May 1, 2020
Written by Carter Brackman
This month, the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. It was first celebrated on April 22, 1970 with the purpose of raising awareness on the negative impact mankind has on the environment and the earth as a whole. Gaylord Nelson, who was the senator of Wisconsin in 1969, founded the idea with the hope of inspiring all Americans to environmental awareness. He witnessed a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California that infused energy and passion into the cause.
What began as a small awareness project has grown to be one of the largest secular observance days in the world. According to earthday.org, more than a billion people participate in the day each year. Social media feeds are flooded with pictures of the most beautiful places in the world. From the professional photo of the Grand Tetons to the backyard sunset photo taken on an iPhone, the world takes a moment to recognize the beauty of this planet.
The initial movement of Earth Day promoted that people are polluters to the earth, causing its toxic decline. The goal of the movement is to bring the grandeur of natural creation to the forefront, in hopes people will reevaluate their lifestyles to keep that creation flourishing. But what if people are focusing on the wrong thing? What if the “sustaining creation” is only the first step?
Psalm 95:4-5 says, “In His hands are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land.” The high peaks of the Swiss Alps belong to Him. The depths of the Grand Canyon belong to Him. Even sunlight on your face and the air you breathe belongs to Him. Our adoration of creation should ultimately turn us to worship of the Lord. It is unfathomable how the beauty of this world came to be – some would say it’s a miracle. But we cannot overlook the greatest miracle of all: the fact that we were ever here to begin with. The fact that God dreamed us up, created this world, and gave it to us for our enjoyment and His glory.
There is nothing wrong with sustainability, in fact, Christians are called to stewardship of creation. Here at Outdoor Rec, stewardship is one of our core values. Here are some ways that we tangibly practice stewardship of creation (and we encourage you to practice them as well:
- Pick up trash. We have over 50 miles of trails that cover around 3,500 acres. The trash clean up never ends on the trail system! We would love to have you do CSER with us take care of the gift we have been given.
- Switch to Reusables. This can as simple using a Hydroflask instead of a plastic water bottle daily or bringing a cloth bag to the grocery store with you.
- Shop local or grow your own produce. Look for those businesses that are mission-driven. Lynchburg Grows, The Lynchburg Community Market, Blue Ridge Bucha, and Keep Virginia Cozy are great businesses and nonprofits to look into. Also, getting a potted tomato or cucumber plant is an easy way to help you connect with your food!
- Unplug. Just take a much needed break from the technology and lower your ecological footprint. Pausing to take time to embrace the world around you will help you to develop and grow your appreciation of His works.
Hopefully these things listed above will help you participate in Earth Day with the correct worldview. We hope that next time you are blown away by nature, you will think about the Creator that that nature represents!
April 16, 2020
Written by Joe Frey
We have all seen them around Hydaway and the trails, most of us own one and we all love using them! Hammocks. There may be a bit more to this fancy piece of fabric than you know. So let’s dive in and discuss the hammock; both as a means to “hang out” with friends and a great camping option!
To better understand the hammock it is important to know the history and how it has been used in the past. Hammocks have been around for hundreds of years. As history goes, the hammock was invented by Mayan civilizations as a way to protect them from the environment around them. They were then adopted by sailors as a way to ease sea sickness during voyages. Used widely in the 16th century all the way to our present time.
In 2016 there was dramatic rise in interests among hammock. The term “hammocking” became a trendy phase among millennials to describe a social way for them to “hang out” with their friends. People realized you didn’t need to be camping in a forest, you could put you hammock up anywhere. With this rise in interest outdoor enthusiasts also began to use the hammock more as a means of camping. Making the decision to leave the tent at home and only bring a hammock.
Benefits of Hammocks:
- Health: It has been proven that sleeping in hammocks provides better circulation, better sleep, and eases muscle aches. Much of this is due to your body being in an “optimal sleeping position” and there being zero pressure points on your body. It also takes us right back to that “cradled baby” sensation that we remember from our early months of life.
- Adventure: Having a hammock can be a great motivator to get outside and find a new creative way to hang your hammock. Hammocks are a great thing to bring on a hike as they take up little space and have many uses.
