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Choosing Your Path

I won’t take much of your time because as you’ll see, you have much to do. I am an athlete, an artist, a workaholic, and a future physician. While I find my passion in making aesthetically pleasing art or learning about the human body, I also love looking up when it’s raining. I like jumping into swimming holes in March. I like watching the sun set on top of a mountain knowing that I have to hike two hours back down in the dark. I like feeling free.

There are so many media channels, institutions, and people that keep us shackled in place with our heads locked looking forward. Even our motto here at Washington and Lee is Non Incautus Futuri, “Not Unmindful of the Future.” And while these influences have good intentions and play a pivotal role in our development as honorable, diligent Gennies, sometimes you have to take the reins and do what you want to do. Whether it is with a group, a friend, or by yourself, go outside. Go play. You have plenty of time. That accounting test isn’t going anywhere. Your biology notes will still be there when you get back. And crazy as it may seem, you’re going to feel a lot better about yourself and may even be more productive if you take the time to enjoy the outdoors.

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I am not a part of the outing club key staff, I have never participated in or led an app adventure pre-O trip, I have been on a whopping four scheduled outing club trips during my time here, yet somehow I’ve completed just about every hike in the area. That’s because there is no right way to do the outdoors at W&L. With that being said, I am going to give you a few pointers on where to start and show you some of my favorite places that lie in our backyard.

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Tip #1: Hit the Chessie. There are cows, you’ll love it.

Tip #2: Explore the back campus trails. Go down to the river, visit the campus garden, and if you’re ambitious, search for a gazebo, you’ll find it in a new world.

Tip #3: Fuel up the automobile and drive…. I know what you’re thinking, “Dillon you haven’t told me where to go”…exactly, you choose. One of my favorite things to do here is going on spontaneous adventures. Whether its two hours or 30 minutes, get in the car with a friend and ask “left or right” at every intersection. Lexington is located in a beautiful area, wherever you end up, you’ll be happy you’re there.

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Tip #3.5: Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Go north, go south, it doesn’t matter. The parkway is home to the most amazing panoramic views. It is perfect for sunsets, stargazing, and shorter hikes (hint: you just drove up half the mountain). Drive north to Humpback Rocks or south to Apple Orchard Falls and Sharp Top Mountain. If there’s a scenic overlook, stop, if there’s a marked trail, stop, if there’s an unmarked trail, stop. You get the point, there’s a lot to be discovered along that winding road.

Tip #4: Do House Mountain already, what’re you waiting for?

 Tip #5: Find a waterfall and a place to swim (p.s. better than a float). Suggestions include Panther Falls (busy, unoriginal, endless fun), St. Mary’s Falls (less busy, creek crossings, cliff jumping), Staunton Falls (secluded, swimming holes, caution: slippery rocks). Honorable mentions go to Crab Tree Falls, Falling Springs Falls, and Falling Water Cascades Trail.

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Tip #6: Do you like rocks? If so, Devil’s Marble Yard and Spy Rock are for you, go.

Tip #7: Day Trip. Drive down to McAfee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth or go camping at Mount Pleasant/Cold Mountain.

Tip #8: Goshen has it all. Hike, climb, check out the swinging bring, or bring your books and study by the river.

Tip #9: OC Trips: They don’t always fit with your schedule, but if you have the opportunity, take advantage of them. The outing club is run by some of the most generous and helpful people you’ll find at this university. Go white water rafting, paddle boarding, climbing, skiing, horseback riding, you name it. It will be worth it and you might just make a few friends along the way.

Lastly, Tip #10: Don’t forget about the little things. Sit on the colonnade, find a place to hammock, visit Wood’s Creek, walk to class, or go to an outdoor sporting event. If you can’t be outside, sit by a window, it’s medically proven that exposure to nature can help relieve stress and anger, reduce blood pressure and muscle tension, and improve your mood.

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If there’s anything that I’ve learned during my four years here at W&L, it’s that you decide what you get out of this short experience called college. Though it may seem like your professors have you like a puppet on a string and the thought of the future makes your heart drop, you’re young and the opportunities around you are endless. When you look back at your Washington and Lee career, you won’t remember what you got on your statistics exam or your sociology midterm, but you will remember building a fire with your friends in the pit outside of Gaines at 2 AM, just because you were craving some s’mores. You’ll remember that camping trip you went on alone because you were scared and weren’t sure you could do it, but you made it. You’ll remember these things because they expanded your horizons a little further, challenged you, and ultimately, made you smile. Now go.

      Your Friend,

      Dillon Stanfield ‘16

“The day will be what you make it, so rise, like the sun, and burn.”

– William C. Hannan

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Dillon Stanfield, born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I graduated with a BS in Biology and a Studio Art minor. Four year member of the football team and senior captain. Member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the 24: Many Sports-One Team Organization. Served as a Outing Club hiking trip leader and volunteered with the Rockbridge Habitat for Humanity. Lastly, I participated in the General’s Leadership Academy and served three years as a WLUR DJ. I will be headed to the University of Louisville School of Medicine this fall.

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