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Exactly Erin: It’s Taos Time!

by Erin on March 15, 2014

Taos, New Mexicooooo

I’m leaving for Taos, NM to start my alternative spring break experience tomorrow and I’m pretty excited about going. I made it through this week in tact and the weather has been ridiculously benign so I’m all smiles and good vibes on this end. I’m a bit tired so I’ll probably go home today, pack for my trip, and do what I do best: Sleep!800px-Flag_of_New_Mexico.svg (and eat).



With every alternative break trip you have expectations about what’s going to happen. I’ve already been on an alternative spring break trip to a reservation in Pine Ridge, SD so I’m not really nervous about this trip since I’ve had an alternative break experience somewhat similar to this one. I can’t wait to get immersed in the Native American culture and I hear they have a lot of cool art down there! I’m so ready for the experience and all the information I’m going to learn.


The few worries I have aren’t too big of a deal. One big one is that I’m from the east coast born and raised. The east coast is very green and full of moisture and I’ve grown used to that. The dry, dustiness of the west sometimes overwhelms me so I hope that won’t be a problem while we’re working hard building an earthship. I often wake up in the morning and spend a lot of my day with a dry throat. My hair and skin need more attention because they get unhealthy when they’re deprived of moisture and all in all I drink bottle after bottle after bottle of water throughout the day to keep myself feeling comfortable. I hope my “fish out of water” situation doesn’t get in the way of the things I’ll be doing down there.

Another worry is that I have a lot of work to do that teachers assigned thinking that I’d be able to do it over the break. I have a week’s worth of projects to finish and tests to study for and I don’t have a week to work on those things so I know when I get back to school it’s going to be stressful. I’ll study as much as I can throughout my alternative break experience so hopefully it won’t be too bad when I get back.taos group


Ready, set, go!

I’m excited to be going on another alternative spring break this year! Despite my worries I must remember to live in the moment and enjoy the times I have while I’m having them. This is a great opportunity and I know I’ll come back from it as a better version of myself. I’ll let you know how it went ok? Have a great spring break everyone!


Exactly Erin: Earthships

by Erin on March 11, 2014

Spring break is upon us!

Well here we are again, this week is Dead Week. The week before break, when everything is due and there is no room for negotiation with your teachers. The likelihood of surviving this week in tact is dwindling into the single digits now… But there is a silver lining: Spring Break!


That magical halfway point

Spring Break. The one week where you can stop thinking for a few minutes and take some time to travel, see friends/family, and possibly experience some of that “fun in the sun” I’ve heard so much earthship front about. Some of my friends are staying in Fort Collins for break, some are traveling to wherever the ‘party buss’ takes them, some are going home to see family and some are working and catching up on their studies like good college students.


I’m going on my Alternative Spring Break trip to Taos, New Mexico. I’ve been all up and down the east coast so I was really keen on going to a new state out west that I’d never been to before. My last Alt. Spring Break trip took me up to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to work with a man named Henry Red Cloud. It was a really cool experience working to build a greenhouse with him! And now I’m going to Taos to help with the construction of an Earthship!

An Earth-what?

Earthship! A revolutionary, and relatively new, architectural approach to living green. An earthship  is really just a fancy way of saying “a super-sustainable home”. I visited one in the middle of being constructed with my spring break group this past Saturday and it was a beautiful sight. There is a misconception with earthships that they are houses made of trash. But they are so much more than that! An earthship allows you to reappropriate unconventional building materials in a sustainable way 

For example…

The walls of all the earthships I’ve seen are made of tires packed tight with earth. He’s a somewhat decent picture to show you what that looks like:tire wall earthship

Of course there is concrete and insulation involved but the use of the tires and the soil actually uses the natural properties of soil to regulate the temperatures in your home much better than the walls of a conventional house. Most people build greenhouses (or at least green rooms) in their earthships and of course these houses are built strategically so that the natural light of the sun does almost all of the heating within the structure. You pay no utilities but you get a home that stays around 70 degrees all year round unless you want to change the temperature of course. Below is a picture of the greenhouse they’re working on:earthship greenhouse

These homes work with the environment to help their inhabitants live far more sustainably than most other people while also maintaining the comforts of home that people are used to. On top of that they add to your living experience by offering you a chance to impact the environment in a much less negative way, grow your own food inside, build your own home to your own specifications and work with nature in a healing way. The earthship we visited this Saturday had no resemblance to a “house made of trash”. The owner wasn’t done building it yet but he told us how he planned to have trees growing inside his home, a roost overlooking his greenhouse fitting with a coffee station, a huge fridge to keep his family well fed, and a Jacuzzi, all while keeping his home heated and comfortable with nothing more than a small vintage wood oven. I’m so excited to get to work hands on in building an earthship! I also can’t wait to start drawing up the plans for my own earthship! So excited to go off on this adventure with my group members, I know it’s going to be a blast!toas peeps

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Exactly Erin: Going on a trip!

by Erin on November 21, 2013

To Taos, New Mexico

I’m not sure if I mentioned yet that I got into the Taos, NM Alternative Spring Break trip…but I did! I’m so excited to be going to a new place. I haven’t seen much of the west other than Colorado so the fact that I get to go to New Mexico is really exciting! Our first group meeting is tonight and I can’t wait to see all the people who I’m going to be living off the grid with in Taos.

