New Spring Trips!

January 15, 2019

Written by: Tim Lewis

We are excited to announce that Spring 2019 at Outdoor Recreation has many new trip and event offerings! Check out all our new stuff to find your next adventure!


What’s New This Year?


Spring Break Trip - South Carolina March 11-15, 2019

       We will be headed to Santee State Park and camping next to beautiful Lake Marion; the largest lake in South Carolina! On this trip you will enjoy kayaking on the lake (right from our campsite!), exploring the trails and scenic sites via mountain bike, fishing for catfish and bass from the pier, taking a guided wildlife tour on a pontoon boat, as well as a day trip to Charleston and the beach (weather permitting)! Transportation, food, equipment, instruction, and good times all provided for only $80!


Mini Fishing Derby  March 28, 2019

       We stock Lake Hydaway with hundreds of rainbow trout in the fall for our annual Fishing Derby. This year, for the first time, we will be offering a condensed version of this event as part of our Thursday night clinic series. Come out to Hydaway and try your hand at catching trout and you will even get to keep your catch too! This event is FREE!


Mountain Biking Trip  March 30, 2019

       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 all provided for $10!


Rock Climbing/Rappelling Trip  April 6, 2019

       We are so excited to announce our Rocks and Rappelling Day with our expert guides, Urban Mountain Adventures! This unique trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway will allow you to both rock climb and rappel off the rock face! Our group will split into two smaller groups and switch after lunch so that everyone has the ability to try both activities. Transportation, instruction, lunch, and good times all provided for $25!


Sailing Trip  April 27, 2019

       What better way to experience Smith Mountain Lake than by sailboat?! This exciting trip will take us to the Virginia Inland Sailing Association’s property on the west side of SML. Learn from the expert guides how to properly rig, jibe, tack, and heel your sailboat and get a chance to operate the sails and lines as well as be the captain behind the rudder. Transportation, instruction, and lunch all provided for $25!


Senior Tubing Trip  May 4, 2019

       In celebration of our graduating seniors, we are offering this classic summer trip to help you relax after 4ish years of courses and exams! We will be tubing the Upper James River for several miles and enjoying the beautiful scenery and tranquility that only a river can provide. Bring a swimsuit and towel and we will provide the rest! Transportation, instruction, and lunch provided for $10!

As always, check out our trips page for registration information.  We hope to see you this spring!

Christmas Wish List

December 13, 2018

Written by: Asia Allen

The Holidays are here and with that celebration, often comes gift-giving!  Do you have someone on your list who does a lot of hiking, camping or spends time outdoors?  Well, I have been thinking a lot about my “Wish List” this year and maybe some of these ideas will be helpful for the nature-lover on your list!

Here are a few items that have made it to the top of my Christmas list this year. I believe these items are great to have when exploring outdoors in the cold months of winter, though are helpful all year long.

  1. Down Jacket

           This item is number one on my list because of the warmth, flexibility, and lightweight nature a down jacket offers. Be sure to order the jacket that is optimal for the activities you plan to use it for. You can look at the down fill and the materials used to make the jacket to figure out just how warm it will be and how it holds up to water or the wear and tear of the trail. A few item and brand suggestions are Marmot Quasar Nova Hoody, Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody, Outdoor Research 650 Down Jacket, or The North Face Heavenly Down Jacket. These are a couple of the companies out there who have perfected the Down Jacket over the years.

  2. Rain Jacket
           A rain jacket is not just great during the winter, but can be used year round. This is definitely a great item to purchase and is the most versatile piece of clothing out there. There are a few features that can make or break a rain jacket, such as the hood design, vents, and packability. Be sure to research what features are important to you and will best fit your needs! I always think it is important to try on rain jackets in person to feel out these features so you know what is right for you.  A few brand suggestions are Arc'teryx Zeta SL Rain Jacket, Marmot Minimalist Waterproof Jacket, and Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket.
  3. A Warm set of Base Layers
    When I say Base Layer, I am talking about a comfy layer of clothing, closest to the skin meant to keep me warm.  This piece is essential for any outdoor adventure in the cold months, or helpful for the walk from the house to the car, depending on where you are spending the winter break. These layers provide essential warmth and comfort as you ‘layer up’. You can take the Icebreaker Perfect Base Layer Test to find your ideal fit, or check out Smartwool Base Layer Pant, REI Co-op Merino Midweight Base Layer Tights, or Patagonia Capilene Therrmal Weight Bottoms.


    *These three articles of clothing represent the TERRIFIC TRIO of outdoor clothing.  I suggest locking these three items together and selecting pieces that complement one another. The rain jacket serves as a hard-shell that blocks out wind and rain, which allows the down jacket to warm and insulate. The base layer helps to wick sweat from the skin and helps the down jacket retain body heat. Here is a link to provide more information on how to choose the best products for layering depending on the weather and activities you plan to do: REI - Layering Basics



  4. A Warm Blanket
           There is honestly nothing more that I love than a really warm blanket. These are perfect for camping, road trips, or snuggling up on the couch. You never know when a nice, durable blanket will come in handy!  I highly suggest one of these blankets for your wish list, Klymit Versa Blanket, Coalatree Puffy Kachula, Rumpl, or the REI Co-op.

