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!
September 2, 2021
Written by Maria Campanella, Assistant Director of Hydaway
Here in Lynchburg, the Blue Ridge Mountains are right in our backyard. For those of you who love to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is an extended weekend trip along the Ridge region with ideas of things to do along the way, places to camp, and overlooks that are worth the stop.At this point, everyone knows about the Blue Ridge Parkway and the beauty of it at every time of year. It really is one of the gems of living
The Peaks of Otter Campground is located at Mile Marker 85.6 along the parkway. They allow tent camping here from the months of May to September, so right around the corner! It is only $20 a night and the campsites have picnic tables, fire rings, and on-site bathrooms. When coming from Bedford, you can follow route 43 to the parkway and the campground is on the left — right before you reach the parkway. You can reserve your spot here.
Sherando Lake Group Camp is another great place in the Blue Ridge Mountains to camp when on the Parkway. It is a bit pricier at $50 a night, but the campsites are bigger, there are on-site bathrooms, and there is a lake at this site for boating, fishing, and swimming! You can book your reservation for this campsite here. These campsites are available April through October!
Stops Along the Way
For those of you that enjoy hiking, there are many hikes to pick from along the Ridge region of the parkway. Here is the extensive list, but a few of them look especially great!
- Flat Top Trail at Mile Post 83.5 is a 4.4-mile moderate hike with beautiful views. I personally have done this hike, and I can confirm that it is a beautiful view!
- Harkening Hill Trail is another one on this list that would be great. It starts at the Peaks of Otter Welcome Center and is a 3.3-mile moderate hike.
- The last one on the list that looks especially great is the Fallingwater Cascades Trail which is a 1.6-mile loop with a great view of the cascades.
Along with hikes, there are many attractions to visit in Virginia that are located along the parkway such as the Virginia Safari Park, the National D-Day Memorial, and Wintergreen Resort. Depending on when you take this trip along the parkway, you can enjoy the safari park, take a guided tour at the memorial, or even go skiing at Wintergreen.
Not everyone likes hiking, so I wanted to make sure I included a list of spots right off the road that is great to stop at for a scenic moment! Ravens Roost Overlook is a beautiful place to park with no hiking necessary. Pine Tree Overlook is in Bedford County, located in the Ridge region of the parkway that is another great place to stop. Lastly, Rock Point Overlook, which is only 15 minutes from Wintergreen if you decide for that to be one of your destinations along the parkway. The great thing about the Blue Ridge Mountains is that there really is no bad place to stop, and there are overlooks around every turn along the parkway.
Perfect Day or Weekend Trip
The great thing about this is you don’t have to have a full weekend. The Blue Ridge Parkway can be a short couple-hour trip, or it can even be a week-long trip with stops in all the different towns it runs through. Either way, I highly recommend taking advantage of all that the parkway has to offer!
August 6, 2021
Written by Carter Brackman, Hydaway Outfitter Manager
Do you ever have the itch to get outside, to feel the fresh air flow through your lungs? Virginia is the place that can provide a solution to that problem. Virginia is loaded with hundreds of different hiking trails, from the coast of Virginia Beach to the mountains of Shenandoah.
It is one of our goals to provide a diverse grouping of trips so that every person has the opportunity to experience the outdoors in a positive way — each person is made uniquely by the Creator, and there are certain outdoor activities that may not appeal to everyone. The same can be said of hiking. There are hikes for all different types of people. So, if you’ve been dying to get on a trail but couldn’t figure out which one to pick, we have some recommendations for you!
Saint Mary’s Waterfall is one of the most beautiful, well-mapped hikes in Virginia. It is an easy hike with very little elevation gain. The trail is located in Raphine, VA which is about an hour and a half drive from Lynchburg. It makes for a great one-day trip. The trail itself begins just off of Saint Mary Rd; there is a large kiosk that gives all the information that you will need to know about the trail and how you can get back to your car safely. The trail follows along a stream that is fed by the waterfall itself. The trail also weaves over this stream for 1.8 miles as you get closer to the waterfall. Make sure you bring slip-resistant shoes as the majority of the hike is rocky and wet as a result of the waterfall and stream.
