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The beauty of our own backyard… Colorado Springs!

Hey folks! My name is Delina “Dee” Auciello! I am not only new to the staff here at UpaDowna but also to Colorado Springs! I moved to Colorado Springs about two and a half months ago and have been overwhelmed by the beauty of living in the mountains and by the sense of community I have been so lucky to experience having been here for such a short amount of time.

I am originally from Long Island, New York but from a young age I knew the fast-paced New York city life was not for me. I liked having the ocean close by but always found myself wanting to be in the woods, hoping I would discover a mountain somewhere on the flat island. Although I never discovered any mountains, when I turned fifteen I decided I was old enough and had saved up enough money to travel. Although this drove my mom crazy, she eventually conceded and helped me book flights to new places. With every new place I went, the fire of adventure within me grew, eager to discover more. 

After I graduated from college in May of 2018, I immediately moved out West and joined a conservation corps where I was able to live among the pines and mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona. After finishing up that seasonal job and then leading a crazy backcountry adventure all summer with high school girls from across the country, I knew I needed to stay out West and the adventurer in me was ready to explore somewhere new. I had visited Colorado Springs briefly before starting my summer job and fell in love with the beauty of Pikes Peak, the challenge of the Incline, and the opportunity to adventure in what seemed like never ending trails and parks. When August came around and I was free to go somewhere new to continue developing skills in the outdoor industry (and to explore of course) Colorado Springs seemed like the perfect fit. Moving here and getting settled was a bit overwhelming – and on top of that I was overcome by SO many cool places to go throughout the state of Colorado itself. Every weekend my partner Ryan and I were road tripping somewhere new. As the places in Colorado we traveled to began to grow, Crested Butte, Leadville, Boulder, Pueblo, Denver – I realized that we had not taken the time to explore our own backyard here in the Springs! A few weekends ago we made sure to do so.

We started at Red Rock Canyon Open Space. I had driven past the sign for this area many times in the past month or so – but had never taken the time to stop so I was really excited to have a day to simply hike and run around! When we arrived, it was so busy it took us about twenty minutes just to find parking! Once we were able to park, we got our backpacks on and decided to get on the first trail we saw and just hike around. We spent about two hours exploring the space and followed the signs to dip into the Canyon. I was also really happy that there were a ton of signs on the history of the space! I love to learn about the history of the places I explore. As we hiked around I was overcome by the beauty of the space; the fresh air, view of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, the distant sound of dogs barking, and bikes zooming past us, it was incredible. 

After hiking around Red Rock Canyon we went over to the Garden of the Gods – the parking situation was not any better. But can you blame people? We are so lucky to have such incredible red rock structure jutting out in the middle of the Springs. We followed the Scotsman/ Buckskin Charlie Trail beautiful trail and took in the views of the beautiful formations. Although the park was busy, it was really nice to just hike around and take in the views.

As if we had not had enough adventure the first day, we decided that night we would wake up early the next day and go to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Great Sand Dunes is about 2 and a half hours from the Springs so we got there pretty early, stopped at the Visitor’s Center to pick up a postcard or two, and then headed to the dunes! It is crazy how there are these desert/ beach looking dunes in between mountain ranges. They kind of sneak up on you as you are driving into the park! For a while I could not even see them, and then, BAM! The miraculous dunes! The Dunes have been forming for thousands of years! The sand comes from mountain stream deposits and are carried by the southwest winds right into the San Luis Valley amongst the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the perfect spot for them in all their, somewhat hidden, glory.

We decided to hike to the highest dune, as there is really no designated trail the park service just asks that you follow the ridges to the top and so that is what we did. Although it is a strenuous 1.5 miles up to the highest dune (every step you take you sink in!) the view at the top, like on most hikes, is well worth it. From the top it the dunes seem as though they go on forever, yet you can see the tiny snowcapped mountain tops in the distance. Also, the way down the dunes makes it worth it! Take your shoes off, run, slide, or fly down on a board you can rent! Great Sand Dunes National Park is unlike any other – it will make you feel like a kid again playing in a giant sand box! What a beautiful place.

That weekend truly reaffirmed just how lucky I am to live in a place like Colorado Springs! 

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