families in lynchburg adventuring


hiking trails

I am so delighted that Camp Kum-Ba-Yah has launched the Families in Lynchburg Adventuring (FILA) Program! Under the leadership of Tasha and John Gillum, it’s been a great experience for my family.

A little personal background: I grew up on an acre of land in Georgia, and my brother and sister and I were able to explore the woods behind our house as long as we didn't go past the stream. We were often outside, building stick forts, and picking blackberries from the vines at the edge of the woods.

Now I have four children (9, 7, 5, and 2) but my children don't have the same outdoor experience I enjoyed. Instead, we live on a small city block in Lynchburg, without a lot of room to roam, and the advent of tablets and streaming video means they're pretty plugged in all the time, despite my best intentions.

But, while I did grow up outdoors, I also don't have a lot of outdoor knowledge or survival skills. While I remember occasionally camping as a kid (popcorn over a campfire is still the best!), or visiting waterfalls nearby, I don't feel comfortable taking my kids by myself to, say, Peaks of Otter, or camping overnight.

That's why I love, love, love that Tasha and John share their knowledge with families in Lynchburg, especially because I worked with Tasha when she was director of outdoor programs at Sweet Briar College, and she once totally cheered me on as I attempted rock climbing on the side of a mountain in North Carolina, something I never imagined I'd do — but she was gentle and empowering and tailored her guidance to my skill level (or lack thereof!). Tasha and John live what they preach, loving the outdoors and sharing their knowledge with others.

I brought three of my four kids for the recent FILA Alpine Trail hike.  It was a hot and muggy morning spent trekking up and down the forged trail along the edge of the woods at Riverside Park. It was difficult enough that we all broke into a sweat, but not overwhelming or impossible for our level of mobility. My five year old seemed to have the most fun of all, pointing out each new view with astonishment and delight.

FILA outings are paced to the ability of the group, and the Gillums make sure everyone is accounted for and safe. It's a great way to introduce new outdoor activities to your family — I now feel confident with the trails we've hiked and will bring my kids again. We'll definitely join future FILA outings, too!


Meridith De Avila Khan is a professional photographer and writer serving the region and the world.

See her work: meridithdeavilakhan.com

Portraits of Meridith by Ryan & Kelly Portnoy at The Good Story. 

Portraits of Meridith by Ryan & Kelly Portnoy at The Good Story.