Outdoor Program Starts Semester Strong With Hikes, Ski Trips, and More


Carter Hudson

The Outdoor Program offers unique opportunities for students to spend time outdoors and learn about the region. Here, seen on a program hike, are Carlos Beltran, Matt, Ryland Harrison, and Doug .

Though the spring semester just began, the campus Outdoor Program has kept busy. In the past month, the program has hosted ten climbing sessions, ten kayaking trips, six hikes, and a few skiing trips all around different areas of southwest Virginia

Alex Versen, assistant director of the program, says the program’s attempt to excite the student population with their excursions has been successful.

“To date, we’ve had 107 people out on trips so far this semester,” Versen said. “We had over 600 slots filled last semester.”

Versen also says many more trips are on the way.

“Coming up we’re going to be doing a series of winter hikes,” he said. “Our program is super active; we run trips every week. We have a trip going out at least every Saturday.”

Also planned is a session about swift water rescue training on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13, an overnight camping trip in March, and a study abroad trip to Ecuador that will head out during spring break.

All of the weekend trips and excursions offered by the outdoor program are open to any student on campus free of charge.

“Two years ago the administration made a change, it used to be you had to pay a fee to be a part of the outdoor program,” Versen explained. “Now, the outdoor program is available to every student on campus. There are no fees associated with trips.”

Carter Hudson, a senior at E&H, has taken advantage of these opportunities since his sophomore year at the college. He credits Jim Harrsion, the director of the outdoor program, for igniting his interest in the outdoors.

“I went on a hike to Grayson Highlands, and Jim was just so awesome. I was like, ‘I want to be around this guy!’” Hudson said. “He talked a lot about that and his love of the Appalachian trail and mountains, and I just really resonated with that. It’s a good community. I really love them all.”

Hudson is from North Carolina, and the offerings from the outdoor program helped him to explore a new area, which is something Versen says the program is actively trying to do. No matter where a student is from, Versen believes the Outdoor Program can provide new experiences.

“It really is an opportunity for folks who are not from this place, it’s a good chance to learn about the area. And for people who are from here, I can guarantee we will take you to places you haven’t been yet,” he said.

Versen also believes the program is helping E&H, as a college, embrace its location.

“I tell everyone if you’re coming to school here, you better want to do stuff outside, because this is what we’ve got. Emory is in the middle of nowhere, and I think for a long time Emory apologized for that. I think in the last few years there’s been a shift to really embracing our place,” he stated.

Hudson agreed, going as far as to say that the outdoor program is “the best thing about Emory & Henry.”

“It gives you access to the outdoors and a good community of people who just want to enjoy the natural world that we live in,” he explained. “It’s a wonderful thing that I think more students should take advantage of.”

All students are welcome to participate in any of the activities the outdoor program is offering this semester. For more information on the program or the trips, students can contact Jim Harrsion at [email protected] or Alex Versen at [email protected].