the club. The Outing Club House
still exists as a residential option.
Five years later, the stalls
of the red OC barn are stuffed
not with horses and hay, but
with all manner of outdoor
adventure equipment — stand-up
paddleboards, canoes and kayaks,
whitewater rafts, paddles and life
vests, tents, climbing gear, campfire
cooking equipment, and much
more. One stall is home to the Blue
Bike shop, which is run by two
student employees. Through that
program, members of the campus
community can borrow bikes to
get around campus and town. The
barn also has a full workshop for repairs and building projects.
With help from Outing Club members, Dick used that
workshop to build a new climbing wall inside the barn. At
500 square feet, the wall is many times larger than the small
bouldering wall once located in the basement of the OC House.
The climbing wall, which has been extended several times with
help from university carpenters, is used for practice by the Crux
Climbing Team. Dick, who teaches several PE classes each term,
also uses it to teach climbing techniques, and there are open
Folks off campus have recently begun to take note of
Washington and Lee’s outdoor offerings. The university is
regularly listed among the Best Adventure Campuses in Blue
Ridge Outdoors magazine, and was recently named one of 10
Best Colleges for People Who Love the Great Outdoors by
Money magazine. Those plaudits owe to its proximity to the
George Washington and Jefferson national forests, the Blue
Ridge Mountains, and natural attractions such as the Blue Ridge
Parkway and Appalachian Trail, as well as to the eight-mile
network of on-campus trails.
Another big factor is the Outing Club itself. If a student
wants to kayak down the Maury River, paddleboard on Carvins
Cove near Roanoke, or go backpacking on the Appalachian
Trail, they need only pay the $40 fee, which covers all four years
at W&L, then visit the OC barn to check out the equipment.
Faculty and staff don’t have to pay the fee.
Prior to the beginning of each academic year, the Outing
Club offers what is hands-down the most popular pre-orientation
trip for first-year students, Appalachian Adventure. It is a
weeklong trek on the Appalachian Trail that is led by upper-division students. The trip is so popular, in fact, that this August
there will be 18 different groups and nearly 200 people doing
Appalachian Adventure, with experience levels ranging from
beginners to experts.
Banks, who called Appalachian Adventure “the big ticket,”
said, “App Adventure helps you make those easy connections
with your peers and upperclassmen who already love going
outside, are psyched to tell you where to go, what to do, and how
to get the gear you need to make it all happen.”
During breaks, the club offers a number of other trips:
whitewater rafting down the Gauley River in West Virginia,
Other trips allow students to go caving or scuba diving.
During the school year, students can hop an Outing Club van
for a quick trip to one of the many picturesque locations within
short driving distance of campus. These excursions, which have
increased significantly over the past few years, include climbing,
hiking, fishing, biking and paddling. Doing a sunrise hike on
House Mountain is practically a necessity for any W&L student.
Dick is assisted in the OC barn by work-study students who
help visitors with equipment check-outs, keep equipment clean
and in good working order, and complete any other tasks their
director has scribbled on the chore list for the day. It doesn’t take
much coaxing, though, to get students to show up at the barn;
in fact, Dick said, it is not unusual on a warm Friday or Sunday
evening to find students hanging out at the barn, barbecuing on
the grill and relaxing.
Lenny Enkhbold ’ 17 is another student who found a home
with the Outing Club. A member of the Key Staff, Enkhbold says
the club actually changed his whole attitude. “The OC has taught
me so much about wilderness survival, how to use gear, what gear
to use, how to lead, how to communicate, and all of that good
stuff,” he said. “But most importantly, I’ve learned how to smile.”
Over the years, so many students have been a part of the
Outing Club that it has a huge alumni fan club. Dick credits those
alumni with helping to shape the club into what it is today.
“It’s all owed to their efforts,” he said. “The program they
dearly loved is still crushing it!”
Although he is often teased about having the best job on
campus, Dick puts in long hours. Comments like those from
Banks, Enkhbold and other adoring students confirm that Dick
and the Outing Club are making a big impact at W&L.
“Over the years, we have worked really hard so that it doesn’t
James Dick, director of outdoor education,
matter who you are, there is a community of fun, zany people
here,” Dick said. “I think the Outing Club connects people who
would have never connected on campus and provides an anchor
for some who have not found their niche. Everybody needs a
community; they need to find that sense of belonging.”
Maybe that’s all best summed up in another note on the
barn wall: “Stay here as long as you can.”
checks out a paddle after a day of kayaking
in the Everglades with a group of students.
The trip is one of several annual adventures
offered by the Outing Club.