- Above the safety line: Whether you’re backpacking, camping, or just napping being above the ground will ensure you are out of the wet, mud, and critters.
- Multitude of Uses: Much of the increased use of hammocks can be related to their many uses. Hammocks can be used as a chair, bed, blanket, and more. Other uses can come from their straps and carbineers that many include. After taking a course in wilderness medicine it is also very apparent that hammocks have many survival uses. To learn more about the uses your hammock has be sure to check the manufacture’s suggestions for use.
While this is a short list, I hope that it opens your eye to some of the many benefits hammocks can have in your adventures. They are very useful tools and I want to encourage you to do your own to research to see how your hammock can best serve you.
April 8, 2020
Written by Katy Ward
You have probably found that you have a lot more time on your hands then normal and may be getting a bit bored. The outdoors is a fantastic place to both social distance yourself and spend all that newfound time. Here are a couple of hikes that can be done on the Liberty Mountain Trail System. There are 50 square miles of trails to hike, of all different challenges. Choose the hike that best suits your goals for your afternoon, whatever they may be!
A Nice, Leisurely Stroll
If you are looking for something that you can do at your own pace and does not have much of an elevation change, there is a beautiful loop close to the Hydaway facility.
- Begin following Falwell Rd. and walk about ¼ of a mile.
- Turn right onto Raccoon Alley and hike its entirety
- Once you reach the end of Raccoon Alley, you should be at Great Escape
- Take a right onto Great Escape and walk until you reach Falwell Rd again.
- Congratulations! You just completed a 2-mile loop!
A Brisk Trek
Interested in getting out for a little while, with a slight challenge? This hike will take your breath away with the beautiful creek that flows through and with the elevation changes.
- Start at the Disc Golf Parking lot (the gravel lot on the left that is just before Hydaway’s gates) and travel down Lake Hydaway Rd.
- Follow Lake Hydaway Rd. for about 0.5 miles and turn left onto Trail Too Far.
- Trail Too Far is a beautiful trail that will take you over some bridges along a small stream and then a steady uphill climb to the towards Chaldlers Mountain Rd. This will total up to be about 1.5 miles.
- Once at the top, you will take a right back onto Lake Hydaway Rd. and follow that mountain road for 2.3 miles until you are back at the gravel lot where you started.
- On only two trails you just completed almost 4.5 miles!
A Long, Diverse Journey
Looking for something that will take a couple of hours? Something that will give you lots to see and plenty of challenging climbs? This 9-mile hike takes you around the entire trail system and has plenty of good views.
- Embark on the Hydaway end of Falwell Rd and follow until you see our campsites.
- Once at the campsites, head right to find Great Escape. You will be on Great Escape for 2.5 miles.
- When you reach the end of Great Escape, you will take a right onto Clearcut Rd. but only follow that for a very short time until you see A Walk in the Park on your left.
- Turn left onto A Walk in the Park and hike that trail for 2 miles.
- You should now have reached Dead End Alley, take a right and walk a short bit until you hit Flames Rd.
- Turn left onto Flames Rd. This will take you up and down some fun hills and you will follow this road for 1.5 miles.
- Flames Rd. turns into Monogram Rd. which will provide a beautiful view of Lynchburg and Liberty’s campus. Finishing out Monogram is 1 mile.
- Once you have completed Monogram, you will be at the Snowflex facility. The little parking lot at the bottom of Snowflex is where you will turn left to find the gravel trail which is Falwell Rd.
- Simply go around the gate and start the final leg of your journey.
- Hike out Falwell Rd. until you are back at Hydaway.
- You just achieved 9 miles for the day!
Create Your Own Hike!
Our trail map is available online for download, or you can pick up a copy at any trail kiosk. There are many too many trails to mention in one sitting, so get creative and explore what the Liberty Mountain Trail System has to offer! Find something that fits your needs, whether that is a relaxing walk or an intense uphill burn, our trail system can work for you.
March 13, 2020
Written by Luke Whitmire
It is incredible to read and listen to the stories of outdoor adventurers that have been pushing the boundaries over the recent years. Names such as Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and Colin O’Brady have become household names through their daring adventures and accomplishments in the outdoors. Why do their stories matter to us? Many of us will never accomplish what these professionals have, so what can we learn from them besides a cool story?