All-in-all, it is around a 4-mile hike with little elevation and beautiful views the entire time. This would be a great hike for someone with a desire to get outside and take it slow.
Upper Shamokin Falls is a 1-mile loop trail located very close to Wintergreen Resort. The hike is officially in Nellysford, Virginia which sits in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains/Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a short 1-mile hike that actually starts at a high elevation and loops down to the mountain top where the waterfall is. It is a trail that is used for hiking in addition to trail running. This hike is a bit steep and will require caution and a slower pace. But the view at the bottom is gorgeous. This would be a great hike for a group who wanted to do a “destination hike”.
Wintergreen is around one hour away from Lynchburg and offers some great activities for people to do. The hike at Upper Shamokin Falls could be paired with some dinner at Wintergreen Resort or any of the other local restaurants. Make sure you also check out the “One Minute Overlook” and “Raven’s Roost” overlooks off the Blue Ridge if you have the time!
Lastly is Lower White Oaks Falls. This is a 3-mile out and back hike located in Syria, Virginia. This trial is around 2 hours and 15 minutes away and is located within Shenandoah National Park. Just a heads up, Shenandoah National Park charges a fee to enter. These fees are either $35/vehicle or $15/person. You could also purchase a park-specific annual pass for $55 if you anticipate going back to the National Park multiple times during the next year.
It is the most difficult recommendation in this list given the distance and elevation gain throughout the duration of the hike. The trailhead begins at the Whiteoak Canyon Lower Parking lot. There are some areas that are rocky and difficult to traverse. There are also some stream crossing sections so be prepared to get wet. You will need to pack snacks, water, and an extra pair of clothes to sustain you during the hike. This is a hike that we would recommend to someone who desires a slight challenge and desires to be “in the elements”.
We hope you take advantage of these hikes in a safe, fun way!
July 12, 2021
Written by Adam Faber, Hydaway Outfitter Manager
As the school year comes to a close and the campus empties, many of you might be asking, what next? A year hindered by quarantines and hardships of COVID-19, maybe hitting the open road (in a safe way, of course) might be the highlight of your year. If you like exciting new experiences and traveling, then a road trip might be for you. The Hydaway Outdoor Center staff is always willing to lend a helping hand with your trip planning needs, whether it’s a short road trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway or cross country to the beaches of California.
Choose Your Destination
One of the most important parts of planning a road trip is choosing your destination and the route you want to take. Think about your road-tripping style. Would you rather hop in a car and take the back roads with unplanned or planned pitstops, or do you prefer the detailed itinerary filled with guided tours and new people? Are you interested in hitting historical landmarks, touring California beaches, tasting popular bites in big cities, or are you looking to strap on your hiking shoes and walk through national parks? Everything is up to you, and that is the exciting part of road trips!
One of my favorite resources for planning road trips is the RoadTrippers app which allows you to set your endpoint and then provides points of interest along your route. It is full of great information to help you plan, regardless if it is your first time or fifth time!
Consider Your Vehicle
Your vehicle is one of the most critical aspects of the road trip as you will be spending most of your time in it. Depending on how long your road trip will be, it is important to keep an eye on your car’s gas mileage. If you plan on sleeping and living out of your car for the trip duration, sacrificing gas mileage and taking an SUV, truck, or small crossover may be ideal. I know people who have done this and have found it a fun experience with a group of friends. If you prefer a queen-sized bed to yourself, picking hotels along your route and taking a smaller, more fuel-efficient car may be a better option. Before leaving on your adventure, be sure to bring your vehicle in for a tune-up to ensure you won’t run into any unwanted surprises down the road.
