Coffee and Hiking

October 12, 2018

Written By: Jacen Hamilton

       As cooler weather moves through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, outdoor adventurers congregate to enjoy a myriad of outdoor recreation opportunities within a stone’s throw of Liberty University. It is no secret that Liberty students enjoy hiking, camping, kayaking, and many other outdoor activities as leaves begin to detach from tree branches throughout the mountains. Likewise, Liberty students thrive (and often times, survive) on an assortment of coffee products throughout the greater Lynchburg area.

       What do coffee and hiking have to do with one another? I think that these two experiences, though very different, often prove to be mellow, smooth and warming.  They also both work together to bring community and encourage relationships.  I have shared memorable experiences and conversations over a cup of coffee and on trails. 

       So, for the first time, I have paired my experiences hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains with my Lynchburg coffee preferences to produce the official “Coffee Hikes” lineup.

Best Overall: Third Wave Coffee / Spy Rock

       Coming in at the top spot, Third Wave Coffee located in Forest, VA boasts unbelievably rich coffee alongside a welcoming atmosphere. Third Wave’s top-notch customer service paired with an intense care for the art of coffee making brands this shop as the best coffee in Lynchburg. A large inventory of Third Wave’s premium coffee is ethically sourced from high altitude locations throughout the world. Likewise, Spy Rock provides hikers a 3,980ft elevation pinnacle in addition to a full 360° panoramic view at the top. The 3-mile hike to the top of Spy Rock is a great workout and provides the hiker a sense of accomplishment when reaching the top. In my book, Third Wave and Spy Rock take the best overall spots in the “Coffee Hikes” lineup.

Best on-the-go:  Joe Beans / Cole-Cold Mountain

       If you need great coffee on the go, Joe Beans is your spot. Joe Beans has a variety of pop-up locations throughout Lynchburg (Wards Road & Timberlake are the two locations I frequent the most). Joe Beans thrives on quality coffee (I also enjoy their muffins) at an affordable price. Additionally, Joe Beans relies heavily on convenience to attract regular customers. Similarly, Cole Mountain has become an intensely popular hike within the past four years, largely in part to its convenient, yet quality atmosphere. Cole Mountain is roughly a one hour drive from Liberty, leading many students to explore the Cole Mountain area on a regular basis.

Over-Hyped: Bean Tree Café / Sharp Top

       Bean Tree is extremely well known for their delicious lavender lemonade, a crowd favorite. However, it seems that Bean Tree has had a hard time standing out from other local coffee shops like Dublin 3 Coffeehouse or The Muse Coffee Company in the minds of many Lynchburg residents. Similarly, Sharp Top Mountain is an extremely popular destination for many in the Lynchburg area. Sharp Top has a beautiful view, but high foot traffic often deters many hikers from visiting Sharp Top on a regular basis. The website provides a variety of great hikes in the area... minus Sharp Top.

Under-Hyped: Biscuitville / Devil’s Marble Yard

       9/10 people I meet on a regular basis in the Lynchburg area have never tried Biscuitville coffee. Many have never even heard of Biscuitville. If I am in the mood for a fantastic bacon, egg & cheese biscuit and quality cup of dark coffee, Biscuitville is my choice. Do yourself a favor and grab some Biscuitville on your way over to Devil’s Marble Yard. Devil’s Marble Yard is one of the most unique hikes in the area due to the massive amount of boulders along the 1.5 mile hike. Outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Devil’s Marble Yard for the mixture of scaling large rocks and enjoying a satisfying view from the top of the rock pile.

Newbies: Golf Park Coffee Co. / Moormans River

       Golf Park Coffee Co. is no stranger to Lynchburg, frequenting Liberty University events like Outdoor Rec Fest and Block Party. However, Golf Park just opened their first in-store location off Bedford Avenue. This makes Golf Park the “newbie” when it comes to new coffee shops in the Lynchburg area. Golf Park serves their signature coffee combined with a reputation for unbeatable customer service (check out their Instagram for more info). Similarly, Moormans River hike is one of the prettiest hikes within a two hour drive of the Lynchburg area. Though Moormans River is not necessarily a new hike, it is a hidden gem as many Liberty students are unaware of the hike. Simply park at the Sugar Hollow Dam and Reservoir to begin the hike alongside Moormans River.

       As the fall semester continues, I encourage you to make an intentional effort to go on at least one hike this year! Grab some friends, enjoy a cup of coffee together, and get outside. As always, please practice Leave No Trace Principles as you enjoy the outdoors this semester! For any questions about hikes in the Lynchburg area, please see the Outdoor Recreation DIY page or call us at Hydaway during operating hours.

When plans go awry...

October 3, 2018

Written by: Hunter Steadman

       Being an employee of the Outdoor Rec department at Liberty, has continued to expand my love for the outdoors as well as my knowledge of outdoor related topics. I have even acquired certifications in things I knew little to nothing about just a few years ago such as swift water rescue and challenge course facilitation. However, the best piece of knowledge I’ve gained since beginning my time here would undoubtedly be the 4 E’s of decision making.

