Winter Camping

February 1, 2018

Written by: Jordan Tatro

       Our cold Virginia winters don’t have to limit the fun you can have in the outdoors! The same beautiful picturesque landscapes you have enjoyed in the warm months are just as alluring in the winter, especially when snow is involved. Not only is it still beautiful, but some of your favorite spots will be void of people and bugs.

       If you are an experienced camper, or new to the game, winter camping can be a rewarding and fun experience. All you have to do is plan and prepare properly, and you will be set for a great adventure.


Here are some tips and tricks to make your winter excursions enjoyable and safe!



  • Go with a group of friends, preferably someone who has experience with winter camping.



  • Share exact locations, and contact times with a responsible friend.



  • Study the area and the route you will be taking, come talk to us if you want advice!



  • Think wool, synthetic, down, and Gore-Tex fabrics! Make sure your outer layer is not flammable so you can stand near the fire.



  • Bring a sleeping bag that is rated 10 degrees lower than the coldest temperature you will face
  • It is wise to use two sleeping pads during the winter, the higher the “R” value of sleeping pad, the better it insulates.

2017 Deep Hollow Course Guide

October 5, 2017

Written by: Race Director, Mike Ellsworth

It’s that time of year.  The Deep Hollow half marathon and 5k is upon us. This year, I want to take the time to give a nice course description to help you prepare for the race.  Earlier this week, I took the time to rough mark the half marathon a bit.  Using the permanent markings and the pink streamers that I tied along the course you should be able to get a full run in before race day!  Be sure to look at the map as you follow along below.  Good luck on the 14th!

  • Mile 1 and 2:  These are the easiest miles to get lost on, so be on the lookout for the pink streamers the entire way.  The course follows the portion of Trail Too Far that meanders through the disc golf course, Spirit and a rogue trail.  So, be sure to stay focused here.  The elevation is just a slow and steady uphill as you approach the first Aid Station!
  • Mile 3, 4 and 5: Can be a lot of fun and is my favorite section.  You will have a mile long* downhill along Lake Hydaway Road before dropping onto Lake Trail. Lake Trail is another long mile* uphill, though I think it is one of the prettiest (and coolest temp) on the mountain.  Lake Trail climbs to the Snowflex parking lot where Aid Station 2 awaits at the 5k turnaround.  Be sure to fill up your water bottle here and get hydrated!  Running the next stretch fast is a great way to make up some time.  Aid Station 2 is also great location for your loved ones to wait and cheer you on!
  • Mile 6 and 7:  This is all double-track mountain road.  A great surface to kick it hard and make up some time.  These roads are dusty right now due to dry conditions, so practice a couple rinse & spits along the way!  Aid Station 3 sits at 5 points, this is the first Aid Station with GU energy gel and cookies!  I’d grab one and run with it if you think you will need it before Aid Station 4!
  • Mile 8:  Right around here you will hit Aid Station 4 and drop back onto the single-track A Walk in the Park.  Though, it isn’t exactly a walk in the park.  Around this section you will hit your highest elevation!  Aid Station 4 will also have gels and cookies.  Fuel up!  I also think this Aid Station is the right one to take a longer breather.  Stretch, re-tie your shoes and eat a cookie.  Get ready for the rest of the race.


  • Mile 9-12: Great Escape the whole way!  This section is switchbacks, hill climbs/falls, and single-track the whole way.  It will include the most technical sections and you will be getting tired, so be careful as you run.  You will get some aid as you cross Clearcut Rd (around mile 10) and Champion Rd (approx. mile 12).
  • Mile 13: You are on the home stretch as you get into sight of Hydaway.  Be sure to follow course markings here at the end, we have had runners get off-track in this last mile.  You will begin to hear the waterfall at the dam (or maybe that’s just your exhausted brain splashing around in your head).  Either way, in just a bit you will have a finish line full of friends and spectators to cheer you on!  Oh, and pizza J
*Distances and descriptions are approximated.  Be sure to be familiar with the race course and follow course markings appropriately.


Semester Must Do's

August 30, 2017

Written By: Jacen Hamilton      

        August in Lynchburg is often filled with excitement and new beginnings for many students attending Liberty University. Campus quickly thrives with enthusiastic students ready to begin another chapter of their college lives. As a seasoned veteran, I have compiled a list of 4 (some practical, some fun) “Must Do’s” to help you succeed both academically and socially this fall!

  1. Buy a Planner

    Open up a tab in Amazon right now and pick a planner. This Moleskine Weekly Notebook is my all-time favorite. Starting a planner at the beginning of the semester and writing down big assignments, projects, and important events to remember throughout the year can be a saving grace once the semester starts to get hectic. Maybe I’m extra nerdy, but I carry a mini-notebook and calendar with me wherever I go. The iCalendar works great for a lot of people, but a tangible notebook is my personal choice because I can cross things out and see tasks being accomplished. Buy a planner and get organized.  It will help you start your semester off right!

