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Earth Day 2020

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!

Adventure is…

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.

Spend more time in nature

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


Other Sources

Want to fix your sleep schedule? Go camping this weekend | Rachel Feltman

Getting back to nature: how forest bathing can make us feel better | Harriet Sherwood

Wilderness: The New Treatment for PTSD | Annette McGivney

Live Life Today!

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.

Leave No Trace

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?

Quite simply, LNT is a collection of 7 defining principles:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. 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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”

Outdoor Activities for every Enneagram type

November 6, 2019

Written by Maria Campanella

As I’m sure anyone who attends Liberty University has noticed, the Enneagram is a constant topic of discussion. For those of you that don’t know, it is a set of nine personality types and meant to help people understand themselves and others better. The Enneagram Institute has far more information on each type, the correlation between all the types, and how to determine what number you are. It can be beneficial in relationships, the workplace, and to know yourself better to help you grow as a person.

The outdoors are more appealing to some types rather than others, but I feel that the Outdoor Recreation department has something to offer every enneagram type. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what we do as a department and how you can utilize what we have available.


Type One – Ones have a very strong sense of right and wrong and strive for perfection. The Reformers are known for wanting to change the world, and they have goals and visions for how to make a difference. They are wise and discerning and, at their best, know what is best in every situation. Ones often like to have an escape and a way to “blow off steam” which is why I think that our trail races and trail running in general would be a beneficial thing for them to utilize at Hydaway. We have two races left this semester, the Valley View 5-miler and the Reindeer Run. We’ve also got two races set for the spring semester!

Type Two – Twos are the most generous and kind people you will meet. They are warm-hearted and driven to please others and love the people around them. They are titled The Helper because of their constant desire to help and love others. That being said, Hydaway can be a great escape and every two I have asked said that they just enjoy relaxing in and being in the presence of the outdoors, so the beach and lake would be a perfect relaxing escape for a two to soak in to the moment.

Type Three – Known as The Achiever, threes are competitively driven, and goal oriented.  They desire to impress others and to be admired. They are self-motivated and good at encouraging others. I think that threes have the potential to really enjoy our challenge course. The challenge course is very goal oriented and is a whole team activity. This would be a great time for a three to help encourage and motivate others on their team or in their workplace to do their best and achieve their goals as well.

Type Four – Type fours are individualistic, creative, and sensitive. They are known as The Individualist and like to have an identity different from everyone else. Fours appreciate beauty and their surroundings and tend to enjoy time to themselves to be alone with their emotions so Fours would really like our kayaks or paddleboards which provide time to themselves in nature and beauty – especially this time of year as nature begins to quiet. It gives a great opportunity to enjoy their surrounding and have time to think.


Type Five – The type five loves to learn. They are perceptive and innovative which is why they are titled The Investigator. The main desire of the five is to be competent and to be knowledgeable on useful things. Something that the investigator could definitely enjoy and find useful through our department is the NOLS Wilderness First Responder course. It happens every other spring semester, so it will be taking place this spring! It is a useful course that will provide you with an extreme amount of knowledge – learn more about what the course will teach you.



Type Six – The Loyalist; six’s are security oriented and stability craving. They are very trustworthy and loyal friends. They are worrisome and suspicious, so they crave reassurance and support. This tends to be found in people, once a six trusts and draws close to someone, they don’t let go easily. Sixes thrive in situations with people closest to them, so camping at Hydaway would be a fun way for them to relax and enjoy the company of those around them. They can also plan and prepare before they go, taking away worries they may have. If you are interested in renting a campsite, you can call the Outfitter (434-592-6284) to reserve a site.


Type Seven – Sevens are known for being outgoing, optimistic, and spontaneous. They enjoy trying new things and experiencing new activities and are commonly referred to as The Enthusiast. This is why one of our many trips would be something that a type seven would enjoy. We have a variety of off-site trips that go out each semester – caving, horseback riding, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, fly fishing, white water rafting, and overnight camping. There are many experiences to choose from and they could have the opportunity to meet new people as well.


Type Eight – At their best, The Challengers have great, “go get ‘em” attitudes. They are passionate and take initiative on making important things happen. They have the power to effect change and gain followers in all they do. They can command attention and prompt people to feel what they are feeling. Something new to the Outdoor Recreation department is the Outdoor Club. This is an experience and opportunity for eights to make a change and affect the environment in a positive way and gives them leadership opportunities.  If you would be interested in helping us get the Outdoor Club going at Liberty, send us an email at outdoorrecreation@liberty.edu!


Type Nine – The Nine, also known as The Peacemaker, are easy-going, laid back, and supportive. They tend to see the positive side of things and all sides to each story. They have a calming presence and are go-with-the-flow kinds of people. As a Nine myself, I find that hammocking is my favorite thing to do at Hydaway. It is a peaceful and calming activity that pulls together those aspects of my personality and makes me feel at peace. Fellow nines, I would advise you try it!

Of course, this is general and will not be completely accurate for every person, but either way, Hydaway has so much to offer for people to enjoy. The Outdoor Recreation department strives to engage with all of the community by providing diverse experiences for everyone!  We hope to see you soon!