Consider Your Budget
Having a budget in mind before you start planning out your road trip is essential to help keep you on track so you don’t break the bank. Road tripping gives you plenty of opportunities to customize details to cut costs. Are you looking to travel cheaply? Plan your route with shorter distances between stops, chose to dine at cheaper restaurants, and stay at local campgrounds instead of expensive hotels. Spending long hours on the open road can seem daunting, so bringing some snacks and drinks along can help lighten the mood and stay within budget. Suppose you plan to hit a couple of national parks with friends on your trip. In that case, I recommend looking into the America the Beautiful Pass that gives one vehicle admission into all National Parks in the country for a nominal cost compared to individual passes for each park.
Get the Necessary Supplies
When setting out on your road-tripping expedition, it is vital to have all the essentials to continue the fun and limit the stress. If you are traveling with a group of friends, it might be wiser to share a couple of larger suitcases than many smaller ones to save room for other supplies or exciting purchases along the way. At Hydaway Outdoor Center, we have a wide variety of outdoor equipment that students, faculty, and staff can rent for their trips. Feel free to check out one of our tents to stay in with friends along with some of our sleeping bags and pads. Our Outfitter also rents out cooking equipment such as Jetboils, camp stoves, and cooking pans if you are up for a culinary challenge of your own. Pre-packaged meals are a great option if you are looking to cook for yourself throughout your trip that taste and work great with our cooking gear. Check out Mountain House for some great meal options that we currently use on our Outdoor Adventure trips!
Stay Flexible & Have Fun
At the end of the day, going on a road trip is all about having fun and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Sometimes leaving some wiggle room in your itinerary for unexpected stops can lead to one of your most memorable experiences. It’s an exciting journey, so where do you want to go?
June 24, 2021
Written by Katy Ward, Assistant Director of Outdoor Adventure
It’s starting to get warm again. It is time to get outside and explore new adventures. So, what are you going to do? Where are you going to go? Do you have a list of places you want to knock out? Or are you open to new possibilities? Well, here I am, giving you a new trip idea, one that I myself have not tried but is on my list!
A 3-day, 28-mile river trip down the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Whether you prefer a kayak or a canoe, this river provides a diverse set of challenges and beautiful scenery. Between slow and peaceful waters and fast class II-III rapids, this trip is good for beginners or experts.
If you want to take this trip but do not have the gear for it, check out Hydaway Outdoor Center’s Rental List for all of your trip needs!
What’s the Plan?
- 8 A.M. – Leave Lynchburg
- 10:30 A.M. – Arrive at Bentonville Boat Ramp to drop your shuttle vehicle
- 10:30 A.M. – Leave Bentonville for Bixler Bridge in Luray, VA
- 11 A.M. – Arrive at Bixler Bridge
- 11:15 A.M. – Set out down the Shenandoah for 13 miles
- 1:30 P.M. – Stop for lunch whenever feels right
- 6:30 P.M. – Pull out river left at The Sandy Beach near High Cliff Rapids just in time for sunset
- 7 P.M. – Enjoy a nice night camping on the river with your favorite campfire meal
- Wake up and make some camp pancakes (or whatever camp breakfast sounds great to you!)
- Send out on the river for a 4-mile stretch (this section has some fun class II-III rapids)
- Pull off to river left at Beach’s Bottom Beach
- Spend the rest of your day in the swimming hole or going down the rapids again
- Camp here tonight and get ready for the rest of your journey tomorrow
- Wake up and make a fresh pot of coffee to start the day right
- Pack your gear up and start out on the final leg of your journey
- Float 10 miles of peaceful river
- Pull off to the Bentonville Boat Ramp on river left, just after the bridge
- Load up your gear and hit the road back home
What Should You Bring?
A packing list for this trip will depend greatly on the weather, but here are some good things to pack in general. Adapt this list to fit the needs of you and your group.
- 3 days’ worth of clothes for the river (think synthetics)
- 3 days’ worth of clothes suitable for sandy beach camping
- A swimsuit
- A rain jacket
- Hat and sunglasses to protect yourself against the sun
- Necessary toiletries, especially sunscreen!