One of our values here at Outdoor Recreation is adventure. Adventure is a very vague word and can be used to describe everything from a daring new type of activity to a late-night run to Walmart with your friends, so let’s dig deeper into the word. Our department defines our adventure value by striving to use exciting undertakings to intentionally explore the people and places that surround us.
“We strive to use exciting undertakings to intentionally explore the people and places that surround us.”
-Outdoor Recreation Core Values-
It is important to recognize that this means that adventure is subjective to each person and will vary based on a person’s comfort levels. We see this often throughout our daily lives here at Outdoor Recreation. A great example is our zipline and high ropes course. Our zipline here gets many different reactions from many different people. To the experienced zipliner, our setup may not seem the most exciting, adventurous thing out there, and that’s okay. However, to someone who is afraid of heights and is uncomfortable with being suspended in the air, it can be extremely terrifying and adventurous! It is important to recognize that both of these experiences are valid and acceptable. If you are comfortable with it, seek something else out at a higher level that will be challenging for you! However, we must always remember not to look down on others based on what they are comfortable doing. We must always seek to challenge ourselves, whatever level we are at. The important thing is not the level activity you are doing, such as a calm paddle down the James River versus level four rapids, but the fact that you are seeking to challenge yourself and grow through adversity.
Adventure can teach you very important things. In order to challenge yourself and combat your fears, it requires self-discipline, to force yourself to continue through the fear and adversity. It requires the ability to set goals and persevere to follow through on those goals. These lessons can be applied in all areas of our lives. The area you want to challenge yourself in may not even be in the outdoors and it may not even be something you are afraid of! Maybe you want to be more consistent in exercising or maybe you want to read more. Whatever your goals may be, the self-discipline and goal accomplishing mindset that can be learned in the outdoors is applicable to you no matter where you go in life!That’s why we should pay attention to things like Collin O’Brady’s crossing of the Antarctic or Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of El Capitan.
What’s your El Capitan? What’s something that sounds absolutely crazy, yet is attainable through hard work and a willingness to push yourself? The best way to grow, both in the outdoors and in your everyday life, is to seek out adventure and to be uncomfortable. So, face that fear, go on that new trip, and seek out adventure every chance you get. Get uncomfortable.
February 27, 2020
Written by Maria Campanella
I have been working for Hydaway almost four years now. During my time here, I have had many opportunities to work our trail race events. Every time I am able to do this, I always be sure to hang out at the Finish Line and watch all the runners at that pinnacle moment. Since working my first race I have always wanted to experience that accomplishment. However, it just felt like a pipe dream and I never actually thought I would be here now, writing a blog about how I ran the Arctic 5K. But here we are…
I always felt inspired the day of these races to start running, but when it came time to actually do something about it, I never did. Until last November when my friend and roommate, Naomi, came home one day and asked if I wanted to run the Arctic 5K with her. I immediately said YES! We started “training” pretty soon after deciding to run the race. We ran in our neighborhood or in local parks mostly, starting with small distances and built up to the 5K. Neither of us started the process really excited to run, but as we did it more and more, we both knew it was growing on us! I always wanted to love running and although I wouldn’t go as far to say that yet, this was a good first step.
After a few months, we finally made it to February 1st, RACE DAY!! The atmosphere of the races is upbeat and exciting, we were ready to go. It was nice to be with Naomi and my work friends to help me with my morning jitters. They made me feel encouraged and excited for the run. The actual race was really hard, I won’t lie. Even though it felt like we ran and prepared well, there was rough terrain and the majority of the first half of the race is uphill. We definitely walked a bit and I fell on the way down about four times, lol embarrassing. BUT, we crossed the finish line and WE DID IT!
If you are thinking about running and don’t know where to start, here is what I have to say. These are what helped to encourage me and hope they will help you get there as well:
Find a running partner! I mean it when I say I probably would not have been able to run this race if I didn’t have someone who was willing to make time and run with me. It is so much easier to be motivated when you have someone holding you accountable and doing it with you! This was the most important part for me personally!
