September 9, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Cormac McCrimmon
Block breaks are the glue that holds the Block Plan together. These holy hiatuses are some of the remaining times when students seem able to let go, relax, and shake off the pressures of school. Yet, what if it was possible to harness the power of block break in the middle of the week?
Weeknight camping offers one such experience that’s likely to shake you from your routine and might serve as a rejuvenating escape. While many Colorado College students choose to camp across the Southwest during block breaks, a variety of mini-camping adventures can provide a similar experience. From car camping to bike-packing and backpacking, Colorado Springs has several backcountry gems close enough for an after-class adventure.
Weeknight camping takes a certain level of preparation and planning. It’s best to know what you need to bring before you decide to go. While the Gear House can provide most camping essentials you might need, shopping for food before you leave can help speed up the process.
Although camping can cut into time for class work, I find myself more productive if I force myself to finish my work earlier. Furthermore, certain homework, like readings from a book or excerpts you print beforehand, are easy to bring with you. You might even find yourself more focused away from campus.
Barr Trail Backpacking
The first option involves backpacking up the Barr Trail, which leads to the top of Pikes Peak. The trailhead is located in Manitou Springs near the bottom of the Manitou Incline. Although the whole trail is 26 miles round trip, by hiking three to five miles up the Barr Trail, you’re likely to find good dispersed campsites. Make sure to hike past the junction for the Incline. Although some sites are available as few as three miles in, the sites improve in quality near miles four and five. There is a small stream that flows through this area, but I suggest bringing enough water for a single night. Hike in after-class or bring a head lamp if you start later. Give yourself time to walk down in the morning and return to campus before class.
Gold Camp Road Bike-packing
Gold Camp Road, which once served as a historic railway, offers excellent options for bike-packing. You can choose to start at Stratton Open Space, North Cheyenne Cañon or the Upper Lot after the second tunnel. From this lot, the road is closed to vehicles, making it perfect for bike-packing. Although areas off the road can be steep, there are select pockets that offer solid camping close to the trailhead. The beauty of riding Gold Camp Road is that the return to campus the following morning is almost entirely downhill.
For more details of bike-packing Gold Camp Road or to join a local group ride, consider checking out the Don’t Overthink it Series.
Cheyenne Mountain State Park
Funny enough, car camping can be the hardest to find without leaving the Springs. Fortunately, Cheyenne Mountain State Park offers year-round camping. Reservations can be made on the park’s website. Although prices to enter the park ($9) and campsite fees ($28) are a bit steep, it makes for an easy access location you can share with friends. The state park is also home to a wonderful network of biking and hiking trails.
For a truly last-minute campsite, consider stealth camping on the quad. Although you might receive an early wake up from Campus Safety, the story might be worth a bad night’s sleep. Sleep at your own risk!