- 1-2 towels
- Water — Probably the most important thing to pack. Stay hydrated! Pack enough water to supply ½ your body weight in ounces for 3 days.
- Food — Pack enough food for 6 meals and snacks too (our favorite snacks at Outdoor Adventure are fruit snacks and Slim Jims, just in case you were wondering).
- A Tent — Make sure it’s large enough to fit you and your gear
- Dry Bags — To make sure your stuff stays out of the water
- A Personal Floatation Device (PFD)
- First Aid Kit — It is important not only to have a FAK, but also to know how to use what is in it. Make sure to freshen up on what you have and why you have it.
- 1-2 Trash Bags — Take all of your trash with you please! Do not dirty our waterways or campsites because you’re not paying attention, if you pack it in, you need to pack it out.
- A River Map — Your phone may let you down, so print out a paper copy of your route and laminate it so it is waterproof.
- Canoe/Kayak + Paddles — This may seem obvious, but sometimes you can forget the most important part of your travel.
Now Let’s Go!
Wait, hold on, a couple more things. Before you go out on any trip, make sure someone knows where you are going and knows your itinerary. Should something happen to you and they don’t hear from you by the agreed time, they should send help. Be prepared and be safe.
Okay, now you can go. Have fun!
April 16, 2021
Written by Mike Ellsworth, Director of Outdoor Recreation
The outdoors has a lot of wildness in it; it’s this wildness that draws us to it. We like to hike on an uncultivated trail and paddle a river that feels untamed. The exhilaration is palpable, and it often drives us to reach outside our comfort zone. Though, often these moments begin to welcome unnecessary risk. Our “danger-senser” takes a back seat to sense of adventure.
I can think back to a few moments (that I’m not proud of), where I chased that exhilaration just a bit too far. Whether I wanted to look fearless in front of my friends or independently paddle that river that I wasn’t ready for. Moments like my own are what have led the drive for our Hike Safe initiative. These are a simple set of guidelines to help you stay safe on your next adventure.
Plan Your Trip Carefully
We all glorify the “last minute adventure,” but if you are having an adventure there is probably some element of risk. So, be sure to do your best to minimize that risk. It is important to take the time to know as much as you can about where you are going and what you are doing. Don’t count on your cell service, it will often abandon you when you need it the most.
Hike With a Buddy or Tell a Friend Where You Are Going
Be sure that someone knows where you are going and when you will be back. If they don’t hear from you, they know to call the local authorities or to come looking for you. This has helped me out on more than one occasion where I broke down and was without my cell phone.
Stay on the Trail
On-trail is measurable safer than off-trail. Usually trails are clear of poisonous vegetation, animal homes and keep their distance from dangerous terrain. Be sure to stay on the trail and abide by all the posted signage.
Practice “Leave-No-Trace” Ethics
Taking care of the environment is first loving God. He created the Earth and stewardship becomes an act of gratitude towards the Creator. So, check out these ethics and do your best to abide by them on all your adventures. Environmental stewardship should come easy to Christians.
Pack the Right Gear
First, be sure to bring more than enough food and water for you day. Be sure to bring more than you think you will need. Having that extra bottle of water or additional granola bar can make a difference when you need them. Second, get a small first aid kit that comes with you on all your trips. There are lots of great resources out there to help you pack it.
Now that you have the simple set of guidelines, there are a few other things to always have in mind as you hike.
Every Trail is Dangerous
Think about each footstep you take down the path. You take those strides lightly as you walk, jog or run them with ease. Though, even a short (3 mile) hike could take several hours for an EMS crew to carry stretcher. All it takes is a sprained ankle or broken leg to turn a fun daytrip into an overnight evacuation.