Sign up for the race early. Register as soon as you know you want to do it. This is another small way to hold yourself accountable. Not to mention you get a shirt out of it if you do this step ?
Be aware that it will be challenging, but the racing community is so encouraging. Multiple times on the course I had positive interactions with the other people running around me. One even helped me after falling; it was a small thing but really helped me feel reinvigorated! Everyone seems to look out for each other. You start the race as strangers, though you feel closer to them after the race. A difficult and exhausting experience like the Arctic 5k really brings people together.
You will feel really accomplished once it is over. I was as happy to cross the finish line as I had always hoped I would be after witnessing it so many times. It was worth the process!
If you’re interested in running one of our races, check out the Outdoor Recreation website to get started. You won’t regret it!
February 17, 2020
Written by Katy Ward
Have you ever unexpectedly found a new passion? Something that you had no idea existed but once you discovered it, you fell in love? I have.
In February 2018, Liberty University Outdoor Recreation facilitated its first caving trip. I had the privilege of being one of these initial participants to embark on this new adventure. When I first heard about the trip, it instantly caught my attention. I had been Free Climbing for a couple of years before and the thought of trying a new aspect of climbing (caving), piqued my interest. I was nervous for sure, did not really know what to expect, but was along for the ride nonetheless.
We pulled into this little gravel lot in the middle of nowhere Virginia, an empty field on one side and a small patch of woods on the other. It was here, where we meet our James River Grotto guides. They walk us through the process of getting geared up; helmets, headlamps, knee pads, dry bags, and snacks are necessities for the trip. We then walk down a small winding path to the cave entrance, to a literal hole in the ground. It’s at this point that I think to myself, “What did I get myself into?”
As we shimmy ourselves through this hole, the only light comes down on us from the entrance of the cave. We sit in the darkness for a few minutes to let our eyes and ears fully adjust to our surroundings. There is barely a sound, just the slight pattering from the rain drops outside. Then, we turn our headlamps on and find a massive room full of rock formations, large cracks and crevasses along the walls. As my eyes adjusted, I found it all one color, an earthy brown, but all sorts of shades. I never thought the muddy brown of rock could look so beautiful.
Our guide take us through the cave, knowing the way from past explorations. We crawl and climb carefully through the muddy insides of the cave to a larger bedroom sized space nicknamed, the “Junction Room”. This area offers multiple options of where to go next. One group goes up, spidering their way across two steep rock faces, another climbs down to a river that flows through the cave, and the rest of us stay to explore the “Junction Room” itself.
Off to one side, we found a section called “The Maze”. You have to hoist yourself up 8 feet onto a rock shelf, where you crawl down to find yourself walking through these captivating rock pillars. We do not go too deep into the maze because it would be very easy to get lost without the ability to navigate the passageways.
After all meeting back in the “Junction Room”, our time in the cave is closing in and we are all amazed that four hours have passed. As we exit, crawling through the same hole in the ground, we find snow peacefully falling instead of rain and we all feel a little more at ease. The invigorating attitude of accomplishment from trying something new, beginning to wash over us.
This trip lit a spark in me. I fell in love with every aspect of caving. Each time I enter a cave, even if I have been there before, it looks different. There are new features to take in, sounds to hear, and open opportunities to explore God’s creation on a whole new level.
My first trip caving is a memory that I will always hold close to my heart and I hope that through Outdoor Recreation’s caving trips, others will be able to experience the same feelings.
January 13, 2020
Written by Tim Lewis
It’s the New Year and the spring semester is upon us! What’s on your adventure bucket list this year? We hope that you will find your niche on one of our diverse outdoor experiences listed below. Here at Outdoor Rec, we are passionate about connecting people to outdoor spaces while being mindful of stewardship and safety. We also love to cater to all ability and experience levels from complete beginners to seasoned enthusiasts. Our commitment to experimental education allows us to truly develop future outdoor enthusiasts and professionals.
This year we are excited to open all registrations on the first day of school, January 13th. We hope this will promote early registrations and allow participants to plan ahead and prepare for their adventures with us. Remember this semester to stop by one of our promo tables or the outfitter at Hydaway and ask us how we can meet your needs. We have a plethora of local outdoor advice, gear rentals, and ways to connect with Outdoor Recreation.
