Oct 9, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Tia Vierling | Illustration by Jubilee Rivera-Hernandez

I laid on a picnic blanket in the middle of a hiking trail by Gold Camp Road, an hour before the area closed. The night air was a pleasant temperature, though I knew it would get chilly the longer I was out. The moon was tinted an orange-red that may or may not have been due to the smoke drifting into Colorado Springs from fires miles away. The city lights twinkled in the distance. Stars lit up the night sky like pinpricks of light, interrupted every so often by the lights of an airplane at cruising altitude.

Stargazing may not seem like the most exciting or adventurous outdoor activity, but in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic – not to mention in a time when it feels like smoke fills the skies far too often – it has become one of the most reasonable options for getting outside and engaging in nature, even if it may not be as “active” of an activity. Students looking for outdoor activities on the weekends or even the weeknights should consider heading into the mountains or even out onto Yampa Field for a glance at the night sky.

While stargazing is one of the easiest, it is not the only possible nighttime activity. Other opportunities abound for outdoor activities in the night. One might traipse down to Washburn Field to look for the owl that has recently been finding a perch on the fence; even if the bird can’t be found, there are plenty of creatures to keep an eye out for if students are inclined. (Just last week, I caught a glimpse of a raccoon waddling past the dumpsters outside Loomis.)

Another appealing activity might be to take a walk at dusk with friends on the Tiger Trail – while safety is important to keep in mind, it can be calming to go for a quick jaunt by the river. Outdoor rather than indoor interaction during the pandemic is a good idea in any circumstance; this holds true for nighttime activities just as much as those in the day. More motivated students can even supplement their active lives with a 9 p.m. run on the track.

Getting outside to meditate in the dark can be a relaxing and worthwhile pursuit. What better time for mindfulness than the quiet of the evening, when the sounds of the campus have quieted? Centering yourself during a meditation session of even five minutes is one of the best possible ways to relax: just breathing deep, calming down, and letting the sensations of the night surround you can help you to feel more grounded.

Now – before the temperatures drop too far and snow starts to fall – is the time to take advantage of the night for outdoor activities. From stargazing to night runs, zoological pursuits to meditation, nighttime activities can be a unique way to spice up outdoor activity. For students whose days may be filled with Zoom meetings and homework, it may be a breath of fresh air – literally – to go nocturnal once in a while.

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