Every River or Lake is Dangerous
Without a PFD, it can be very easy to be swept under a light current. Death by drowning can occur in just a few short seconds. Because the James River is so accessible, often people go for a “short” river tube trip that turns into a 8 hour float and 2 hour hike back to their car! Be sure to plan and prepare. Know where your river-on and river-off points are. And ALWAYS wear your PFD.
Every Cliff Face is Dangerous
Though, it can make for a sweet selfie, stay on the trail. Crabtree Falls is a beautiful and well-known hike for Liberty students, but it has a dangerous reputation. It is important to stay on the trail and abide by all trail signage. Signage is there for a reason and you are not the exception.
I don’t say these things to inspire fear, I say this to inspire preparedness. We consider it our responsibility to encourage safe exploration and safe adventurers. Whether it is your first hike on LU mountain, or you regularly head out on week-long backpacking trips, these rules should be applied to ensure that you make it back safe and sound.
January 18, 2021
Written by Maria Campanella, Assistant Director of Hydaway
Here at the Hydaway Outdoor Center, we do our best to take care of the environment and practice Leave No Trace principles. This has inspired me to live a more sustainable lifestyle and to be more aware of how things in our day-to-day life affect the environment. Making the jump to a completely sustainable life is a long process, but here are just a few things that you can start doing whether you live on campus or off to decrease your impact on the environment.
I know, this seems like a drastic thing to put at the top of the list, but this is actually a simple way to be more sustainable. Keeping fruit and vegetable scraps and dropping them off at a local compost station is a great way to reduce waste. We have a compost station at Hydaway now where people can bring in their waste!
Make Your Own Everyday Items
There are so many recipes out there to make your own everyday items without chemicals. Here are some of my favorites that I have tried and some that I am hoping to try soon:
On top of these, it is helpful to use bar soaps instead of plastic bottles for as many things as possible.
Reusable Coffee Filter or Keurig Pods
I know many of us enjoy coffee, but K-Cups and coffee filters are a big contribution to waste. You can purchase a reusable K-Cup filter or coffee filter, whatever you prefer, at Walmart, Amazon, Keurig’s Website, or Kohl’s.
Eating fast food and using plastic utensils is something we probably do more often than we realize. Switching to reusable utensils is especially good for on-campus students when eating meals with plastic utensils is an everyday thing. There are affordable alternatives to this — like these!
Reusable Grocery Bags
This is such a little thing, but the amount of plastic grocery bags that you get at the store can so easily be avoided. Many places have them right at the checkout to purchase and they are way bigger than the plastic bags you get. There are also some places, like Kroger, that have a paper bag option at the self-checkout which is another good sustainable switch to make that is simple and easy.
Shop Sustainable Fashion
Fast fashion is an easy trap to fall into. It is convenient, cheap, and trendy. However, so many fast fashion brands are unsustainable and make their products in poor conditions. This website is a great resource to see which brands you love are eco friendly and which brands you should consider withholding purchases from. GoodOnYou will also provide eco friendly alternatives to the fashion brands you love!
Buying things secondhand is a great way to reduce waste! This goes for clothes, books, household items, and more. This also goes for getting rid of things. When you have moved on from an item of clothing or a household item, donate it to Goodwill instead of throwing it out entirely.
Eat Plant-Based Foods
Lastly, if you really want to make a bigger change towards sustainability, eating more plant-based is a great way to help the environment. Amazingly enough, one-fifth of global emissions come from the meat industry. Making a small change and eating less meat and more of a vegetarian diet can help the environment in a big way.
You can do all of these or just a few if you’re interested in helping, but these are all just some simple ways that anyone can make a difference.
January 8, 2021
Written by Katy Ward, Outdoor Adventure Manager
When you hit the trails, you are probably looking for some quality time in the peaceful wilderness. Chances are, you will run into someone else with the same mindset. You’ll have to share the trail, but who is supposed to step off and let the other pass? Do you just both awkwardly squeeze through a space meant for one person? Or do you both step off and do a little dance until someone quickly walks through, avoiding eye contact? Believe it or not, there is a proper way to handle this situation.
