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Trail Work with SAWS

By Emma Aldrich ’22

Challenge: Describe a Typical W&L Student in Six Words or Less.

My favorite part about W&L is the student body. Everyone has a different background and a unique story to tell, but we all share underlying values—honor, a strong work ethic, a sense of duty—that unite us. The Outing Club takes these connections between students one step further: not only do members of the OC have similar values, but we’re all eager to exploit any opportunities to get outside.

That’s why I feel like the OC trip to remove graffiti at Devil’s Marbleyard last weekend was a perfect example of what a typical W&L student does for fun. On a crisp November morning, six students and I packed into a van and drove south of fabulous Lex Vegas to the trailhead for Devil’s Marbleyard. There, we met up with rangers from the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS), a passionate group dedicated to conservation and land management in the area.

Armed with hard hats, protective goggles, “elephant’s snot” (a biodegradable paste that degrades paint) and pressure-washing bladder bags, we hiked with the SAWS rangers through the fall foliage to the base of the Marbleyard. There, we divided into smaller groups and scrambled up the Class Five climb (as steep as can be climbed without the use of ropes) until we found what we were looking for: a beautiful view of the rolling hills… tarnished by doodles and scribbles spray-painted onto the rocks. It was frustrating to be distracted from such a breath-taking scene by so-called artists’ attempts to make their marks on nature. Unsurprisingly, it was so satisfying when a little bit of elbow grease helped restore some of the graffitied rocks back to their former paint-free glory.

It was very rewarding to know that our efforts will help future hikers and climbers get more enjoyment out of their experience. However, though we left Devil’s Marbleyard better than when we found it, the rocks were not completely graffiti-free when we left; more work is always needed to maintain our beautiful environment. Environmental stewardship is an uphill battle—in this case literally—but certainly one worth fighting.

Overall, cleaning up Devil’s Marbleyard was a two-for-the-price-of-one experience: not only did we have the opportunity to be adventurous, but we also got to make an impact. I would recommend the trip to anyone who even remotely fits the description of a typical W&L student—and SAWS is always looking for volunteers!