Being a Conscious Consumer

August 28, 2019

Written by Luke Whitmire

Conservation is a topic that is coming more into the limelight as we continue to realize that our actions are negatively impacting the environment around us. As the conversation continues to escalate, it naturally gravitates towards the bigger issues, such as large-scale manufacturers and consumer habits. While these conversations are important, they can often distract us, as individuals, and what we can do in order to further conservation efforts.

One way to get involved and make a difference in conservation is to change your daily habits and consumer practices in order to favor environmentally friendly pursuits. How do you decide what clothes you buy? What food you are going to eat? Every time you make a purchase, you are “voting” with your money. Just as you should be conscious in the political sphere with your vote and know what a politician stands for, you should be conscious with your money, and support businesses and purchasing practices that support values that you care about.

Here are a few things that you may want to consider:

  • Buy local, in-season, organically grown produce. It increases nutrients, biodiversity, promotes a connection to food, and local farms often pursue farming habits that are more friendly to the soil, crops, insects, and your produce. Check out the documentary Sustainable.
  • Animal agriculture, mainly red meat sources such as cattle, are responsible for the second most greenhouse emissions in the world, including 18% of global CO2 emissions, as well as 37% of methane emissions. Reducing your red meat intake by eating more chicken, fish, and considering plant-based protein alternatives can all help to reduce your environment impact. Check out these articles on a sustainable food future.
  • Take time to research companies before you buy gear, clothing, cars, and so on. Look for companies that have green initiatives and release reports on their environmental impact and sustainability efforts. Support companies that are open about the impact they have and their vision for sustainability. Here are just a few great examples: MSR, Ford, Starbucks.

Businesses and manufacturers pay attention to your purchasing habits. Companies spent $76 billion worldwide on market research in 2017. They want to listen to what we have to say. Let us leave complacency behind and make conscious decisions to use our voices and our money to move together towards conservation and being better stewards of our beloved earth.

How is Social Media affecting the Great Outdoors?

July 11, 2019

Written by Joe Frey

I was not always an outdoors enthusiast.  Sure, I loved being outside playing catch or going for a swim, but when it came to going on a hike to an overlook or kayaking in the bay I began thinking of excuses for why I “couldn’t go.” If I’m being honest it wasn’t for a lack of motivation, it just didn’t really sound fun.

Fast forward a few years and I am in high school.  I had various social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and noticed my friends posting amazing pictures and awesome things in the outdoors.  So that Christmas I asked for a GoPro.  An indestructible camera that magically motivated me to go explore and seek out the next post for my Instagram.  Many of you who are reading this may have experienced this same drive. I found myself seeking the next adrenaline rush simply to capture the video or picture.  Regardless of whether the desire was for status or for excitement, I wasn’t exploring to appreciate God’s incredible creation. I just wanted to snap the perfect photo.

Looking at the pictures I have taken over the years, it was clear that I broke many rules to capture more than a few of them.  I was oblivious to the “No Trespassing” and “Danger” signs that are posted, much like many other adventurers.  But why do we lose our ability to process risk?  Are we trying to better appreciate God’s creation?  Or are we just trying to gain social clout?   The reason I am writing this blog is to call many of you out, as I wish somebody would have called me out years ago on my ego-driven, dangerous, “gram-worthy” decisions. Pictures circulate the internet of people cliff jumping, sitting at the top of waterfalls, and hanging off cliffs.  All of these are extremely dangerous and often illegal.  By posting them yourself, you are encouraging others to take these unnecessary risks as well.


Recently the National Park Service has been conducting research to determine why so many young people are dying in the outdoors and one of the main reasons is to take pictures.  Nearby us at Liberty University they have been doing this same research at Crabtree Falls which continues to see a high rate for incidents.  The 1,200 ft waterfall is infamous for the many lives that it has claimed.

Next time you want to #betheadventure, leave the camera at home.  Appreciate creation for its beauty, not for your own fame.  Enjoy the moment and process the experience.  A story for your close friends carries more weight than a hundred momentary likes.  There is no need to put your life in danger for a few followers on your account.


Stories continue to surface of hikers climbing the fences to capture a one of a kind pictures, but at what price?  In my opinion, this epidemic needs to stop.  It’s not just a problem at Liberty, it’s a problem everywhere.  So, let’s create awareness, at Liberty we are starting a “Safe Hiking” campaign where we are featuring some of the most popular hikes in the area and giving detailed instructions on how to be safe and enjoy God’s creation.  Join us in communicating this culture and help us promote the #hikesafe mentality.  I would encourage everyone to leave the camera at home next time you enjoy this amazing world we live in.

National Park Service on reducing the impact of social media

Our 4-legged Friends

June 17, 2019

Written by Linda Galvez


“When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away, then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad.”

Kristan Higgins (author, In Your Dreams)

As a pet owner, I’m always searching for dog friendly places to bring my best pal, Eli.

