A new program to launch this summer extends the popular outdoor experience enjoyed by E&H students to high school juniors and seniors, giving a greater number of young people the opportunity to bond with nature while working with others.
The Emory & Henry Summer Adventure Program will be a 12-day experience from Saturday, June 21 through Wednesday, July 2. During that time high school students will hike the Channels State Park, backpack and boulder in the Grayson Highlands State Park, navigate rivers on stand-up paddle boards, bike the Creeper Trail, raft the Noli Gorge, and hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell. In the evenings they will make camp in the back country or at area campsites.
While undertaking these outdoor adventures, students will learn such skills as preparing a backpack, cooking outdoors, bouldering and navigating in the wild. Students also will maintain a journal and undertake other projects that encourage reflection on the experience.
“This is a learning experience,” said Jim Harrison, director of the E&H Outdoor Program and of the summer program. “But at the same time there is no doubt that this is great fun for the participants. Although these are vigorous adventure activities, they are greatly enjoyable and accessible to a wide range of skill levels.”
“This is a learning experience…greatly enjoyable and accessible to a wide range of skill levels. Jim Harrison
Director of Outdoor Programs
The adventure program provides opportunities for growth, as students learn about their relationship to nature and as they learn how to work with and rely on colleagues during group adventures. “Emory & Henry is fortunate to be located in a region that provides tremendous opportunities for outdoor adventure and individual advancement. Repeatedly we have seen young people blossom as confident citizens and leaders through their communion with the outdoors,” Harrison said.
Emory & Henry’s Outdoor Program has been praised for its diversity of experiences and for the leadership and communication skills it fosters. Last year, Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine ranked the College among the top eight adventure colleges and universities in the East and Southeast.
Along with fulltime program staff, the qualified, competent student leaders who regularly facilitate Outdoor Program trips and clinics will guide and mentor Summer Adventure Program participants.
“A big reason why the Outdoor Program is popular on campus is because fun is contagious, and the student trip leaders love to share the fun and their expertise with other students,” said Harrison.
Emory & Henry is nestled in an outdoor adventure paradise. The Appalachian and Iron Mountain trails, The Virginia Creeper Trail, The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, The Jefferson and George Washington national forests, and the New, Holston, and Clinch rivers are just a few of the adventure opportunities close by.
Because of the program’s growing popularity and prominence, Emory & Henry President Jake Schrum encouraged the development of the summer adventure program. By hosting the program, the College creates the opportunity for a larger number of prospective E&H students to not only experience the environment in which the College is located, but also to bring to their engagement with the outdoors the liberal arts perspective from a top liberal arts school.
“An Emory & Henry education can enrich an outdoor experience in amazing ways, helping students gain insight into the natural world in ways they never would have imagined,” Schrum said. As a member of the College faculty and director of the Outdoor Program, Harrison has been in a unique position to cultivate and guide students into learning opportunities that are a synthesis of academic writing projects and adventure experiences.
After completing his graduate work, Harrison began teaching writing and literature courses in the fall of 1998 at Emory & Henry College. In 1999, he started an extracurricular hiking club, and in 2005 the club became the E&H Outdoor Program. He instituted the E&H Semester-A-Trail program, which offers students the opportunity to remain fulltime students while attempting a thru-hike of the entire Appalachian Trail.
“Because of the impact that the college’s Outdoor Program has had on the lives of a growing number of students, it makes sense to expand it and extend it to others, hopefully engaging them more fully with the natural surroundings of our region and with this extraordinary college.”
Tuition covers the cost of all meals during the Program, excluding breakfast on arrival day and dinner on departure day. The Emory & Henry Outdoor Program believes the word backcountry means good, quality food. Learning how to prepare tasty meals in the backcountry is one of the best things about the experience.
The Summer Adventure Program is a small camp where big adventures happen.
The E&H Summer Adventure Program will only accept up to twenty students, and six instructors are dedicated to the Program, which means the student to instructor ratio will always be at least 4 to 1, guaranteeing plenty of personal attention and guidance. Our instructors are qualified backcountry leaders, but they are most importantly caring, fun people.
The first day (June 21st) will be arrivals, introductions, orientation, and students will stay on campus the first night in a campus dorm. Day two will begin the backcountry adventure with a hike to the Channels Natural Area Preserve, and after the hike, the group will transition to Grayson Highlands State Park for a night’s stay in the camp ground. Days three through five will be a backpacking trip into the high country, returning to the Grayson Highland campground for night five. Days six and seven will be spent exploring the bouldering opportunities in the Grayson Highlands State Park, and after bouldering on day seven, the group will transition to Beartree Campground. Days eight and nine will be spent biking the Virginia Creeper Trail and Stand Up Paddling on South Holston Lake, and after the SUP trip on day nine, the group will transition to the Nolichucky River Campground. Day ten the group will raft the Nolichucky Gorge with USA Raft, staying again at the Noli. Day eleven the group will wake up early for the Mt Mitchell Summit Bid, and after bagging the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River, the group will return to Emory & Henry Campus for a final night’s stay in a campus dorm. Day twelve (July 2nd) will be presentations and departures.