We hope to see you out there!
1/23 + 1/30 + 2/8 | Ski and Snowboard
Be sure to take advantage of our 3 Wintergreen Resort dates this semester! We will spend 2 Thursday nights (1/23 + 1/30) and 1 full day (2/8) up at the resort enjoying the powder. Snowflex will offer optional rentals and lessons before the trip and Outdoor Rec will provide transportation and snacks. Thursday nights: $25 + $5 rentals. Full day Saturday: $35 + $5 rentals.
2/22 | Caving
For this trip we will be exploring Crossroads Cave in Bath County, VA! The James River Grotto will lead us into the underground labyrinth of the cave and show us a new way to adventure. We will provide headlights, food, and transportation. All you need to bring is your sense of adventure and a change of clothes. Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $10!
2/22 | Mountain Biking
We will be heading to Falling Creek Park in Bedford, VA for a fun day of mountain biking on trails and testing your skills on their obstacle course! This beautiful park offers a plethora of outdoor recreation opportunities and is a great location for both beginner and experienced bikers. Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $10!
3/15-21 | SPRING BREAK
This year we will be traveling to Florida for a multi-day river camping trip along the Suwannee River! We will begin at Suwannee River State Park and paddle over 5 days to Troy Springs State Park, a total of 45 miles! We will stop each night at a new river camp or park and enjoy campfires, good times, and delicious food. We will be tent camping most nights on platforms and group sites along the river. We plan to have one full rest day in Lafayette Blue Springs State Park to swim/snorkel in the springs, hike, bike, as well as relax in the park. Hot showers and bathrooms will be available most nights along the river. We hope you will join us for this awesome adventure! Transportation, meals, gear, and instruction for only $250!
3/28 | Horseback Riding
Every semester we enjoy a trip to Reba Farm Inn & Saddle Soar in Bedford, VA. This privately owned farm offers students a unique chance to ride rescued and rehabilitated horses in a beautiful mountain setting. This unique Western riding experience also allows for a chance to run your horse and learn confidence in leading your horse on the trail. Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $25!
3/28 | Sunrise Hike
Be the first to see the sunrise from beautiful Cole Mountain! This trip features a short hike to an open mountain meadow where eastern and western views can be observed. Transportation, breakfast, and instruction for only $10!
4/3-4 | Whitewater Rafting
Spring is New River season in West Virginia! Alpine Ministries provides us with expert instruction and facilitation down the Class III-V rapids and provides us with a delicious lunch and devotional on the river bank. Spots fill up quickly, so be sure to secure your spot as soon as possible! Transportation, breakfast/lunch, and instruction provided for only $60!
4/4 | Fly Fishing
Come enjoy a full day of professionally guided fly fishing on the Piney River at Rivenridge Lodge. Angler’s Lane hosts LU each semester at this pristine lodge and teaches us how to cast, select the right flies, and catch beautiful native trout. This trip got me started in the sport years ago and it can for you as well. Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $25!
4/8 | Moonlight Horseback Riding
We love it when we get to visit Reba Farm Inn & Saddle Soar twice in one semester! This time we are going at night to enjoy the full moon. Come enjoy a cool spring night ride followed by a bonfire and refreshments at the foot of the Peaks of Otter. Transportation, refreshments, and instruction for only $25!
4/18 + 4/25 | Kayaking
We are a river loving crew at Outdoor Rec! This classic paddle will take us to the Upper James River where we will paddle 6 miles from Buchanan to Arcadia. This classic trip features several Class I-II rapids and mountain views. Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $10!
4/18 | Rock Climbing
This is the first year we have done an all-day rock climbing trip! This trip will take us to Wintergreen Mountain where we will sport climb with Urban Mountain Adventures! Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $25!
4/24-26 | Spring Camping
There are few spots as beautiful as Grayson Highlands State Park! We will spend the weekend hiking Mount Rogers (VA’s highest point) and biking along the Virginia Creeper Trail. This trip boasts impressive Virginia scenery and wildlife all within 4 hours of Lynchburg. Transportation, meals, gear, and instruction for only $60!
