Charlottesville is crawling with outdoor and nature enthusiasts, and who wouldn’t want to be outside when it’s 75 degrees and sunny? As the days get shorter and colder, though, it’s tempting to stay indoors and save the outdoor action for springtime. One group of local adventurers sees no reason to slow down.
The Outdoor Adventure Social Club boasts more than 200 members, and while the club’s trips aren’t as frequent now as they were during the summer, several leaders are still taking groups on outdoor excursions, from day hikes to underground expeditions.
“I actually really love hiking during the winter,” said Melissa Levy, the liaison between the club and prospective new members. “You don’t have the bugs, you can see more because the leaves are off the trees, and you don’t really even stay cold because you’re so active.”
Levy came to Charlottesville in 2004 as a graduate student at UVA, and wanted a social outlet outside of school. Outdoors at UVA—a group that provides similar trip options and volunteer opportunities like trail maintenance and river cleanups—was available to her as a student, but she said she wanted a club with a broader age range.
Members of the OASC can also sign up for service projects in the area. Levy said the group often travels to nearby Bellair Farm for a day of volunteering: weeding strawberries, spreading mulch, and working on fences.
Trip leader Dallas Branum has been involved with the OASC since this summer. He saw the club’s sandwich board advertisement on the Downtown Mall, and being a new guy in town with years of experience leading outdoor adventure trips, he was eager to sign up. For months, he led rock climbing trips and hikes, and he said he’s seen some drop off in participation over the last several weeks.
“With the sun going down earlier and inclement weather, people aren’t as likely to go out,” he said.
Safety is also a concern, as the cold rain and rapid darkness make rock climbing more dangerous. But more and more people are signing up for the opposite adventure now: caving.
“It’s dark all the time anyway, and the temperature in a cave doesn’t change year-round,” Branum said.
When Branum takes groups to places like Hamilton Cave in West Virginia or Virginia’s Crossroads Cave, he said he likes to spend part of the drive talking about the local geology, and answering questions about underground formations and sea fossils.
“It’s not the primary focus of the trips, but there’s always a geological aspect,” he said.
OASC’s calendar is full of events to keep members active and involved indoors, too, from cocktail hours and yoga classes to broomball games on the ice at Main Street Arena. But lest you think they’re shying away from high adventure for the next few months, take a look ahead. There’s a three-day mountaineering course in New Hampshire’s White Mountains scheduled for late January, perfect practice for the trek of a lifetime: A two-week trip to Mount Everest base camp in Nepal.
Levy said leaders organize trips based on their own interests and favorite areas, and the club is always looking for new people to participate and lead. For information on December memberships, contact Melissa Levy at outdoorsocial.com.