If the words 'College Issue' enticed you to read the Independent this week, you might be new to Colorado Springs, or even new to the mountains. But if you're like many others, you'll quickly gain an appreciation — even a love — of outdoor recreation in and around town.
Hiking, running, cycling, climbing — no matter what you like to do, there's plenty of fun for you here, and you don't even have to leave the city to find most of it. We're proud of our parks, miles and miles of trails and open spaces, and put them all to good use, including a few noteworthy spots near our university campuses.
First, some basics:
• Unless you're from 6,000 feet above sea level, you're going to need time to get accustomed to the altitude, thin air and dry climate. You don't want to try hiking up Pikes Peak during your first week here, or even your first month, depending on where you came from.
• Drink water, lots of water. You need more than you think. Our semi-arid environment will suck the moisture out of you before you realize it, and dehydration is a major factor in altitude sickness.
• Speaking of which, beware of altitude sickness. Everyone gets it to some degree. Headaches, nausea, vomiting and confusion while at altitude, even if you're not physically active up there, may be signs of altitude sickness. If you experience these symptoms while exercising, stop — get some rest, drink more water, and get to a lower altitude. (If symptoms persist, especially vomiting, seek medical attention.)
• Don't get lost. Before you head out on the trails, take some time to become familiar with where you're going. How difficult is the trail? How long is it, and how do you get back? What is the trail name or number? For info, I suggest the Pikes Peak Atlas, the Trails Illustrated series of maps, or the locally produced Pocket Pals maps. Find information on Colorado Springs city parks at ow.ly/RabQk, and on El Paso County parks at ow.ly/RabSB.
It's very easy for people who are unfamiliar with the area to get lost, even within certain city parks. Your cell phone may not get a signal, so don't assume you'll be able to use it to call for help. It's best to know where you are at all times and how to get back to where you started, even if that means taking pictures of landmarks along the way. Finally, tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back, especially if you're going out alone.
Now, the following isn't intended to be an all-inclusive list of the places to go, only a primer to get you started. The opportunities here are almost limitless:
• The Pulpit Rock Open Space, just north of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus, offers many trails suitable for hiking, running and cycling.
• Palmer Park, just east of the campus across Union Boulevard, offers a number of trails and some great views, too.
• Monument Valley Trail runs north and south along Monument Creek, from one end of Colorado Springs to the other (and beyond), including through Monument Valley Park and downtown.
• On the opposite side of I-25, Ute Valley Park sprawls with multiple trails, most of which are open to cycling, hiking and running.
• Shooks Run Trail is a few blocks east of the Colorado College campus, running north and south on the edge of downtown Colorado Springs.
• The Air Force Academy has its own trail system, and the Santa Fe Trail runs through the eastern edge of Academy grounds, connecting Monument/Palmer Lake and Colorado Springs. Also accessible from academy grounds are the Eagles Peak and Stanley Canyon trails, on the west side of the Academy. As of this writing, the portion of the Santa Fe Trail that crosses Academy grounds is open only to military members, Department of Defense employees and their guests. Civilian access to Academy grounds can be restricted at any time.
• Finally, you've likely heard about the Manitou Incline in nearby Manitou Springs. It's not so much a trail as a test of stamina and strength. Yes, it's as tough as — or even tougher than — you've been told.
Editor's note: Bob Falcone makes a guest appearance in this week's Good Dirt, in place of Tim Bergsten. "Hiking Bob," as he's known on the trails, offers outdoor insights and trail recommendations weekly in the IndyBlog, at csindy.com.