  5. Trail Shoes or Warm Boots

           Whether its time to replace the current set of trail shoes, or time to upgrade to a new set of boots entirely, this holiday season is the perfect time to gift that special someone with the new pair of shoes that they have been waiting to pull the trigger on. A few trail running shoes I suggest are Brooks, Altra, Hoka, or Merrell. Some nice new boots could come from Salomon, Sorel, Merrell, Teva, or Blundstone.

Be sure to check out your local retailers for these items.  Often, they will be able to help you get the right product, try it on and be sure that the size and style is exactly what you want!

Still looking for other options?  How about a few stocking stuffer ideas as well for your friends and family: Wool Socks, Gloves, A Beanie or Hat, Hand Warmers, A head lamp, or Gift Cards to your favorite outdoor store or retailer!


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Valley View Mike Donahue Memorial 5 miler

November 15, 2018

Written by: Mike Ellsworth


Valley View 2018 is over.  As Director of Outdoor Rec, I have been a part of a lot of events through the years.  I have helped out with the Liberty Mountain Trail Race Series since 2009 and have directed each of them since July 2016.  Each race feels very different and has unique moments of excitement.  Our largest and most popular race is the Deep Hollow half-marathon and 5k.  This race boasts the most runners, is scheduled on Homecoming weekend and has the most energy on race day.  Our newest race is the novelty “hill kill”, King of the Mountain.  This shorter race is quickly becoming popular and appeals to the non-runner just as much as the experienced racer.  But by far, my favorite race-day environment of them all is the Valley View Mike Donahue 5miler.

       First, I think this race is the perfect distance.  I love a 5 mile race.  It can be a challenge for a beginner runner, though it is a manageable distance that anyone can train towards.  A more advanced runner will get a good work-out out of the mileage and the peaks of Liberty Mountain ensure that the race still pumps up your heartrate.  5 miles is also a great timing distance.  On average it takes around an hour to finish and with a 9am start time, that means you can be home and showered by lunch!

       Second, the course is near perfect.  This race gives one of the fullest and enjoyable routes through the Liberty Mountain Trail System.  With over 60 miles worth of trails, 5 miles is just a snapshot, but it is a great snapshot.  The course starts towards Snowflex from Hydaway along Falwell road where you pass by the faux-snow ski resort.  Right around the 2 mile mark, the course moves onto the single-track stretch of Peak-to-Peak and climbs to the top of the LU Monogram.  If you wanted to take a breather to enjoy the view of Liberty campus you could, it will give you a chance to recuperate after your brutal quarter-mile climb.  Then the course follows Valley View road to Split Decision all the way back to Hydaway.  The stretch near Oaks Way is a beautifully serene section of the trail that follows a small stream as it meanders through the valley.  This course represents the best and worst (over 1300ft of elevation change) aspects of Liberty Mountain.

       Third and most notable, it is held in remembrance of hero.  I was only able to meet Maj. Mike Donahue a few times.  He was much closer to my boss at that time and probably never knew my name.  But, every time I had an opportunity to engage with him, it was a joy.  He made me feel like I belonged, like I was a part of “the gang” and that he valued the opportunity to meet with me.  I think that is why so many people have such a noble opinion of him.  Mike was engaging, passionate and excited about everything.  His personality seemed to “jump start” everyone he interacted with.  

       As every year passes, I am saddened that another generation of students is not able to understand who Mike was and what he meant to LU Army ROTC, the Liberty trail system and the Lynchburg running community.  I become burdened that the runners of the race that bear his name will never understand why he was significant.  But, this year, Major Winkelmann helped ease this burden.  He is a current professor in the Army ROTC department and he was able to share a few words about Maj Donahue in a very noteworthy way.  He declined using the microphone and chose to bring all the runners closer together so that he could speak more expressively and with more familiarity.  He shared what he had learned about Donahue and told Mike’s story.  He did it exactly the way that Mike would have.  He brought every runner, spectator and staff together in that moment.  He unified us in one memory and in one person.  Winkelmann caused us to pause, take a breath, enjoy life together and attack the next moment.  He reminded us, much like Mike would have, that “Every Day is a Good Day.”  

This year, the race was blessed with a wonderful Army ROTC color guard, the support of the Military Affairs department, Major Winkelmann and a solemn playing of taps.  The pre-race ceremony at this event is always special, though this year felt a little different.  For that I am thankful.


Falling into rivers

November 9, 2018

Written by: Danielle Ledgerwood


       One of the great things about working in the outdoors is that I learn so many lessons that I can apply to other areas of my life. Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in my experiences that didn’t seem to mean much in the moment, but looking back now, I realize that it’s taught me a few things.