A little bit about Eli, he is a 92 lbs. “force of nature”, becomes friends with any human who pets him, and loves other dogs big and small. He fears nothing, but can also be the biggest baby in the room. Eli has extensive amounts of energy which when controlled can be so much fun, but when left to his own devices can be a terror. Which is why I have found training techniques which allow us to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and fun way! On my days off, I love coming back to Hydaway and bringing Eli with me to run trails or go swimming. We welcome all dogs at Hydaway and encourage all owners to be in control of their pets while visiting our facility!

Eli and I enjoy running Lake Trail, Trail Too Far, and Lasso and then jumping into the water to cool down after. When we’re not on Liberty Mountain, we enjoy driving to Black Water Creek Trail or Percival’s Island downtown. On nice cool days you can find us at any dog friendly restaurant with outdoor seating. Some of our favorites include El Jefe, The Waterdog, Chipotle, and Millie’s. On weekends I like to work on projects and love to bring Eli on shopping trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s with me, we love going to the gardening section and looking at all the plants. Since I travel home to Charlottesville often, we always go to the Downtown Mall where Eli gets so much stimulation from all the people, dogs, noises and smells. A walk through the Downtown Mall always guarantees a long hard nap when we get home! Some of our next adventures include hiking Mount Pleasant, beach camping at First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, and rollerblading at Black Water Creek this summer!

 If you’re considering spending time in the outdoors with your furry pal, below are a few “dos and don’ts” for dogs in the outdoors:

  • Do keep an eye on your dog at all times! There are all sorts of animals and plants in the outdoors (bears, hornets, and poisonous toads, bigger and more aggressive dogs) and if not deterred by a barricade or fence these factors could be a serious threats to our pups! The elements and temperature can also poise great danger to your pets, a good rule of thumb is if it is too hot or cold for you to be comfortable, it’s too severe for your dog.
  • Do pick up after your pet! No, your dog’s waste is not good for the earth. Wildlife scat is beneficial to its ecosystem because they consume resources and nutrients directly from that ecosystem. Here’s a great article from Leave No Trace as to why you should be picking up after Fido!
  • Do keep your dog on-leash! Unless your dog has an incredible re-call or you as an owner have voice control over your dog, I encourage everyone to keep their pets leashed. It can be such a danger and liability to lose control of your dog if not properly socialized or trained.
  • Don’t forget the right equipment. Pet stores like Chewy have a variety of options for doggy backpacks which allows your dog to carry his own water, water bowl, etc. If your dog isn’t bred to swim, consider investing in a personal flotation device for your dog.
  • Don’t start too young! Short walks and play time is recommended for small breed puppies up to 9 months and 16 months for large breeds. Kiddie pools are great for puppies and small dogs that enjoy water!
  • Don’t start too hard! Start slowly with short distances, just like us dogs need time to build up their stamina and energy.

Always check the local rules before you go somewhere new with your dog, it keeps them safe and you prepared.

Finally, one of the factors that has made all of these adventures and activities possible for me and Eli is that he’s very well socialized and trained. I encourage every dog owner to go through some basic training before planning any outdoor adventure!

Hope you enjoy pictures of our fur-friends at Outdoor Rec!

The LU Hammock’er

June 3, 2019

Written by Maria Campanella

College and hammocks seem to go hand in hand.  We’ve got so many opportunities here at Liberty to hang and relax in a hammock.  We have put together a full checklist for all your hammock needs.  In order to make your day the most effective, these are all the things you need to know!

Packing List

  • Book
  • Music
  • Headphones
  • Snacks (lots of snacks)
  • Laptop (Netflix Binge anyone???)
  • Blanket
  • Hammock and Straps (obviously)

Locations on Campus

Liberty has some great spots on campus to set up your hammock without having to worry about driving somewhere! Idea number one is the trees by the South Tower and behind the quad’s laundry room, that is an underappreciated spot that can be forgotten about. Some other options include the trees in front of the circle dorms and the trees right next to the tunnel entrance on your way to east. I’m sure there are many more spots, but these are some good ones for hammocking newbies.

About ENO

Everyone knows of ENO of course, and I would highly recommend their brand. ENO actually stands for Eagles Nest Outfitters and they are the company that sparked the “hype”, if you will, around hammocking culture and they were the first to design the double nest hammock. ENO was founded in 1999 and are now the leading company of the product. They started selling the hammocks out of a van and quickly grew to their home base in Asheville, NC. ENO values adventure and encourages Leave No Trace principles and preserving the beauty of the outdoors. They also plant two trees for every hammock purchased, fun fact! They are a company that practices what they preach and are a wonderful brand to support!

Places at Hydaway

In case you didn’t know, at Hydaway Outdoor Recreation we rent out ENO hammocks at our Outfitter! They are free to use them at our facility for LU students! We have several grouping of posts set up just for hammocks called “Hammock Haven.” It is a perfect spot designed specifically for relaxing in your hammock. We also have around 60 miles of trails on the mountain with plenty of trees to set up on! My personal favorite trail is Clear Cut, it has a beautiful overlook and is very peaceful, a great place to spend a day. Come see us on August 15 when we open for the fall semester and enjoy these great features we have to offer!