Trails By Potter: The Best Outdoor Secret in the Ojai Valley
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
The beautiful majestic mountain range surrounding the quaint little town of Ojai can either be seen as an outdoor playground calling your name, or as the gorgeous backdrop for a myriad of small town entertainment designed to attract tourists escaping the big city while also drawing the sweet close-knit community together. So just what should you do when the outdoor playground calls your name? Allow me to introduce you to two of the best tour guides to assist you in experiencing all that the outdoors in Ojai has to offer.
Last Saturday I had the privilege of enjoying a delicious Americano at Java & Joe's, while listening to the beautiful backstory behind the popular outdoor adventurists, Ian and Stacy Potter. This dynamic and professional husband and wife team bring so much to the table, which adds to the diversity and uniqueness of their business, Trails by Potter. So before I lay out everything they offer, I'd like to give you the unique background of each of them. It's nothing less than a perfect match made in heaven.
(From their website):
Ian Potter, born in England, has amassed over 35 years of hiking, biking, outdoor rock climbing and mountaineering experience throughout Europe and North America.
When Ian takes a client rock climbing and they entrust him with their life, there is no better man for the job. He is a consummate professional who has an impeccable eye for detail and safety. He is encouraging, shares his British sense of humor and goes above and beyond the call of duty when caring for his clients.
Ian has worked as a climbing instructor and guide for a number of youth, student and adult programs for over 20 years. Some of those programs have been Paul Newman’s The Painted Turtle, The Foundation for the Junior Blind, Adaptive Kids, Ventura P.A.L., Wilderness Education Program, and Pomona College Outdoor Leadership Program. He was responsible for starting the Rock Climbing Program at Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA.
Anyone under Ian’s guidance, whether hiking, biking or rock climbing, will have the outdoor experience of a lifetime. Ian is Wilderness First Responder certified and is C.P.R. certified.
For the past 20 years, Ian has had his own engineering business called Potters Prototypes. He has completed two Marathons and one Half Marathon. In his spare time, he serves on the board of The Ojai Valley Youth Foundation.
While Ian enjoys the outdoors, his hobbies include running, motorcycling, backpacking, mountaineering and eating curry. He says his biggest accomplishment was marrying Stacy 23 years ago.
And now meet Stacy...
Stacy Margolin Potter, while a hiking and biking enthusiast, is more well-known for her accomplishments in the tennis world. Stacy was a professional tennis player on the Women’s Tour from 1977-1987. While competing in over 25 Grand Slam Championships including 8 Wimbledons, 11 U.S. Opens and multiple French Opens, she had many wins over Top 10 players. She reached a World Ranking of #18. Her most recognized mixed doubles partner was World Ranked #1 John McEnroe. As a junior, she won four National titles, and while attending the University of Southern California, playing #1 singles, she won the NCAA’s Singles Title as a freshman, an accomplishment recognized by only a few players.
After her professional career, she coached the Women’s Tennis Team at Pomona College and then completed her undergraduate studies at U.C.L.A. Later, she received her Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. Stacy worked at The Rader Institute for eight years as an Eating Disorder Counselor and Specialist. She continued her education and training at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and became a Certified Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach in 2013, working with clients to achieve their optimal health through her programs and business, Balanced Eating & Lifestyle Coaching, www.stacypotterhealthcoach.com
Besides teaching tennis and managing her health coaching business, Stacy is a Health & Nutrition Consultant, giving lectures and guidance to students at The Weil Tennis Academy, a premier training facility for top ranked junior tennis players. She also lectures at The Oaks at Ojai and other health-related businesses in Ventura County.
Stacy still enjoys playing tennis, yoga, and running, and has completed two half marathons.
She continues to be involved in the tennis world with charity work, giving clinics and mentoring tennis players at U.S.C. From 2000-2013 Stacy served as host for The Ojai Valley Tennis Marathon, which helped raise money for The Ojai Valley Youth Foundation. For the past 12 years, Stacy enjoys her volunteer work at The Help of Ojai, serving the seniors in the Ojai area by making and preparing meals.
Stacy has been inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, The Beverly Hills High School Athletic Hall of Fame and The Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame.
Stacy has made Ojai her home for over 24 years and has a love of life that is infectious, while being attentive, accommodating and understanding to clients’ needs. She will make sure you have an experience to remember in the outdoors and in Ojai. And, she will let you know the best place to eat sushi, her favorite food!
The Fun Begins
So now that you're beginning to understand the expertise these two have to offer in their unique backgrounds, allow me to share their story of how they arrived in the beautiful town of Ojai. The back and forth banter was quite entertaining as Stacy and Ian relayed this to me, which made the endearing story all the more engaging and memorable. Doesn't take long to understand how deep their friendship is and how much they love being with one another. Such a sweet couple.
"What brought us to Ojai was the fact that I played the Ojai tennis tournament from when I was 13 years old, and my brother, who is 6 years older than me, played the tournament. He went to USC, and I eventually followed him and played at USC, as well.
So I remember as a 13 year old watching him as a 19 year old, and all his cute teammates. And all the other guys from Stanford and UCLA, and just loved being there. So I played the tournament, and won it my first year that I played as a 13 year old, and subsequently won it about five more times in juniors, collegiate, and the Open division.
