Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An Urban Hike in Ventura

Ventura eve hike is the place to be
By Lisa Snider

When I decided to go on the Ventura Urban Hike on a Wednesday evening, I had no idea what a loyal following this weekly trek has developed over the last twelve years.

At least fifty hikers met at the fountain across from the Mission in downtown Ventura for the four-and-a-half-miler.

Hikers are shown on the way to Grant Park, the Wednesday evening outing lead by Kurt Pressler, which goes in a circle from
the San Buenaventura Mission up to the park, to the pier and back. (Photo by Kurt Pressler)
At 7 p.m. on the dot, we began our leisurely two-hour journey from downtown Ventura, up to Grant Park and Father Serra’s Cross, along the hillside, through town, across a freeway footbridge, down to the pier, over to Surfer’s Point, up the Ventura River and back to the San Buenaventura Mission. Except for a short optional detour at the top, the entire hike is atop paved surfaces. It starts out pretty ambitiously, ascending a staircase from Main Street all the way up to Poli Street, but clearly I was the only one fazed. Regulars chatted and caught up on the week’s events, digging their heels in with little effort. Once we hit the last step and crossed the street, the real climb began. Just as I was looking for sherpas and oxygen (we gained 387 feet in just 20 minutes), we made our way to the cross, where the reward was spectacular panoramic vistas all the way to the Channel Islands. One hiker, Letty Ortiz of the Ventura Housing Authority, has been enjoying this social hike with friends and coworkers for the past two years. “I like the conversations that we have while walking.” For Ortiz, it’s more than a physical workout, and the part of the trail she likes the most is the stroll along the beach. “That’s the place that’s the most calming.”

Long time Sierra Club member Kurt Preissler has been leading the Ventura Urban Hike every Wednesday evening for two years. Preissler, a 47-year-old photographer who owns a media services company in Ventura, leads the group, which sometimes hovers over 100; rain, shine or dark of night (most bring flashlights in winter), even on holidays, when the event still manages to bring out some 25 people or more.

This time of year, the Ventura Urban Hike is particularly popular due to the high summer temperatures on the inland trails. “A lot of people don’t really know how to hike in the heat,” said Preissler, encouraging locals to come out on this cool evening hike.

Near the cross, a sign tells of recent mountain lion sightings, but Preissler said that shouldn’t deter folks from joining them. “The numbers that we are and the noise that we make, I really don’t think a mountain lion is going to approach us,” adding the familiar adage that there is safety in numbers.

“The best way to be safe is to hike with us,” said Preissler, also inviting the Santa Barbara, Arguello and Conejo groups to join in the fun, too, which oftentimes ends with snacks and beverages at Busy Bee Diner on Main a block up from the mission. For more information on the Ventura Urban Hike go to:

As published in the Sierra Club's Condor Call August/September 2008.