty of time to get to know my fellow hikers on the long, steep climb. On the hike were students from all the 5Cs, hailing from all over the country and the world. We connected over similar interests such as choral singing, Jane Austen novels, and Premier League soccer. When we finally reached the summit, we were rewarded with an expansive view of the San Gabriel mountain range, its hillsides ranging in color from a sun-kissed burnt sienna to a light, atmospheric blue. The sun shone radiantly as we made our way back down the mountain. Mt Baldy is visible from campus, and every time I catch a glimpse of its iconic snow-capped peak, I am reminded of summiting it with OTL.

Hiking with OTL allows me to return to campus rejuvenated by the rugged beauty of nature, and better able to focus on my schoolwork and other responsibilities. I have since gone on OTL excursions almost every other weekend, some favorite hikes including Timber Mountain and Stoddard Peak. During a hike on the Bear Flats Trail, I became a certified OTL leader, meaning I can now plan and lead my own hikes. As first-years are unable to have a car on campus, hiking with OTL provides me with free transportation to trailheads and a group of fun, diverse hiking partners.