The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Lexington is a dish best served in fall

A senior’s reflection on the best season in Lexington
Catherine McKean
A view of House Mountain and the Woods Creek Apartments show off Lexington’s signature fall foliage.

Ask anyone on campus what their favorite Lexington season is, and I guarantee you that nine out of ten will respond with “fall,” “autumn,” or just “the one with the pretty leaves.”

As someone who has experienced all four seasons at Washington and Lee multiple times over, I can safely say that fall is the only correct answer.

This school, with its colonial red and white buildings and its brick walkways, fits the traditional fall aesthetic to a T. With its proximity to a small, quaint town and nearby woods filled with deer and squirrels, it could be a setting taken from one of Hallmark’s autumn films.

Fall here is beautiful. According to Lonely Planet, Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley is the second best place to enjoy fall colors in the United States. It’s topped only by the mountain forests of New England. And Washington and Lee, lucky as we are, happens to sit right within that valley.

Even luckier than that, we don’t even need to leave campus to enjoy the changing leaves. Like my friends Jowita Chotkiewicz, ’24, and Oriana Gutierrez, ’24 said, there are trees just outside my bedroom window with stunning orange and red leaves.

“I come from a place where leaves don’t change, so I always enjoy seeing the leaves here,” said Gutierrez, who is originally from Florida.

I’ve always lived in places that experienced all four seasons in an almost idyllic way, with thick blankets of snow and frozen-over ponds in the winter, hot-but-bearable summers, and vibrant springs and autumns, so I hadn’t even considered that there are students here who’ve never experienced a proper fall.

Two other friends Matt Flynn, ’25, and Katie Wagner, ’25, told me that their favorite place to enjoy the fall foliage is the walk across Cadaver Bridge and the wooden bridge connecting to Commons.

These two walkways span the gap of Woods Creek and its corresponding trail and have been the subject of many #LexPics and Instagram story posts.

Other friends said they best enjoy the views of the Colonnade and its buckeye trees and the easily-accessible back campus trails. A stroll through downtown Lexington takes you just past Hopkins Green, where I saw many students picnicking and studying before the weather got too cold.

And until Oct. 30, the Lexington Carriage Company was offering horse-drawn carriage tours of the town. Now, I don’t know a single student who has ever actually been on one of those, but I feel like I would want to experience it at least once before I graduate.

The Lexington city website released information about the best times and places to observe the changing leaves. The week of Oct. 22 was described to be the prime time for “leaf peepin” in the region, with Lexington’s tourism board recommending drives along Route 39 and the Blue Ridge Parkway and hikes through House Mountain and the Natural Bridge State Park.

The Outing Club has also led multiple hikes and other trips in the past few weeks that have allowed students to explore fall in Rockbridge County, including several sessions of goat yoga that have become incredibly popular among everyone I talked to.

But more important than the county’s natural beauty is the sense of community that comes as the temperatures drop and the outside world changes.

Nothing brings communities together better than fall does. In my freshman year anthropology class, we talked at length about the many different harvest festivals celebrated worldwide as vectors of familial and communal bonding.

The celebrations, which range from the American and Canadian Thanksgiving to the East Asian Mid-Autumn Festival to the Celtic Samhain to the Ethiopian Enkutatash, mark more than just the culmination of months of hard work.

These celebrations are also often tied to the culture’s religion and involve group activities, such as storytelling, the preparation and sharing of meals and the performance of dances and music.

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve gotten to know more students and Lexington locals than ever before, just by going to the many festivals and events put on by local businesses and student organizations.

On campus, clubs invited students to participate in autumn crafts, eat traditional goodies at cultural festivals like PAACE’s Mid-Autumn celebration and German Club’s Oktoberfest, and get into the Halloween spirit through pumpkin carvings and trick-or-treating. Campus Garden even invited students to help out with the season’s last harvest, handing out fresh produce like tomatoes and herbs to everyone who came.

Outside of campus, local traditions have seeped into campus culture.

Like many other W&L girls, you can usually find me at Season’s Yield’s Bread Day every other Saturday. On Oct. 14, the Raphine farm hosted a Harvest Festival to celebrate their third year of the Bread Barn. The festival featured the farm’s first hay bale maze, a pumpkin patch, live music, and the pastries the farm is famous for.

Although I was home for Reading Days, my friends who went tell me that they had never seen so many people of different ages at Bread Day before, and I think that’s really cool.

Other farms, like Swisher’s Farm in Fairfield, Wade’s Mill in Raphine, and the Rockbridge Vineyard and Brewery also hosted harvest festivals earlier in October for pumpkins, apples, and wine, respectively. The festivals allow not only community members to go out and have fun with their friends and family, but to support local businesses as well.

Every Wednesday, the Lexington Farmers Market sets up in the lot on North Jefferson Street. On Oct. 18, a friend and I took advantage of a canceled class to have a look and found that the vendors were celebrating their fest-ever “Pumpkin Pie-Everything Fest.”

As a big fan of pumpkin pie, I ended up buying a tote-bag’s worth of pumpkin treats from the different vendors for me and my roommates to share.

I’m far from the only fan of fall flavors at W&L – from pumpkin spice to apple cider to maple and salted caramel, Lexington’s coffee spots and restaurants (including our own Tea House) have not disappointed with their selection of seasonal drinks and snacks.

Season’s Yield at Haywood’s has an excellent pumpkin butter toast that pairs well with their iced pumpkin spice lattes. Lexington Coffee Company also has a tasty pumpkin chai that goes well with their homemade muffins.

Finally, I love fall in Lexington (and in general) because I get to celebrate my favorite holiday, Halloween, with all my friends. Now, I may be biased as a Halloween baby, but many of my best childhood and college memories were made on the day and the week leading up to it.

Hannah Burke, ’25, and Mynor Lopez, ’24, said they both enjoy watching scary movies around Halloween, and were planning movie marathons with their roommates.

I also know quite a few people who went to Hull’s Drive-In during their 5-feature Horrorfest, with classics like BeetleJuice and the Conjuring.

Seeing everyone in their costumes also always fills me with such delight, and I loved driving through the surrounding neighborhoods to look at all the spooky decorations and music put out by local residents.

I’m also relieved that Lexington’s relative safety and small-town vibes have preserved the spirit of trick-or-treating, a tradition rapidly disappearing across the states (huge shoutout to all the fraternities and theme houses that participated by passing out candy to young trick-or-treaters the other night, y’all rock).

As I near the end of my last autumn at Washington and Lee, I’ve found a greater appreciation for participating in as many of the season’s events as I can. We’re lucky to be in such a beautiful place, and I encourage all of you to get out there and experience fall while you can! After all, Lexington is a dish best served in fall.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Ring-tum Phi Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *