Philosophy students off the beaten path


W-L students and the children of IB Philosophy teacher Mr. Summers pose at the top of Old Rag Mountain in Nethers, Virginia after a nearly four hour trek.

On Monday, October 10, a dozen students travelled to Nethers, Virginia to visit Old Rag Mountain. The trip, led by IB Philosophy teacher Mr. Robert Summers, was put together for students to apply the ideas of philosopher Tao Te Ching, and do something challenging and active over Columbus Day weekend.

Mr. Summers often plans events, such as traveling to Mosques, meditating at Iwo Jima during sunrise and even traveling to New Mexico to study different groups, outside of his classes to help his students experience the material learned in his courses. This September, the IB Philosophy class began studying Taoism, a philosophical principle which discusses the importance to live simply and without acting. Mr. Summers decided to mix the lesson and his love of hiking for philosophy students to follow Taoism by being in nature. “Taoism is the idea of sort of going with the flow and being closer to the environment, we had the idea of climbing Old Rag,” senior and IB Philosophy student Thalia Alpos said. “That way, you’re forced to spend hours immersed in nature with only some trail mix and friends.”

Not everyone from the IB Philosophy could make it, however students outside of the class tagged along. The hikers left at 5:30 AM and drove two hours to western Virginia. The hike, which lasted seven hours and was about 12 miles in length, is one of the most difficult in Virginia. Students frequently stopped to rest to catch their breath and made sure to eat snacks and hydrate. “It was super exhausting, but it felt really fulfilling,” senior Alice Bell said. “I’ve never done a hike as long or as strenuous as Old Rag.”

The steep and chilly hills at the start of the hike may have been discouraging, but the students got motivation from the views that overlooked mountains and valleys thousands of feet below. “The views were absolutely breathtaking. It’s a much different perspective, both in terms of the scale as well as how things seem when you’re on the ground compared to 3000 feet up,” Bell said. “The pain and hard work of going up the mountain was definitely worth the scenery.”

At high peaks, some students meditated on rocks and discussed philosophy to connect their experiences with the class, as well as to simply rest from scaling boulders and jumping over logs. “I felt so at peace once we got pretty high up. The air was cleaner, the sky was clearer and my mind was clear too,” senior and philosophy student Caroline Freeman said. “Everyone was just really happy to be experiencing something so unique and serene together.”

While it was challenging for some students, everyone made it back safely to Arlington with only the soreness that came with scaling the equivalent of 188 flights of stairs. “The 5 AM wake-up call was rough, but I don’t regret my decision to go for a minute,” Freeman said. “Climbing Old Rag was a once in a lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.”