CO trips: affordable outdoor weekend getaways

Illustration by Rachael Obermiller

By Audrey Barrett

Are College Outdoors (CO) trips worth it? In a word, yes. Where else can you spend upwards of six hours preparing and eating a few crickets? Don’t worry, it’s not required. With so many trip options, CO is an awesome resource for students to learn outdoor skills. In my experience, though, the best part is getting to know other people and yourself better.

People are more authentic in the outdoors. Being isolated from daily worries and incessant Twitter notifications brings me fully into the present, where my mind is occupied with the task at hand, whether that be hiking, cooking or just hanging out with friends. I mostly do CO’s backpacking trips. When you are on the trail, every ounce of energy goes into keeping your group alive, comfortable and trucking up the next massive hill. Food becomes sacred, especially when you have to share — hence the aforementioned cricket consumption. You will miss the convenience of the Bon, but trail food can be creative and often involves Nutella, so it’s worth it.

Not to mention, hiking with a pack half my weight makes me feel like a badass. It is very much what I call “Type Two Fun,” meaning that it hurts while it’s happening, but is satisfying afterwards: bruises on my hips and blisters on my feet are more empowering than they seem. Honestly, I would be way less fun and independent if I hadn’t spent so much time outdoors. Pushing myself when I was feeling unsure gives me confidence in other areas of my life, like mastering difficult concepts in class or leading a group toward a common goal. Still, snuggling into my sleeping bag after a long day is the best part. Connecting with nature by staring at the stars until I fall asleep … Or at least, that would be the ideal, but I have such bad vision that after I take out my contacts I can’t make out any stars no matter how gorgeous the Milky Way is.

I’ve been focusing on hiking trips, but CO has a ton of options to choose from. Kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, snowshoeing, rock climbing, rafting, mushroom foraging. Whatever floats your boat. I cannot recommend it highly enough as a way to get off campus and reset your brain. Leaving friends for a weekend might give you some major FOMO, but you’ll come back with a whole new group of friends anyway. The wilderness somehow erases normal social walls, making people open up more easily. Everyone is outside their comfort zones and is able to bond over the experience. The price holds some students back, too, but there are discounts for students with financial aid, and the price is honestly well worth it.

CO trips have helped me find new friends, a self-esteem boost, beautiful scenery and outdoor skills. I love how accessible to newcomers they are. Even if you’ve never stepped on a trail or slept outside before, you can walk to Templeton and sign up outside the CO office. The gear warehouse gets me super excited in a outdoor-nerd way, since I can check out everything from jackets to backpacks or even guidebooks. The people are passionate, cool and super friendly, since people who sign up for and lead trips all have something in common: they want to escape everyday life and go on an adventure.

We are blessed to live in Portland. Being from Colorado, I am forever stunned by how ridiculously green everything is. We have the opportunity to enjoy lush forests, snow capped mountains and even the Pacific coast. CO adventures allow us to experience the beautiful world around us. Make sure you take some nature appreciation moments, where you just stop mid hike to stare and express your amazement with an expletive exclamation. Don’t forget to take a rain jacket!

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