5/2 | Senior Tubing
Graduating this May? Come out and enjoy a relaxing float trip down the Upper James River to wash away the stress of exams. We will certainly welcome all classmen levels on the river, though favor the seniors first for this trip! Transportation, lunch, and instruction for only $10!
January 10, 2020
Written by Mike Ellsworth
New Year’s can be a wonderful time full of resolutions and goals. Sadly, most of these attempts for personal betterment go unfulfilled. Why does this so often happen? Well, for me, it is because I am trying to do something in my life that I don’t like to do, to make an aspect of my life more positive. For example, I want to sleep better at night, so I want to enforce a bedtime with no screens after a certain hour. But, what often happens is that I want to stay up late to binge watch Big Bang Theory again… So, I miss out on the opportunity for betterment. I am trying to get positive effects with seemingly negative action. What if you were able to seek positive effects with a positive action?
Well, I’ve got one for you. Set up a New Year’s resolution right now to spend more time outdoors. Being outside is fun, relaxing and great way to create new experiences for yourself. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately and there are several studies out there proving that a simple positive action (15 minute hike through your wooded neighborhood) can create some amazingly positive effects in your life.
For hundreds of years, the outdoor enthusiast has known about these benefits. People often use positive phrases like “it helps me de-stress or feel better”, “it really encourages me”, or “helps me to disconnect and clear my head” to describe their natural experiences. More and more academic research is verifying those statements! There is continual research being done that reinforces the idea that spending time in nature can be helpful in treating symptoms such as anxiety, high blood pressure, insomnia and depression.
As little as 20 minutes spent in nature has been shown to help in the following areas:
Anxiety and Stress
The Great Outdoors Lab is a collaborative effort to demonstrate that nature can have clinical uses in the treatment of anxiety and stress disorders. “We hope to make public lands part of a common healthcare prescription,” says Sierra Club Outdoors director Stacy Bare. Stacy is an Iraq War veteran who has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The research alliance has been working with military groups to show how spending extended time in nature can help inspire awe and are trying to increase our understanding of how nature deeply affects our emotional and mental state.
Yuma University research Yoshifumi also is one of the scientists that has been working on studying the effects that nature can have to decrease stress levels. His research has shown that just a 15 minute walk in the woods decreases cortisol (primary stress hormone) 16%, drops blood pressure 2% and lowers your heart rate 4%! I can’t think of any over-the-counter medication with those kind of instant results. It is no wonder that nature therapy is being used more and more as treatment and preventative medicine to help patients to unwind and process stressful experiences.
Insomnia and other Sleep Problems
There are several reasons why we struggle to get enough zzz’s on a nightly basis. Whether your root is too much caffeine, excess amounts of screen time or struggles with anxiety; a simple trip into nature may act as a helpful cure. These triggers all act against our circadian rhythm, or internal clock. This makes it far more difficult for us to fall asleep, so we end up staring at the ceiling while our head sits on the pillow.
I don’t know about you, but when I go camping and we are sitting around the campfire telling stories and making jokes, eventually someone will stand up, rub their eyes and say “well…it’s getting late, I’m gunna head to bed”. Then someone else unexpectedly looks up from their watch and exclaims that it is only 9:30pm! Usually everyone laughs and it leads into another long conversation about the great nights of sleep we get while camping.
The data backs this up. Even just a few nights in the woods, away from unnatural light, can set your internal clock back several hours. Getting you right back into sync with the rising and the setting sun. Your body begins to release melatonin naturally to help you slip into more restful nights.
Provides Opportunity for Positive Encouragement and Self-Reflection
It is no secret that the Japanese culture is into self-reflection and finding methods to seek peace in their lives. We have all heard of Zen gardens, various meditation practices and different martial arts techniques focused on self-awareness and inner peace. But the Japanese government has spent a lot of resources in a new path towards peace. “Forest Bathing” or “shinrin-yoku” has been a regular practice in Japan for years. It is becoming more and more popular. It is said that it “has the power to counter illnesses including cancer, strokes, gastric ulcers, depression, anxiety and stress.” The Japanese government is so fully invested in these studies that they devoted 62 forests across Japan and are maintained and accredited by government entities.
