UpaDowna: Getting Colorado Springs locals outside

Ever heard of the Colorado Springs’ Wednesday night cruiser rides? How about the potlucks and outdoor-oriented movies that happen on the second Monday of each month at CityRock? Did you know there’s an Incline Happy Hour? If you answered no to the above questions, you should check out UpaDowna, a local community outreach program dedicated to getting people from all walks of life into the great outdoors.

Photo courtesy of UpaDowna

Military veteran Steve Hitchcock founded UpaDowna in 2001 after a realization that many Colorado Springs’ residents have never stepped foot on the plethora of trails that zigzag through these foothills. During the last couple of years, UpaDowna has led over 165 outdoor-oriented events each year, despite only having a staff of four.

UpaDowna’s website said, “UpaDowna was founded with the mission of getting folks off of the couch and out into the wild. At its creation, the name UpaDowna was simply a clear and concise way of describing our way of life; ‘Up a Mountain, Down a Beer.”

Although UpaDowna is currently undergoing an evolution in which they are striving to lead more multi-day trips by decreasing their overall number of yearly events, Hitchcock stressed the importance of remembering their beginning.

“We will never lose track of where we came from. Up a mountain, down a beer—as adults, it’s a social thing,” Hitchcock said.

Currently, UpaDowna hosts a number of events in and around Colorado Springs. Every Wednesday, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, a fleet of local biking enthusiasts can be seen cruising through the city. These cyclists typically range in age from five to eighty years old. These cruiser rides begin and end at McCabe’s Tavern, located on Tejon Street.

The second Monday of each month, UpaDowna brings an adventure-based film to CityRock, a local climbing gym. It’s free, although guests are encouraged to bring a potluck dish to share. Recent films have included “Into the Wild” and “Where the Yellowstone Goes”.

UpaDowna staff lead an outdoor adventure, whether that means a day hike, a snowshoeing trip, or a class in rock climbing basics, on the third Sunday of each month. These outings always place an emphasis on learning about the region and UpaDowna employees are well versed in local flora, fauna, geography, and geology. Hitchcock emphasized that people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities are welcome at every community event that UpaDowna puts on.

“The kid who lives in Broadmoor and plays Nintendo everyday needs the outdoors just as badly as the inner city kid,” Hitchcock said. He then explained that their biggest issue in obtaining funding from larger organizations is the fact that they’re not a special interests group that focuses on one demographic.

“Our demographic is everybody,” Hitchcock said as he explained UpaDowna’s core belief that experiencing the outdoors benefits all individuals.

UpaDowna is also trying to start up outreach programs in local elementary schools, in which UpaDowna members give assembly-based presentations on a variety of outdoor subjects ranging from regional geology to scat identification.

“We want them to get out, get dirty, and have fun,” Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock also expressed interest in introducing outdoor-oriented sports such as slacklining and Frisbee golf to the elementary-school students with the belief that these activities will motivate kids to get off the couch while also fostering self-confidence.

“When was the last time you saw the stars without the city lights?” Hitchcock sometimes asks UpaDowna’s participants. UpaDowna makes it possible for Colorado Springs’ locals to get out and see the Pikes Peak region that lies right in their backyard. They allow residents who have never gotten into the wilderness to see precious things, like a light-pollution-less night sky that they may not even realize they’re missing.

Kate Leaf

Active Life Editor

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