  2. Visit the Hydaway Outdoor Rec Center
    I’m slightly bias as a manager of the department, but Hydaway is one of my favorite places on campus to unwind. Located about ten minutes from campus on the opposite side of Liberty Mountain, Hydaway offers a variety of amenities for students including a 8-acre lake, 50+ mile trail system, campsites, equipment rentals, mountain bikes, kayaks, a challenge course, and much more. Whether you’re relaxing on the beach for a few hours or going on a mountain bike ride, Hydaway provides an outlet for every LU student. For more information about Hydaway, keep up to date on Instagram (@luoutdoors) or check out the Outdoor Recreation website.

  3. Go to Block Party

    Student Activities knows events and concerts like the back of their hand. If camping outside isn’t exactly your idea of a fun experience, there are numerous concerts and events throughout the semester piloted by this great department. My favorite SA event of the fall is Block Party. Who can argue with carnival rides, tons of delicious treats, and a live concert? Block Party is a great opportunity to hang out with old friends and make some new ones, all whilst enjoying some of the last warm days of summer. Block Party is on September 2nd this year and you won’t want to miss out on this exciting event!

  4. Plan a Trip
    Last but not least, plan your own adventure! Some of my favorite memories from college are from road trips with friends. From spring break adventures in Colorado to fall break excursions in Tennessee, taking time to plan a trip with your friends this semester is completely worth spending a little bit of money and some pre-trip preparation. If you don’t know where to start, cities like Asheville, Washington D.C., or Charlottesville are some of my personal favorites. If you enjoy the outdoors, we make it real easy to plan a trip with our new DIY page! If you have any questions about trip planning or need some gear to take on a cross-country road trip, come speak to our friendly staff at Hydaway Outdoor Recreation Center for tips and tricks when it comes to local spots.

        Whether you’re attending a concert, hiking a mountain, or even studying for an exam, don’t forget to stop and enjoy the journey. I know first-hand being a student is stressful at times, but taking time to pause and thank God for the season of life He has placed you is not only important, it is humbling. Get out there and give it your all this semester!

Decision Making

July 21, 2017

Written By: Chris Marvel

     This year has been an eye-opening one for me in my professional career. After spending the last seven seasons in agriculture, this past January I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the Liberty University Outdoor Rec department. It has been a non-stop learning experience from the beginning. I have been acquiring and developing countless skills such as challenge course facilitation and river rescue techniques. Though one of the most important skills that I am continuing to develop is my ability to analyze and prepare for unpredictability.  In my past experiences as a farmer, planning a season includes all sorts of details ranging from when to plant, watering schedules, and projected harvest times.  Though at some point in the season, it can all be thrown off by the weather. There is no safety gear to protect a farmer’s crops from a damaging storm, flood, or extreme heat. Through my blend of farming and outdoor recreation experience, I have learned that Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with and requires our respect and preparation. 

     My experience in the farming world brought first hand opportunities to see how much weather has changed even in the last century and the dangers of its irregularity. I recently read this article published by the Washington Post on the effects of the controversial issue of climate change. The article suggests that in the past “global warming” was discussed to potentially help the farmer with a longer growing season. However, the new changes could be bringing colder temperatures that would hurt not only seasonal crops, but all kinds of vegetation. It is no secret that there has been an escalation in the severity of weather all across the world and it is becoming increasingly unpredictable. 

     So, how do we prepare for these unpredictable weather systems as outdoor enthusiasts?  As someone who grew up going camping, fishing and hiking, I was never the one responsible for planning the trip. When my parents said the car was packed, I begrudgingly climbed into the backseat only knowing the number of travel hours I had to endure until we reached our destination. Now being an outdoor professional, I am inspired to give my children experiences I had growing up.  To do this, I must learn to plan the adventures. Like the farming planning a season, I am trying to plan and predict the unpredictable force of nature.

     I am about to let you in on a big secret that one could argue is the glue that holds the LU Outdoor Rec department together; the Four E’s of Decision Making. We use this process as sort of a “risk analyzer” and teach it to all of our staff members.  Whether you are floating down the James River, planting a garden or hiking through the Appalachian Trail, it is important to take time to think through the details. The ever-changing and unpredictable force, Mother Nature is not something to be feared; however, it needs to be respected, enjoyed, and approached with a plan. If you are new to these activities or like me, simply rediscovering the forest and rivers, think through our Four E’s and enjoy your next adventure!

Be safe!

