By Alana Aamodt ’18
From climbing fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks, to rafting in Moab canyons, to hiking up to lakes and hot springs in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, dozens of first-year students spent their first block break experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of the Southwest’s wilderness. Each year, more than 150 students participate in trips like these, free of cost, thanks to the Outdoor Recreation Committee’s First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips program.
The program, affectionately called FOOT trips, has been bringing together first-year students and upper-class student leaders during every Block 1 block break since 1984. The student-led trips are open to all experience levels with 15-20 FOOT trips taking place every year.
Student leaders plan out FOOT trips at the end of each school year for the next year’s first block break. In September, leaders are randomly assigned a group of about nine first-year students. Right after class on Wednesday of fourth week of Block 1, groups depart in vans for the FOOT trips.
Over the course of an extended weekend, first-year students are introduced to outdoor skills like backcountry cooking, reading topographic maps, and “Leave No Trace” principles. While often challenging, FOOT trips largely focus on bonding within the group and taking in the beauty of the outdoors.
Eliza Guion ’20 participated in a FOOT trip this year and spent four days camping in the San Isabel National Forest outside Leadville, Colorado. Trip highlights included swimming in North Halfmoon Lake, summiting Mount Massive at 14,428 feet, and enjoying campfires under clear starry skies.
“One memorable moment on our FOOT trip happened when we were on our way up to the summit of Mount Massive,” Guion recounts of her trip. “We were pretty cold, the wind was blowing hail into our faces, the trail was steep, and the visibility was super low. We were just trudging up the gray rocks in the gray mist. Then out of nowhere a big gust of wind came and cleared the whole valley of the fog and the hail. Suddenly there was sun on our faces, and we turned around and watched as the whole view was unveiled before us. As the fog was swept away, we could see the red bushes and the yellow aspens, and miles and miles into the blue hills. It was magical!”
After completing a FOOT trip, students can continue to participate through ORC trips and may eventually choose to become trip leaders themselves. Through inclusive programs like FOOT, the ORC hopes to inspire new generations of outdoor leaders within the CC student community.
Photo by Orren Fox ’20.