As Christians, we understand that God created the heavens and the earth. When we revel in his creation, we revel in his glory. When we are comforted by nature, we are being comforted by Him. I often think of this while I hike and spend time outdoors. Whether it is the rushing of a West Virginia river, the smell of fresh rain or the pleasing bark from my dog as he rolls in the grass. These are gifts that the Lord provides for me to enjoy, to help me know that I am loved, valued and cared for. I also feel the awe of his might and power as I look up the trunk of an oak tree that has been standing for hundreds of years. I feel that Christ-focused forest meditation points us to God and scripture is full of individuals seeking wilderness for rest and guidance, including Jesus himself.
So, how to do it? That is important. We can’t just expect to grab our keys, wallet and head outdoors. You will get out what you put into your outdoor experiences.
- Be Proactive and plan time for nature
At Outdoor Rec, we view adventure as an intentional exploration of the nature around us. A beneficial outdoor experience requires planning and most important, intentionality. As you head out on your next walk on Liberty Mountain, think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and be sure that you plan ahead and prepare to make the experience enjoyable.
- Truly disconnect from your technology
Don’t just put in your headphones and turn on Spotify! Turn your phone OFF. Trust me, you can go off-grid for 90 minutes. This is what truly helps with anxiety and stress. It is a feeling of pure peace. Knowing that no notification (app or human) is able to intrude on this time. This should be a place for you and your thoughts. Even music has a tendency to interfere with that. There is a time and place for music and community. But, there is also a time and place for silence and solitude.
- Use your senses
Use all 5 senses as you walk. Look at all the rocks, tree bark, leaves and plants. Listen for the rustle of a squirrel or chirp of a bird. Smell fragrances of nature and taste the fresh air. Touch the trees and feel the grass with your toes. Too often we only engage a few of our senses and miss out on unique moments of discovery.
- Tell your friends and share your experiences
Share the joy. Christians are built for community. We should share our experiences with others. Allow them their input and encourage others to participate. Research new ways that you can experience nature and the wilderness that is all around us.
This semester, we are offering a new type of event. On the first Monday of every month, our staff will meet up at Snowflex for a regular hike. This hike will be focused on wellness. They may include some materials for reflection, silent moments for prayer or just a time to get away and unwind during the week. These “Wellness through Wilderness” hikes are a great opportunity for those who feel tired, alone or burned out. Come visit with us, we want to encourage wellness in your life.
If you want to learn more about how spending time in nature is beneficial to your mental and physical health, be sure to read “The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams. I am planning on reading it this month and it comes highly recommended.
November 22, 2019
Written by Carter Brackman
As we wind down this year, many people are most likely feeling the stresses of life. For some, they are anticipating the upcoming exams and assignments that are soon due. For others, they continually punch that 9pm-5pm clock, eagerly waiting for Christmas break. One thing is for sure, all await for joyful time with family and a change of pace from their everyday routine.
And while the wonderful holiday season is close, they should not be substitutes for contentment in where life is now. Each day we wake up with breath in our lungs. This is such a gift from the heavenly Father. It is a gift that should be recognized and acted upon.
At Hydaway, we have five values that we implement into the things we do here: stewardship, camaraderie, adventure, professionalism, and experiential education. I want to focus on the final pillar. Experiential Education is the process of learning through actual experiences, failures, and successes. It is dipping your foot in the water and seeing what lesson you can take from your experience. This is what each day of life should look like.
So the question presents itself: what type of things should I be learning? Well that is the wonderful thing about experiential education, there is no boundary into what you should learn. You just have to do things! The only criteria that we would attach to this suggestion is that you do things that matter in light of eternity. As Francis Chan says, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” So choose to participate in things that are worth something in both this life and the next.
EXPERIENCE LIFE and learn from it. Don’t just wait for these upcoming holidays for you to appreciate each day and consider the joy found in just living.
November 22, 2019
Written by Tim Lewis
This fall, I had the privilege to participate in a Leave No Trace Master Educator course through Landmark Learning in Cullowhee, NC. This 5 day course introduced the topic of Leave No Trace (LNT) to myself and a several other outdoor professionals and recreationalists.