  1. Environment
  2. Element
  3. Experience
  4. Equipment

       The 4 E’s are kind of like a checklist of things to think through before making a decision.  By using the 4 E’s you should be able to make sound decisions regarding the planning and execution of any trip you may be taking. This helps us here at outdoor recreation throughout the process of planning trips, executing trips, as well as making changes of plan “on the fly” when needed.


       I use the E’s to plan and prepare for my own trips. Though, I remember an experience that was definitely an example where I could have planned and prepared a little more than I did…

       In December of 2016. My best friend Jordan and I were planning a backpacking trip along the Three Ridges Loop on the Appalachian trail, southwest of Charlottesville. The loop is one of Virginia’s most popular backpacking trails and a beautiful hiking route.

       As we began planning our trip, we first looked to the Environment. When we talk about environment, we are speaking to the things that are out of our own control. Some examples would be the weather or topography. The weather looked relatively mild for being the dead of winter, with highs in the mid to upper 40’s and lows in the mid 20’s at night. There was a very small chance of light rain/sleet in the area but nothing that we couldn’t handle. We also knew that there would be some snow on the mountain from weeks prior but nothing deep enough to be concerning.

       Next, we thought through the Element itself. Element is the actual thing you are doing. Hiking, mountain biking, fishing etc. Some questions to ask yourself at this point would be what is the activity and where will it be taking place? The Element of our trip was that it was an overnight backpacking trip, easy enough.  Based on the current weather conditions as well as our individual levels of Experience we felt like we would do just fine.  Knowing the experience of the members in the group is our third “E” as we make planning decisions.  Everyone has varying levels of experience in different elements and you have to consider this when planning a trip.

       After deciding that the environment, element and experience were sound for the weekend, we began to look at our Equipment.  This is the stage where packing properly is key. Will the equipment you have get you through the element? Things to think about packing here could include adequate amounts of food and water and extra supplies.  Knowing that the temperature would be relatively cold, especially at night, we packed multiple layers of well-insulated clothing. For myself, I brought a down jacket as well as a fleece pullover to wear overtop of a thin merino wool shirt. Layering would allow me to be as warm as I needed to be either I was hiking at noon or hanging by camp at night. I also always bring a rain jacket with me, obviously to stay dry but it also works great as a windbreaker. A warm hat, wool socks, waterproof boots, gloves also found their way into my pack.  After preparing, we set out on the trip. 

       Once we started hiking the weather seemed perfect, everything was going according to plan. Because we layered well we could easily take off and put on clothes, as we needed. We hiked for about seven and a half hours on the first day and set up camp up on a ridge. Once it started to get dark the temperature began to drop rapidly, we failed to account for rapid weather changes that can occur at a higher elevation. It actually began to precipitate a wintery mix of snow and sleet, which made making a fire nearly impossible. Therefore, dinner consisted of rock hard cliff bars that had all but frozen solid in our packs. We bundled up for a very cold and sleepless night.

       The following day came early and we were eager to get moving and get off the windy ridge. About 3 hours into the hike, we ran out of water and realized there were not many streams along the second half of the route. The last four-ish hours became brutal, with major elevation gain/loss and no water.  We were spent. When we finally reached the car, we headed into the closest town for some much needed pizza. It was there that we talked about the trip and kind of “debriefed” the trip. Ultimately concluding that we could have…probably…maybe been a little better at planning and preparing.

Don’t make the mistakes that we made.  Use these 4’E’s to thoruoughly plan out your trips, think through as many scenarios as you can, and do your best to prepare for the unknown. 

Stay safe in the woods!

Fall Break Fly Fishing

September 25, 2018


Why you should come on our Fall Break Fly Fishing trip!

Written by: Danielle Ledgerwood


       The only exposure I had to fly fishing growing up in California was the 1992 prime-Brad Pitt-era film A River Runs Through It. I had fished with a normal rod and reel occasionally during childhood, but fly fishing always seemed like a foreign language: mysterious and difficult to master.  

       Fast forward to two years ago. I got the opportunity to get paid to learn how to fly fish. I worked a 4-day trip with our department over fall break to the Piney River. I was intimidated, learning a whole new sport, but Angler's Lane, a local fly fishing store/outdoor outfitter, provided professional guides to teach the beginners some casting techniques and principles. 

Opportunities like this don't come around very often, so why would you pass up such a great deal for a relaxing weekend away, in a private lodge, on the river, learning something new that you can take with you for the rest of your life? 

       Once you've got the basics down, the guides will take you to sections of the river and help you practically implement everything you've learned. We explore different sections, hike around with Doug's dog Brookie, and eventually, you feel a bite on your line. There are very few life experiences that are quite as exhilarating as catching a trout on a fly rod for the first time. There's the rush of adrenaline, the fight to bring it in, and the swift motion of the net catching the  wriggling body of the fish.

       Since then, I've worked two more fly fishing trips with our department, guided by the experts from Angler's Lane. I love these trips. Whether or not I even get to catch a fish myself, I love the opportunity that the students are given to learn something new. (I also love cooking meals for the hungry fisherman: bacon and eggs, macaroni and cheese, maybe a big pot of chili.)

