“From the school’s beginning through the Field Trip program, the most unique and significant venture we undertake, we affirm our basic values. Travel can be the most rewarding form of introspection, taking us not only outward, but inward as well. Education can be a blend of reflection and action, study and experience, thought and feeling..”
-John Huie, VVS Headmaster 1970-1974
Many schools offer field trips, but none do it the way we do at VVS. From the school’s beginning, students have been exposed to the study of people and their creations, and have an added opportunity to find out about other cultures through fieldwork and immersion. Getting students out of their usual surroundings and engaged in a culture different than their own has been the guiding force behind our Field Trips since our first trip in 1948. Trips to parts of the American Southwest that are often off the tourist route are our guide when planning trips. The outdoors play an extensive role in trip planning as well, with extended stops for rock climbing, kayaking, hiking and camping. The third essential component of a trip is service projects where each student plays an integral part.
Students are introduced to Field Trip offerings each September during our Field Trip Fair and then depart for their two-week journey the second week of November.
Field Trip Packing
Grand Canyon Trip
Field Trips – VVS Style!
Desert Dwellers / Escalante The Escalante Canyons include some of the most remote, wild, and beautiful country in the Southwest and offers some of the finest opportunities for desert hiking on the Colorado Plateau. This trip follows a classic extended backpacking route down Harris Wash to the confluence with the Escalante River, which is followed downstream for several miles to Coyote Gulch, the beautiful exit tributary. Side canyons that used to be the home of the Ancestral Puebloans are explored and provide the setting for a short solo camp. This 50+ mile loop allows for a combination of tranquility, beauty, solitude and reflection and the extreme physical challenge of carrying a heavy backpack over rough terrain. Leave No Trace principles will be taught and modeled throughout, and campsites, trails, and trailheads will be improved as students pass through this stunning wilderness area.
Crestone: Spirituality & Sustainability During the first week of this trip, physical labor and environmental stewardship take the fore as students spend a week building a radical form of sustainable housing at Earthship Biotecture in Taos, New Mexico. The rest of the trip is spent in Crestone, Colorado, where a variety of spiritual groups and monastic sects have established centers for pilgrims and seekers. Destinations include a Buddhist Zendo, a Catholic monastery, and an Ashram where daily activities explore service, meditation, and intercultural understanding.
Grand Canyon is one of the most physically and mentally demanding Field Trips at VVS. After a service project for the National Park Service, students descend into the Canyon, covering over 5,000 feet of descent, shouldering packs containing food, clothing, and necessities for the next 10 days. Students cover over 50 miles, as well as an additional 25 miles of day hikes. On the final day they ascend over 4,000 feet. In return, students are exposed to some of the most breathtaking scenery in North America including the rim of the canyon, impressive slot canyons and waterfalls, and swimming in the Colorado River.
California Ecosystems explores the various ecosystems of Southern California, from the Mojave Desert basins through the coniferous forests perched 10,000 feet above Palm Springs, to the rocky Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. There are three main stops: Joshua Tree National Park, Santa Cruz Island and San Jacinto peak near Palm Springs. In Joshua Tree National Park and on Santa Cruz Island students participate in ecological service projects and many outdoor activities including a hike to the top of San Jacinto Peak during a three-night backpacking adventure along a section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Exploring the Anasazi and Hopi During the first half of the trip, students day hike to many of the ancient Anasazi ruins and rock art sites in Colorado and southern Utah, while camping out at night under the stars. Ute Mountain Tribal Park in southwestern Colorado, near Cortez is the first stop where students hike into Lion Canyon and take a guided tour of the cliff dwellings. Next stop is Bluff, Utah where Jerome West, a VVS alum from the class of ‘66, will guide students hiking to remote sites that are rarely visited.
The second half of the trip explores the Hopi reservation in northeastern Arizona where students are accommodated in a church in the village of Kykotsmovi. The days are spent on substantial work projects in the villages, helping families get in their corn crops, and chopping firewood. Other highlights include a visit to a Kachina doll maker and a Hopi potter, and learning about the Hopi culture.
Sonoran Explorations Students explore the nature, food, art, and cultures of urban and rural areas of the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona. They participate in the Day of the Dead Parade, work at a permaculture farm, eat a cactus, encounter animals, hike canyons and peaks, watch sunsets over saguaros, and make a mural with youth from another community. The service part of the trips includes working on an adobe restoration work project with Chris Schrager, VVS ‘69, who works with the US Forest Service.
Yellowstone This adventure takes students through the canyons of Southern Utah to the northern reaches of Yellowstone National Park. The first half of the trip explores the unique rock formations and slot canyons of Canyonlands National Park and the San Rafael Swell. The trip then shifts to the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park where students volunteer time working with The Yellowstone Institute exploring geothermal pools and the backcountry looking for and learning about bison and wolves.
On The Edge combines community service, environmental stewardship, physical labor, and outdoor experiential education as students spend time camping, mountain biking, and rock climbing in two Southern Utah areas: Moab and Kanab.
In Moab, the focus is on outdoor experiential education, team building, and camping, while in Kanab it’s on community service at the Best Friends Animal Shelter. Here students complete several animal-related work projects while learning about neglected and abandoned animals. While camping near Best Friends at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, students continue to work on team building, camp craft, and environmental awareness.
Guatemala Introduced in 2018, this international Field Trip sees students exploring the culture, history, and diverse landscapes of Antigua and the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. For the service component, the group will construct two homes for indigenous families in the village of Xepatan; work with students in Santiago studying with Fotokids, a non-profit organization breaking the cycle of poverty through training in photography, visual arts, and technology; visit Camino Seguro (Safe Passage) which provides education and training to the Guatemala City garbage dump community, and hike the Acatenango Volcano.