       It started this summer, when a few of our managers took a scouting trip down a river we had never been before. We went to the Maury River in Lexington, a designated class I section through a wooded area that was supposedly a very peaceful paddle. The four of us were about 9/10 of the way down our section of river when suddenly, the bottom of my kayak skidded over a rock and tipped me right into the river. Given my experience paddling, I had been pretty confident that a class I river trip was not going to result in my body submerged in water, so I had kept my phone in the pocket of my PFD. It’s an iPhone 6, with no Lifeproof case, and no plastic bag to keep the water out, so needless to say a 5 lb. bag of rice could not resurrect it. It was toast.

       Moving ahead to our fall break fly fishing trip, where we were wading almost up to our waists to catch trout in the fast-flowing Jackson River. I had finally reeled in a fish after several hours on the river, and I wanted a photo to prove it. I clumsily dropped my phone (in a plastic bag this time) as I was trying to take a picture, and in a purely instinctual reaction, I collapsed onto the river bottom to grab it, dropping the fish and bruising my knees.  No picture of my hard-earned catch.

       Fast forward further to our whitewater rafting trip a couple weeks ago on the Gauley River in West Virginia. These rapids are high class IV, almost class V, and it had been raining a lot due to Hurricane Michael, so the water was moving quickly. Our raft flipped all six of us into one of the largest rapids on the river. We were underwater for what felt like forever, stuck underneath our own raft going through the rapid. When I finally came up for air, I was shaking. I had never swam such huge water before, and it made me hesitate to even get back in the boat.

       To sum all that up, I feel like I’ve been falling into rivers a lot lately. Maybe you feel like that too. Maybe you’re not literally submerged in water, but maybe life hasn’t been exactly going your way lately, or it seems like there’s a reoccurring theme of things not going according to plan. But that’s okay! Take what I’ve learned and apply it to your life:

  • Get back in the boat. You can’t quit when something knocks you down. You can’t give up because you failed the first time. You can’t let one bad experience ruin a lifetime of good ones.
  • Learn from your mistakes. They can be turned into lessons, and you’ll be less likely to repeat them.
  • The river will keep moving. Just like your life. If you feel embarrassed, time will pass and it will fade. People will forget. The only thing that will keep you stuck in your past is you, and you’re ever going to get anywhere, you’ve got to start by moving forward.

Charlottesville in the Fall

November 1, 2018

Written by: Linda Galvez

       Charlottesville has a very special place in my heart and as a local, I love giving anyone who plans to visit suggestions on where to eat, shop, and visit. Virginia in general is absolutely breath-taking in the fall, the simple drive up 29 North provides beautiful and tranquil scenes of fall foliage and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here are a few of my favorite things to do when I am home!

Apple Picking:

Growing up in Charlottesville means visiting Carter’s Mountain Orchard, whether with your family or on school field trips. I remember going with my elementary class and having such a fun time picking apples, which is why I love going back as an adult. The peak of apple season is from September – October and Carter’s Mountain is open from 9 am – 9 pm. If you don’t like crowds, avoid going on weekends as many locals and visitors also go up during these days. If you can make it up on a weekday, I suggest going on Thursday (also crowded) and hanging around for the sunset!


The Downtown Mall:

One of my favorite local things to do is head to the Downtown Mall. The Downtown Mall is a single strip on and around old Main Street with 130 shops and restaurants. During the colder months you won’t see many people sitting and eating outside, but grab a cup of coffee from Mudhouse and wander into the many unique and eclectic shops. You can also check out various events at The Jefferson Theater or catch a movie at The Violet Crown. If you’re hanging around for lunch, I suggest Christian’s Pizza on West Main or Revolutionary Soup on 2nd and West Main.

If you head up on a Saturday, check out the City Market on Water St. before walking over to the Downtown Mall. Your senses will immediately be hit with aromas of ethnic cuisine, fresh produce, farm raised and organic meats, cheeses and fresh bread. Sights and sounds of people of all ages and walks of life wandering through the maze of vendors. I love going to each vendor’s table and finding craft artisan jewelry, artwork, and home goods. City Market is known for its diversity in the people you meet, food you’ll try, and things you’ll find. City Market is open from 7 am – 12 pm through the month of October, and 8 am – 1 pm from November 3rd – November 17th.

Bodo’s Bagels and Hiking:

Another Charlottesville staple I suggest everyone go check out is, Bodo's Bagels. There are three locations to choose from, my personal favorite is on Emmet St., I love the simplicity of their menu and you can’t go wrong with a classic bacon, egg and cheddar on an everything bagel! After you’ve gotten your Bodo’s fix, head out for a hike to White Rock Falls. This hike starts on the Blue Ridge Parkway MP 20, and you can park at Slacks Overlook about 300 feet from the entrance. The hike is a moderate 2.5-mile loop that has a gorge with a cascading waterfall and a natural wading pool.

UVA and Monticello:

Charlottesville is rich in history, it was home to three former Presidents and is also home to the University of Virginia (Go HOOS).  If you’re a history buff, I suggest visiting the grounds of UVA as well as Monticello, home of President Thomas Jefferson for a day of learning.

       There are so many more restaurants, shops, and things to do that I could suggest, but I’ll leave the exploring to you! Charlottesville is great for exploring alone, but it’s more fun to grab a few friends and enjoy everything it has to offer together.