Hiking & Lake Hopping During the Pandemic

September 24, 2021

Written by Sid Williamson, Hydaway Outdoor Center Manager

Last year, I got the chance to go on several hiking/camping trips with other staff members from the Hydaway Outdoor Center. We did a lot of hikes in the Amherst, Virginia area including Cole Mountain, The Priest (my personal favorite), Spy Rock, and Mount Pleasant. We also did a day trip to the Natural Bridge area where we hiked up the boulder rocks in Devil’s Marbleyard. So, I thought I’d share a little bit about my experience with you to help you plan your next trip!

Bring the Right Gear

When we would go on overnight camping trips, we would checkout gear from the Hydaway Outfitter. There is a detailed list of the equipment students can rent for a weekly, daily, or weekend rate available on the Campus Recreation website. The main items my friends and I would checkout included hiking backpacks, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and 2-man or 4-man tents. I recommend taking one of those sizes as opposed to the 6-man tents that are available because they can be very heavy for the person hiking with them in their hiking packs. Even though most of the weight should be felt on a person’s hips, it can still cause you to get more tired and fall behind due to how heavy the weight is (trust me, I would know!).

Hiking backpacks are very useful in holding all of the essential items needed for a camping trip. The backpacks at Hydaway are Kelty brand and offer many compartments. They are extremely spacious and make it possible to attach gear on the outside as well. I always carry food, extra clothing, a tent, and basic camping tools like a hatchet, knife, and lighter on the inside of my pack. I usually put my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, and water bottle on the outside of my pack especially when I go on longer trips that require more gear in my pack.

Another piece of gear we usually take with us is a jet boil. They are a great investment, especially when you are camping in the wintertime and want to make something warm to eat! My personal favorite is using them to heat up my soup. You can use them to boil water and add to food like oatmeal or drinks like hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. Jet boils have to have a canister of fuel attached to the bottom of them. We would be glad to show you how to assemble your jet boil or any other gear that you own or rent from us!

Lake Hopping in Amherst

Something else I found fun to do during last year was “lake hopping” which has now become one of my favorite memories. I had gone into the Charlottesville area to visit with my grandparents back in the summer. On the way back to Lynchburg, I was sick of being on a main highway, so I got off and went on the back roads thinking they would lead me somewhere. I didn’t just go onto a random road without any sense of direction. I remembered some of the roads because they were the same ones my friends and I had taken on the hiking trips I listed above.

As I was driving along, I saw a sign that said Mill Creek Public Fishing Lake. After I got home, I searched “public fishing lakes in Amherst, Virginia” (because I couldn’t remember the full name). To my surprise there were three different lakes that popped up which were all within a few minutes’ drive from each other. One nice evening, my best friend and I decided we would drive out there, eat Chick-fil-a, go “lake hopping”, and watch the sunset.

Out of all three lakes, Mill Creek was definitely the biggest and the prettiest. This particular lake is open to anyone. They also have grills set up for people to use and a public swimming area. My friend and I are planning to go back to Mill Creek Lake once the leaves are back on the trees, and it’s a little warmer outside. This time, our plan is to bring paddleboards, life vests, and charcoal from the Hydaway Outdoor Center and spend the whole day at the lake with some Chick-fil-A of course.

So, if you’re looking for a new adventure, I highly recommend any of these trips! Don’t forget to check out the Hydaway website to view the gear you can check out from The Outfitter, and visit Liberty.edu/Outdoor-Adventure/ to view our staff-led trips for the semester!