       As part of the overnight fishing trips, we stay in the lodges privately owned by Doug Lane. In the past, we've stayed in Rivenridge on the Piney, and this upcoming fall break, we're going to the Stonesthrow on the Jackson River. These cozy cabins sit on the banks of these respective rivers, and they serve as a home base for the weekend. When students aren't out slaying the river, we're inside, having a fire, playing card games, and sharing meals together. These times of fellowship are some of my favorite memories from the past trips.

       And of course, at some point during the weekend, as per tradition, we all gather around the TV and watch the classic movie, A River Runs Through It.



Fall Trip Preview

September 6, 2018

Written by: Tim Lewis

       It is always exciting to start a new school year! Meeting new friends, taking interesting classes, and enjoying community is all part of the Liberty University experience. This fall, how about exploring the adventurous side of LU with an experience in the outdoors?

       We are already three trips into the semester, but here is a quick highlight of our remaining adventures.  What do you think of our Fall calendar?

9/15 Bouldering
Each year we head up to White Rocks, VA to climb and solve problems off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The outdoor bouldering problems range in grading from V0-V7.  We recommend that you climb at lease V2 to attend this trip. But don’t let the bouldering jargon scare you, we will have Rec Center Rock Wall staff there to instruct and facilitate the trip, so beginners are welcome!

9/29 Rappelling
Next, is our rappel trip with Urban Mountain Adventures this year! We always enjoy heading up to Raven’s Roost Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway to rappel the cliffs. This trip offers an opportunity to see the outdoors from a new perspective while safely scaling a rock face. If adventure and new experiences are on your bucket list, come enjoy this trip with us!

9/29 Horseback Riding
Each 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.

10/4-7 Fall Break Whitewater Kayaking in WV
Looking for a multi-day adventure in the outdoors? This trip will take to West Virginia to paddle the New River where you will encounter rapids up to Class III! We will be paddling and training for the river by day and camping in nearby Babcock State Park and enjoying good food and campfires by night. If this sounds up your alley, sign up today!

10/5-7 Fall Break Fly Fishing on the Jackson
Always a favorite trip year after year, we will be heading up to the Jackson River in Covington, VA and staying in an authentic fly fishing lodge. Angler’s Lane is generous enough to let us stay and fish their private stretch of the Jackson for several days. Brown and rainbow trout are abundant in the Jackson, and this trip allows opportunities to catch big ones! You will not want to miss this fall break trip!

10/13-14 Whitewater Rafting
Each year we head to West Virginia to face the mighty Gauley River! This world-class whitewater mecca is only runnable for a few weeks out of the year and we take advantage of it. Alpine Ministries provides us with expert instruction and facilitation down the river 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!

10/13 Caving
This will be out second trip to Crossroads Cave in Millboro Springs, VA! The James River Grotto is kind of enough to 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.

10/24 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. Slip into the fall spirit and come enjoy a moonlight ride followed by a cozy bonfire at the foot of the Peaks of Otter.

All registration information can be found on our Trips Page.  What are you waiting for?!

Preparing for Failure

September 6, 2018

Written by: Joe Frey

       Working as an outdoor professional, I have learned a lot.  I’ve attended several training and received certifications to keep myself and the people I interact with safe in the outdoors.  There are certain precautions that I take before going on any type of adventure and certain equipment that I always like to have with me.  As I continue to accumulate all of this information, I often am concerned about the dangers of being ill-prepared.  I realize that other outdoor adventurists may have no clue about the precautions and equipment that they need to stay safe on a simple hike or excursion. 

       We all seem to love the idea of adventure, but often ignore the risks that go along with it. Though, we have all heard of disastrous and heartbreaking stories that have happened in the outdoors, we still don’t think to take the necessary precautions.  I think that we all need to be learning strategies and taking steps to promote safety in the wilderness. 

       In my experience, the most important strategy to avoid disaster is the idea of a “float plan.” The float plan is nautical terminology for writing down your trip details before departing.  This includes the destination, number of people going with you, time leaving, time coming back, and any other possible problems (cell coverage, high water, darkness).  The original purpose of the float plan was to keep captains and their crews safe, but I think we should apply the concept of a float plan to our everyday adventures. 

       For me, whether I’m hiking, camping, or just headed downtown, I tell someone where I will be going and what time I plan to be back.  Along with this, if I am going somewhere or doing something with more risk (water activities, dangerous hikes, extending hiking trips) I will set a time that I need to check-in with that person.  While this may sound like a hassle it can be extremely helpful in the event that something does go wrong.  Mother Nature is powerful and we never know when tragedy may strike.  I encourage everyone to get a “buddy” or a couple “buddies” to contact when going on your next adventure so that you too can prepare for the unprepared failure.

Stay safe! 


*While the main focus for this post is not gear, check out REI’s Day Hiking Checklist, which can be a great tool for any type of adventure, not just hiking.

*Also a great resource, this is an article written by a retired U.S. Coast Guard maritime incident investigator, bringing perspective to the idea of a float plan and communicating that plan.

*Also, if you have not heard the tale of Aron Ralston, be sure to read about his near death experience in a Utah canyon.  Aron feels that his lack of communication was “one of the greatest mistakes I’ve made in my outdoor career”.