At Campus Recreation we offer programs that assist you to stay on track such as Personal Training, Group Exercise Classes, Intramural Sports, and nine facilities that are here to meet your needs and holistic well-being during your time at Liberty. So, this year, take 2021 by the reins, and seek to be your best self in all phases of life. To help with this, we are offering some great deals on all our fitness programming at LaHaye Recreation & Fitness Center, so check them out below!
Hiker v. Hiker
You’re hiking to the top, pushing for your destination and someone is coming down the trail in front of you. What do you do? Proper etiquette says that you have the right of way. Hikers headed away from the hike’s destination should move to the side, allowing upwards hikers to pass. This is because the hike up is almost always harder than the hike down. It boils down to common courtesy; if you have seen the views, allow others to get there too.
When hiking in a group, be sure to be kind. Stay in a single file line as much as possible, but especially when others are common. Keep voices low, allowing others to enjoy the sounds of nature. Avoid playing music through a loudspeaker of any kind. This can be disruptive for others and for yourself. Take your time in the woods to listen to the noises God has melded into a beautiful song.
Hiker v. Biker
Avid mountain bikers can zip around corners and down trails, which can be intimidating to a hiker. The first instinct is for the hiker to move to the side, but etiquette has the biker yielding to the hiker. Most mountain bikers will call out when they are coming quickly down a path or around a corner, to alert any possible pedestrians.
While proper etiquette says the hiker has the right of way, it is going to be easier for the hiker to move out of the way. It is important for either party to stay alert for each other, to avoid any possible accidents. If it is safer to move out of the way, forget etiquette and stay safe.
Hiker v. Horse
When you are hiking, it is probably rare to run into a horse, but it is not unlikely. If this should happen, correct etiquette allows the horse and rider to pass first, whether they are coming up or down. They are the slower party and horses can be flighty, so it is necessary to let them do their own thing. Hikers should move to the side and admire the beautiful party as they pass.
Remember to be soft and quiet when a horse approaches. You do not know what may trigger them. Stand still and under no circumstances should you reach out to pet the horse unless the rider offers first.
Be Kind. Be Courteous.
Overall, just be kind and treat others as you would like to be treated. If it seems appropriate to move out of the path, even if you have the right of way, just do it. Throw a smile and a “hello” to the passerby and continue your trek as soon as possible. Enjoy the sights and sounds that the woods have to offer.
December 10, 2020
Written by Eljiah Stanley, Outdoor Adventure Manager
Greetings from Campus Recreation! Fall is upon us and that makes for perfect camping weather and beautiful mountain scenery. If you are looking for a quick getaway that will take you into rugged and beautiful forests, look no further than the George Washington National Forest. This protected forest is only forty minutes from Liberty’s campus and is a camping and adventure paradise.
George Washington National Forest
George Washington National Forest holds a plethora of welcoming riverside campsites that are large enough to host you and your most adventurous friends. Hunting Creek Road in Big Island, Virginia is the best access to plenty of free, first-come, first-serve campsites that are neighbored by a gorgeous trout-filled river. Any vehicle can easily make the trip up the gravel road to the campsites, making it easy to unload and set up tents or any other camping gear. These camping areas are best suited for tent camping and most include a small fire pit.
After you’ve set up camp, and you have started a fire, it is the perfect time to start dinner. Freeze-dried Mountain House meals are tasty, lightweight, and packable entrees made just for camping. We have been using them on our trips this semester, and we have really enjoyed them. My personal favorite is the chicken & fried rice entrée. They are so easy to use — all you need is some boiling water! Simply bring two cups of water to a boil, pour the water into the meal container, stir, and wait for five minutes. Then, your delicious fireside meal is ready to enjoy! Mountain House meals are ideal for any outdoor adventure and offer a variety of options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The most ideal way to heat water for your Mountain House meal, your coffee, or tea is the Jetboil personal cook system.