The Four E’s of Decision Making:

First, analyze the environment that you are entering into. This is made up of anything that is outside of your direct control.

  • What is the weather like (sun, precipitation, temperature, humidity)?  Will the weather change during our activity?
  • What is the geography like (terrain, water conditions, trail conditions)? 
  • What about other people, plants, or animals present?
  • Are you prepared to handle potential environmental concerns if they should arise?

The element is the actual thing that you will be doing.  It is important to analyze the details that will be involved in the activity itself.

  • What is the activity and where is it taking place?
  • How long will this element last?
  • Is somebody else aware that you are engaging in this element?  Do you have a plan to contact them?
  • Why are you participating in this element?

Experience matters!  It is very important to realize your level of experience regarding the certain activity.  This is not to say that beginners always struggle and experts never fail.  This is to become aware of the experience of the group and take this into consideration as you make your decisions.

  • Have members of the group partaken in this activity before?
  • Are they comfortable with this activity?
  • Who is the most experienced member in the party?  Are they available for advice and teaching opportunities?

You need to look around at the things that you have and be sure that it will get you through the element that you are performing. 

  • Are you adequately prepared with the right equipment?
  • Are you taking enough food or water?
  • Is your equipment in good condition?
  • Are you familiar with this equipment?
  • Are other participants familiar with this equipment?
  • Have you used this equipment under similar conditions?
  • Do you have back-up equipment?
  • Is your equipment in good condition? (AGAIN…Double-check it!)
Overall: Is it appropriate to be partaking in this ELEMENT, in this certain ENVIRONMENT, having this level of EXPERIENCE with this EQUIPMENT?

Black Bear Safety

June 14, 2017

Written By: Jordan Tatro

In our area of Central Virginian wilderness, it is pretty common to come across the Blue Ridge’s largest predator, the black bear. On average male black bears on the East Coast will weigh between 125lbs-550lbs, while female bears top the scales between 90lbs-375lbs.  Researching this post, I could only find one documented unprovoked black bear attack in Virginia (Roanoke Times, 2015). It occurred in Douthat State Park, which is towards Lexington.  A woman was bitten and clawed by an unprovoked black bear. Thankfully she survived and only received stitches for her wounds. Though these attacks are rare, it is always important to prepare yourself for this type of situation.  In case you ever encounter a black bear, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

"Respect wildlife by giving animals their space and you will have a better chance of staying safe."

Running can trigger a bear’s predatory instinct, and by running you assume the role of prey. If the bear does not seem to be aggressive, you can slowly walk away facing the bear at all times.   

If a black bear is getting too close for comfort, or charging, make yourself as big as possible by putting your arms out and spreading your legs. Grab anything that can make loud noise (i.e. pots, pans, etc.), and bang them together. If there is nothing for you to grab, yell at the bear. Black bears are known to be scared away by loud noises.

Out of all the species of bear, black bears are the most proficient climbers. I personally have heard stories of black bears going up trees to get to hunters in tree stands! If you must climb to escape, try to climb to where the branches are too weak to hold the bear.

A black bear may "bluff" charge multiple times before actually attacking and may decide to not attack if they deem you not worth the effort. If the bear rears up on it hind legs, it is checking out the situation rather than preparing for an attack. Stand your ground, but be ready with bear spray or sticks to fend off the bear if it does decide to attack. 

This method may work in situations with brown bears, but if you are being attacked by a black bear you should fight back. If you play dead during a black bear attack you are as good as dead. Black bears are very skittish, and fighting back might be enough to scare them off. 

Bear spray may seem like overkill in Virginia mountains, but it is the most effective method for deterring a bear from attacking. Bear spray can be purchased at most outdoor stores from about $25-$50. Most bear sprays can shoot from 20-30 feet. The spray is more effective than a handgun in stopping bear attacks and also can be used to protect yourself from people if necessary. 

These guidelines are not the end all be all on what to do during a bear encounter. Every situation is unique and no method is guaranteed to work. Just remember to respect wildlife by giving animals their space and you will have a better chance of staying safe.

Please do not let his article scare you from getting out into nature! Most bears avoid confrontation when possible, bears have ample opportunities to attack humans and they choose not to. You can help yourself and others avoid bear confrontations by following these safetey guidelines:

  • Do not feed bears.
  • Do not encourage them to come into your campsite (store food hanging in a bear bag and away from camp).
  • Keep your dogs on leash when in bear territory.
  • Travel in groups being sure to make plenty of noise.

Black bears have been seen on Liberty Mountain and due to lack of food have been known to roam into Lynchburg. There was even a bear sighting on Wards Rd! If you spend enough time in the mountains you will definitely come across a black bear, and when you do we hope it is safe and inspiring!