During that course, a foundation of experiential learning and outdoor ethics were built, and upon graduation, we would teach to our respective spheres of influence. We were tasked with teaching the course to each other throughout the 5 days. What better way to learn the material!?
What Is Leave No Trace?
Since the 1980’s, Leave No Trace has been a respected organization in the outdoor community who’s mission has been to protect the outdoors “by teaching and inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly” (LNT Mission Statement). Through “cutting-edge education and research”, LNT has become a household name in the outdoor industry and continues to send ripples well beyond the banks of the outdoor industry. So what is it exactly?
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
These 7 principles can be applied to all outdoor activities, sports, and environments at any time by anyone! While following each principle, you will find that they relate back to and support one another in countless combinations and scenarios.
To illustrate, let’s say I am going on a camping trip, I will want to consider the following:
- I am prepared for the endeavor by the gear I take and research I do beforehand. Do I have a map, do I understand the local laws, do I have a bear bin, and have I packed appropriately?
- I am conscious of what I am going to be camping and hiking on. This can be anything from established trails, rocks, endangered grasses, to delicate highland bogs.
- I want to make sure that I use proper restroom facilities and trash bins, when available. Otherwise, I will want to bury or pack out waste appropriately.
- If a particularly intriguing natural souvenir such as a rock, flower, or artifact catches my eye, I make sure to take only pictures and leave it where I find it.
- When it’s time to build a fire, I am mindful of where and how I do this. Should I use an existing fire pit, build a new one, or reconsider the appropriateness of a fire altogether?
- Wild animals can be dangerous when approached or fed, so I am always diligent when I recreate in their space. If I cannot cover the animal with my outstretched thumb, I am probably too close.
- Lastly, when recreating, I am bound to run into other people keen on enjoying the same space I am. I want to make sure I am respecting their experiences by giving them the room to do so and for all extensive purposes, remaining as invisible to them as possible.
Hopefully, this information has gotten you thinking about ways you can implement the principles on your next outing and how to influence your circle of peers. I encourage you to look for signs of poor and exceptional Leave No Trace principals the next time you enjoy a natural space. For now, I will leave you with a couple final thoughts from my course…
Education Is Preferred Over Regulation
A theme that stood out to me during the course was how much LNT desires to avoid creating constricting rules, a multitude of do’s and don’ts, that only discourage us from heeding them. Instead I found that LNT seeks to motivate and inspire people to care for the natural world. This is, more often than not, done through education. Your chances of educating successfully are multiplied greatly by interacting with individuals face to face, by demonstrating proper usage, and by taking the time to understand the context of their visit to that space. Nobody likes to be scolded for doing something wrong, especially for something that they were not taught was important. Part of the job of a Master Educator is to teach people in the classroom but also to teach people in the moment. For example, it is one thing to have an LNT workshop with participation from enthusiastic individuals. However, it is a different thing altogether to confront someone who is poorly exhibiting one of the principles. The goal of LNT is to meet people where they are, to educate them in the classroom, in the backcountry, and in the small every day moments we find ourselves in.
Leave No Trace Is For Christians Too
By now you may be asking yourself, “how is LNT relevant to believers?” True, conservation and stewardship can sometimes take the back burner to more pressing world issues. However, as Christians we should be the first ambassadors of God’s creation. In fact, it was our first task assigned to us from God in Genesis. One of my favorite aspects of LNT is that it recognizes that nature and outdoor spaces are meant to be used and enjoyed, not simply left in idle wilderness. As a Christian, we should believe that the world can and should be a better place with us in it. Our fallen nature often fails at this, but remember the many triumphs of using nature throughout history such as the invention of carpentry, farming, sailing the 7 Seas in the name of exploration, or the establishment of civilization in general. Jesus himself was a carpenter after all with a special place in his heart for fishermen! As Christians, let’s continue to use and enjoy nature but to protect and preserve it for future glorification and Kingdom use.
Remember that Leave No Trace is not simply “leaving it alone” but rather “leaving it better than we found it.”