Ah, Block Break. It only happened a little over two weeks ago, but it already seems so far away. After a vicious first block, the mass exodus of adventure-seeking students kicked off the four-day break as people journeyed far and wide to get lost in the wilderness.
While my trip was not as bold as the many backpackers who conquered the Four Pass Loop in the wilderness of the Maroon Bells or the summiteers of various fourteeners, we still headed off into the San Isabel National Forest to Bear Lake for a break of hiking, painting, and, most importantly, talking.
Patting ourselves on the back for actually planning and executing a Block Break trip without any assistance, we were only met with a few missteps on our way off campus, such as a serious miscalculation of baggage space and some extremely questionable tire pressure.
Upon our arrival that night, we were met with some serious wind, and after pinning the tent down with our seven backpacks, we proceeded to huddle up in my car to get started on the massive quantities of bagels and peanut butter we had brought along with us.
We spent the first day exploring both Bear and Blue Lakes, following the short trail from our campsite that wove its way around both bodies of water. Sunlight glinted off the surface as occasional splashes and ripples on the water suggested the presence of fish.
As we wandered, we chatted about various topics such as class, social life, family, and work. However, the topics didn’t seem to dip too far below surface level as we got to know one-another because, in true CC fashion, we had brought together a random mix of individuals to camp in the woods.
The following day, a few of us opted for more of a trek, and set out to explore Indian Creek Trail and the connecting Baker Trail. The trail descended into a small valley nestled between two mountains and we passed under towering pine trees that skimmed the bottoms of the clouds.
Our boots beat against the ground as we wove our way down, hopping over creeks with our eyes on the pine trees as they thinned out, giving way to the changing aspens. We were finally met with a sweeping view of evergreen-covered mountains with bursts of yellow from sporadic aspen groves.
As we walked, our conversations quickly shifted from the superficial to in-depth discussions that ranged from politics, to worldviews, to social media, and beyond. With each passing step, the discussions gave way to rhetorical questions, quizzical looks, and continual laughter.
As the miles wore on, we forged our way off the trail for a better vantage point to take in the views around us, and scurried up boulders to get just a little closer to the sky. Later, as the trail split off, we took some time to rest in the shade while I took a power nap in the sun. Turning around to make the trek back up into the mountains, the conversation paused as our breathing got in the way, but with every water break we took, it immediately picked back up where it had left off as we had never run out of breath.
During such lulls though, the running water of creek that ran alongside the trail filled the silence while occasional birdcalls answered. We left the groves of aspen trees behind to be replaced by pine trees as the trail snaked its way up the side of the mountain. Small bursts of energy led to snippets of discussion as we made our way up, and as the trail leveled out we continued with our various debates.
The consistent consensus that we reached throughout our trek was astonishment towards our surroundings and true appreciation for where we were. So, while we found a more than spectacular hike to add to our Block Break repertoire, we also managed to find ourselves in meaningful and insightful discussion outside of the classroom.
Upon returning to our campsite, our legs were already sore and our feet pleaded to be let free from the confines of our hiking boots. As we sat and continued to tear into our stash of peanut butter and bagels, we concluded our conversation with a shared admiration for the woods that surrounded us, along with an unsaid gratitude for the company of one another.
As Harper Sherwood-Reid would say, “Sense of wonder is my favorite sense.”