Jim Harrison, Director of E&H Outdoor Programs, will oversee the Summer Adventure Program and be the primary contact person throughout the Program. He will regularly visit the group and be a constant resource for field instructors.
Alex Versen, Assistant Director and Program Coordinator for the E&H Outdoor Program, will be the head instructor in the field.
In addition to the Emory & Henry Outdoor Program Staff, five Emory & Henry Outdoor Program trip leaders will serve as instructors to the Summer Adventure Program.
An Emory & Henry education can enrich an outdoor experience in amazing ways, helping students gain insight into the natural world in ways they never would have imaginedJake Schrum
21st President of Emory & Henry College
Alex is the Assistant Director & Program Coordinator of the Emory & Henry College Outdoor Program. He is an expert in whitewater kayaking, rock climbing, and back country adventure. Alex is one of the very few certified Swiftwater Rescue and Whitewater Kayaking Instructors in Southwest Virginia.
Prior to working at Emory, Alex spent years working for Adventure Treks, leading trips in the backcountry of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. He also completed a semester long NOLS course in the Rockies, earning college credit while backpacking, rock climbing, and boating across Wyoming, Nevada, and Utah.
Alex has his B.A. in Sociology and Political Science from Emory & Henry College.
In the summer of 2013, I was part of a thirteen day expedition that kayaked the 280 miles of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. The expedition team lived out of kayaks for the length of the trip and encountered the fastest moving white water in the country. It was awesome!
Ali has been a camp counselor at two camps for kids with special needs. Camp Sunshine, catering to kids with terminal illnesses, and a wilderness experience camp for kids with autistic spectrum disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. She led hikes, lifeguarded, cooked, led camp activities, supervised camp outs and helped to scaffold situations when kids felt uneasy. In addition to camp experience, Ali I was also a project FEAT™ instructor at her high school and chaperoned day trips that went canoeing, bouldering, and skiing. She also makes some mean chili and loves a game of pick-up ultimate Frisbee.
Ali is first year student double majoring in Psychology and Anthropology (self-crafted). She is particularly interested in how other cultures approach autism and other neurological disorders. that impact social behavior. Her goal is to make it to Mongolia to trek with the reindeer people and meet their shamans in order to research how they experience healing.
Ali is a member of the E&H Honors Program, Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, and the Greens (Emory’s environmental sustainability club).
Each summer I get closer to my goal of hiking every one of the 46er mountains in the Adirondack Mountains. This past summer I summited three of them consecutively in four days. On our way down Mt. Marcy we came across Avalanche Lake and the most impressive collection of orange salamanders I've ever encountered.
John England—a sophomore majoring in Environmental Studies—is a Hiking Trip Leader for the Emory & Henry Outdoor Program, and has also discovered a passion for whitewater paddling. He is a member of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity.
Definitely the overnight kayaking trip on the Nolichucky River. I was able to make some new friends and work on my boating skills. It was an amazing time.
Gabbie Rhodes—a sophomore double-majoring in Public Policy Community Service & Socialogy—is an Assistant Trip Leader for the Emory & Henry Outdoor Program, and she has spent the past four summers working in the Youth Conservation Corp. She is a Bonner Scholar and is a member of the Emory & Henry Cross Country Team.
Once I went backpacking on the Appalachian Trail near Roanoke, VA. I spent the night on Tinker Cliffs where I would have a good view of the sun setting. It felt so good to rest after a long day of hiking. I fell asleep all cozy in my hammock, lulled to sleep by the noise of cicadas, and I woke up to birds chirping. It was one of the best, most peaceful sleeps I have ever had.
Charlie Wygal is an Assistant Trip Leader and the Whitewater Paddling Intern for the Emory & Henry Outdoor Program. Charlie is a first-year student, and he is leaning towards an Environmental Studies major. Beyond his studies, Charlie is solely committed to the Outdoor Program. In his time at E&H, he has not missed a single Outdoor Program event.
On the fall break climbing expedition we went bouldering the last day, and it was awesome to send some intense rock faces.
Jordan Remy—a junior majoring in International Business & Economics—is a Backpacking Trip Leader for the Emory & Henry Outdoor Program. In the summer of 2013, he worked eleven weeks as a camp counselor for 4-H, leading a variety of programs including rifle instruction. He plays a key role in the Emory & Henry Chapter of Habitat for Humanity and is a board member on the Washington Country Habitat affiliate.
My Freshman year, I went on the Program’s spring break backpacking expedition to Big Bend National Park. Every night you could look into space and see more stars than anywhere else in the entire U.S. The images of those star-filled skies will always stick with me.