The Jetboil is a safe, easy-to-use system that is made to boil up to one liter of water in a surprisingly short amount of time. Just screw in a propane source to the bottom and press the ignition. Within minutes you will have boiling water to make your ideal fireside meal. Jetboils are lightweight and efficient, making them a practical piece of gear that every camping enthusiast should look to acquire. But, if you aren’t quite ready to buy your own, we have some available to rent at the Hydaway Outdoor Center!
Now that dinner is taken care of, what’s next? Perhaps you and your friends would be interested in wetting a line in the clear, trout-filled water of Hunting Creek. If you have a fishing rod, you’ll definitely want to add it to the packing list. Merely feet away from your campsite is a premier brook trout fishery. Fishing this stream makes for a fun after-dinner excursion.
As you wrap up your evening, take a moment to stargaze the immaculate view from the George Washington National Forest. Fall nights in the Blue Ridge mountains can be frigid, so always remember to prepare your gear accordingly. A down sleeping bag with a low-temperature rating is the ticket to staying warm when camping in the mountains. Also, remember to pack lots of layers as the fall weather in Virginia can change rapidly. With the proper gear, clothing, and the best of friends, you will be ready to enjoy a secluded weekend of fireside chats and gorgeous scenery. As we near final exams, a weekend getaway will be the remedy to your academic induced stress!
November 6, 2020
Written by Carter Brackman, Hydaway Outdoor Center Manager
It seems like we are all pressed for time these days. We all need time where we get away from the normal schedule of each day and refresh. What is the best way to do this? How about taking a free Saturday and going on a nice day hike? With the fall weather setting in it is the perfect time to explore the outdoors! If this sounds like something you would be interested in then Virginia’s got you. This post recommends that you wake up early one day and explore two of Virginia’s most beautiful and underrated hikes.
First Things First
Hike with a Group
When exploring new places it is always a good idea to bring along some friends. There is something about being in nature that just brings people together. It also helps ensure your safety as you travel and hike. Also, make sure to tell someone outside of your group of your location and estimated hike time to just cover all your bases.
Comfort and Protection
You want the hiking experience to be as fun as possible. Comfort level is a large contributor to this. Some of the following items could be packed: snacks (trail mix, bananas, granola bars), sunscreen, mini first-aid kit, rain jacket, bug spray, water, and a backpack to store it all in!
It can be difficult to find the trailheads of certain trails. We recommend using resources such The Outbound or AllTrails to learn about the difficulty, length, and location of the trail. You should also take into consideration the time it will take for the hike and the weather. And always stay on the designated trail!
Recommendation #1 – Mount Pleasant
The first stop that you have to make is Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant is located in Vesuvius, VA. This is a great hike for beginners who desire a longer distance hike (roughly 5 miles round trip). Most Lynchburg locals have heard of Cole Mountain right? Well, Mount Pleasant is the sister mountain of Cole Mountain. The Mount Pleasant trailhead is within a half mile of the Cole Mountain trailhead, which are both located off of Wiggins Spring Rd in Vesuvius, VA. At the summit there are two lookouts: one east facing and one west facing. Cole Mountain can be seen from this summit. The Mount Pleasant Scenic Area is part of the George Washington National Forest and does not require any passes or permits for entrance or hiking so enjoy the hike!
Recommendation #2 – Spy Rock
Spy Rock is located in Montebello, VA. The views from this hike are unbelievable. This hike is also located in the George Washington National Forest. This is a shorter hike (roughly 2 miles round trip) which provides a 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Spy Rock is a great location for camping as well. The Spy Rock Trailhead is located near the Montebello Fish Hatchery which provides hikers with a small parking area. Look for signs that point out the Appalachian Trail and take a left. This trail will take you over to Spy Rock.
Hopefully after reading this you feel better prepared and more excited for a hiking trip in Virginia. Remember that the best trips start with great planning. Be safe!