I stayed with a family, the Posgates, when I was 16, and I said 'I'm gonna get a house here some day.' I actually said, 'I'm going to get a second home here, someday. And in actuality, when Ian and I moved here, we bought our first home.
So fast forward, all those years I played The Ojai, then going on the pro tour, and retiring at around age 26, I had come to The Oaks, which is now closed, with my mom to do little spa weekends from LA. It was like the closest thing we could do together to spend mom and daughter weekends. So when I retired at age 26, Sheila Cluff (owner of The Oaks) said, 'why don't you come up and do some tennis clinics for us.' So they created a "tennis week," and Helen Allen and I taught these clinics for The Oaks once a year, and we did it for ten years running.
So on one of those years, I asked Ian—who I was dating at the time— to come up to this beautiful place—Ojai—and stay, and he said, 'well, I know Ojai!' He's from England. How does an English person know about Ojai—a town of 8,000? To which he said, 'I've been rock-climbing there! I haven't seen the town, but I do know the mountains!'
So Ian convinced her to go on a bike ride up Highway 33 — about 27 miles — to where he would climb. Riding her heavy 5 speed Nishiki bike, Stacy said she was about to kill Ian after a few hours riding uphill—especially since she was on 1,000 calories a day while staying at The Oaks. When they finally arrived, Ian said she quickly asked, 'can we go now?'
On the way back down, he asked if she were thirsty. So they stopped at The Wheel to get a beer. Ian explained to her that in his native country of England, they always chased a beer down with Whiskey. She really didn't know what he was talking about—had never heard of a chaser—but she drank it anyway. What happened next created one of their favorite and most funny memories of dating. Picture Stacy riding down Highway 33 with no hands, screaming, 'WooooooHooooooooooo!'
Next morning, Ian asked her to move to Ojai.
"With you?" Stacy asked. "If I do that I'm going to need two things— a ring and a date."
What I basically said was 'I've never lived with anyone before, and I would take this as seriously as marrying someone.'
They moved three months later, in 1995, purchasing a townhome next to the police station on Ventura Street. Unfortunately, two of their special spots in Ojai area were burned down in the Thomas Fire in 2017—The Wheel, and where they got married, Wheeler Hot Springs. But they have continued to live in Ojai, enjoying every minute as they give back to our community in a variety of ways.
The Birth of Trails by Potter
While Stacy continued working at The Oaks—leading hikes—she started a service called "Eating and Exercise Counseling," which she had for 14 years. Ian had been doing some engineering work, but was a little discouraged with business—especially the deadlines and pressure. He looked around at the gorgeous mountains and said, 'nobody is doing bike rides around here!'
Their neighbor, coincidently, had started a hiking company, but hadn't taken clients yet, so they decided to work on it together. Three weeks later, after both of them had purchased a few high-end bikes, the neighbor decided to move his family to Australia. Ian remembers asking Stacy, 'now what am I going to do?'
Stacy ended up talking to Sheila Cluff at The Oaks, who asked them to write up a business proposal, and next thing you know, their business was born. Around the same time, the beautiful bike path was built that connects Ojai all the way down to the beach in Ventura. It's nine miles long, paralleling Highway 33 from Foster Park on the outskirts of West Ventura, to Fox Street in Ojai. One side of the trail is paved for bicyclists, walkers, joggers, and people taking their pets for walks. Perfect timing, since many tourists and visitors to Ojai are interested in this easy trek with beautiful scenery.
A Personal Touch
What sets Trails by Potter ahead of similar companies is their willingness to meet you at your current fitness level—to offer customizable tours especially for you and your party. As Ian said, 'it's not a one size fits all!' Tours include wine tasting, olive oil tasting, hikes to hot springs and water falls, even a Kombucha tasting after a hike! Former clients have gotten engaged on tours, with Stacy & Ian providing champagne for the couple to properly celebrate with. They not only provide snacks, including organic fruit and nuts, but they also elaborate on the rich history of our valley, and recommend places to stay and eat while in town. What's not to love?
So just what does Trails by Potter have to offer you? Glad you asked... They specialize in four different areas:
Hiking • Biking • Rock Climbing • Tennis
Suited for all levels. Hike for 2 to 3 hours in the most beautiful valley in Southern California. Longer hikes can be arranged upon request for an additional fee.
Guided hikes are geared for guest fitness level and interests. Areas include Los Padres National Forest, meadows, oak groves, creeks and swimming holes.
Guests will learn about the nature and history of the Ojai Valley, including herbs, flora and fauna. All hikers are provided with water, snacks and waist-packs. Please bring sunscreen and/or hat. Guests are met a their hotel or designated meeting place.
Bike through the wonderful orange groves of Ojai. Bike to the beach, visit an open air beachside cafe, taste some local wines & local olive oils. Bike rides are available for small and large groups. Bike rides are tailored for your fitness level and needs!
Climbing lessons are available for first timers and experienced climbers and anyone in between.
All equipment is supplied.
The routes are in the Ojai Valley and Ventura County on good quality sandstone, ranging from 5.5 to 5.11 grade and totaling 80 to 200 feet in height.