When fifth block break rolls around, Colorado College students usually gear up and hit the mountains for some form of wintry enjoyment. Rarely do they devote themselves to three days of service. However, going on a BreakOut trip allows students to see corners of Colorado and meet people that they probably wouldn’t visit otherwise.
Instead of partying it up in Breckenridge or getting cozy in Telluride, sophomore Skyler Trieu and junior Linda Jimenez organized a BreakOut trip to Crestone, Colo. Six CC students participated.
BreakOut is a student-led, student-organized association that coordinates service-oriented weekend, block break and spring break trips.
Upon arrival in Crestone, the eight CC students met up with firefighter, spiritual leader, and local legend Peter May, who helped lead the trip. Most students who have studied at the Baca Campus know of May and his unconventional wisdom. He loves to manufacture oil extracts for their healing properties, and consistently leads students in meditative ceremonies that he deems “the journey.”
The group’s first day of service took place near the Haidakhandi Universal Ashram, located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just east of Crestone. There in the woods, Peter led them in mitigating potential forest fire damage. Peter selected certain trees, marked them, and cut them. Others he left standing after trimming their lowermost branches.
The students then collected the fallen timber, which they dragged to a wood chipper. The labor, though demanding, proved to be largely beneficial to Crestone’s forest ecosystem.
“This way, when a fire inevitably comes through, it won’t spread as easily and won’t be nearly as bad,” Trieu said of their hard work.
The BreakOut crew took a well-deserved break on Friday and traveled to the Joyful Journey Hot Springs just north of town to soak their aching muscles. The springs, though contained by concrete pools, use completely natural mineral water full of healing properties, brought in directly from the surrounding landscape.
That evening, May led the group in a spiritually re-charging meditative “journey” to prepare the trip participants for another day of service.
After the blissful day of soaking, the CC students got back to work. Another service trip earlier in the year had labored towards similar mitigation efforts but left behind several piles of un-chipped wood. Since these piles were really just large plates of food waiting to be consumed by a hungry fire, the BreakOut team put themselves to work by putting the piles through the chipper.
Throughout the process, May instructed them in how to put out forest fires, insisting that “the proper way to extinguish one is to first greet it with respect.”
At the end of their third day in Crestone, Peter showed the students how to extract pine oil from the plants and thus create hydrosol, or an herbal distillate, the main ingredient in his healing remedies.
“It was a really wonderful experience, Trieu said. “I loved forest service in such a beautiful place. I had no idea so many spiritual people lived down there, either. And it feels good to potentially prevent a dangerous wildfire like the one in Waldo Canyon.”