I’m a little nervous…

Eatinggg Actually I’m not even sure if “nervous” is the right word for it. I’m more excited than nervous! I do have a few preconceptions about the trip though. We will be living off the grid for about a week, helping to build a sustainable home and learning about the the Native American culture there. You guys already  know that Native American culture is my thing and I’m sure I can go without Facebook for a few days. Heck, it would probably be good for me to get away from the Internet for a while. Even my precious World of Warcraft (Yes, I play WoW. Don’t hate, you know it’s awesome). I expect that we won’t have much internet time. I also expect that I’ll be hungry/ thirsty more often than anything. the alternative spring break facilitators feed their participant very well, or course. It’s just that I’m a big eater and a drinker of much water. I think apart of the reason I drink so much water is that I was born and raised in between Washington D.C. and Plant City, Florida. Both of these places are chock full of water so when I come to Colorado I have a hard time keeping my body hydrated. When I think of New Mexico I Taos, New Mexico think of deserts so I doubt my need for water will be any less urgent. As for the food situation, well let’s just say my appetite is bigger than it would seem. So my backpack will probably be full of snacks (particularly Cheez-It’s). Other than my own little idiosyncrasies I doubt there will be anything on this trip that we can’t handle. Maybe we’ll even see a mountain lion or something!

Fun here I come

Until we actually get to Spring Break I’m just going to keep working hard and getting things done. Hey want to see something cool? The belt buckle that I made for my Metalsmithing class got put on display in the art building!

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Exactly Erin: Alt. Break Bonanza!

by Erin on October 15, 2013

Alt. Break? What is that?

It’s “ CSU slang” for Alternative Spring Break, and let me tell you if you haven’t been on one or don't plan to go on one then you are missing out! I went on one during the spring break of my sophomore year. I’m a senior now so it’s been a while since I’ve been on an Alt. Break trip. Last year I didn’t go on an Alt. Break trip because I wanted to plan and structure my own Colorado adventure. I’d been in Colorado for about two and half years and hadn’t seen most of it. So that was the spring break in which I went skydiving, visited the ice castle in Steamboat Springs, hiked Hanging Lake and explored a cave in Glenwood Springs. It was fun doing things on my own and I’ll definitely tell you about those adventures at a later date, but I’ll never forget my time during Alternative Spring Break.

First I’ll explain how it worksPine Ridge jump

Alternative Spring Break is a program at CSU that allows students to travel to various different places around the United States (and to a few other countries) to do some form of community service work. There is also an option to go to Africa but that takes place during Winter Break. It’s an absolutely fantastic experience and allows you to learn not only about different people and locations, but yourself as well. When applying for Alt. Break you can choose which place you’d want to go. Some of those places have included Seattle, Washington D.C., Georgia, Nevada, New York, California and even Panama. Each one has a different form of service that your group will be doing. Some trips are more expensive than others depending on plane ticket prices and such, and there is an interview involved if your group leaders felt a connection with you through your written application and want you on the trip. So you have to want it in order to get into an Alternative Spring Break. But I believe if you want it and work for it you’ll get into the trip you want with no problems.

So Erin which trip did you choose?

I obviously wasn’t choosing D.C. when I applied because I wanted new experiences in new places. In the end I chose to go to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to the Pine Ridge Native American reservation. It was almost a no-brainer for me to go there. I have Blackfoot ancestry on my father’s side of the family (you can see it in the high cheek bones). Also, I very much agree with the Native American approach to religion and lifestyle and my father has made a point of reminding me of our Blackfoot heritage over the years. Getting to know more about this culture is a part of the reason why I came to the west.


What was it like??

I can only put some of the experience into words. Being in Pine Ridge felt like we were in a different land. The lifestyle of the people of Pine Ridge is slower but not in a bad way. You realize just how superficial and irrelevant the acts of everyday American life can be when you take time to appreciate the Earth and think before you speak like the First People of Pine Ridge can do. While we were there we got to know our host Henry Red Cloud very well. We helped him clear out an old run down green house that they were going to use to grow food. We cleared everything from fiber glass to the kitchen sink and after about two days of laughs and quality work we burned the dead grass and shrubbery remaining in and around the greenhouse to finish cleaning it out. While we were there we also assembled a tipi and attempted sleeping in it for a night. tipi setup-Pine Ridge We realized that plan wasn’t going to work when we let our campfire die out around 2am and the cold rolled in. Needless to say we all abandoned ship and ran to the refuge of our warm Quonset hut (equipped with beds, a shower and heating). We were treated to many stories about the origins of the earth and humanity as well as some local myths. Henry also treated us to a special surprise and held an authentic sweat lodge for us. We helped heat the stones that would be used and helped assemble the extremely insulated lodge that the ceremony would be help in. If you don’t know what it is I urge you to look into it. If you’ve never been in a sweat lodge imagine the hottest, most humid place you’ve ever been in and multiply it by ten. It was uncomfortable but cleansing and I will always be thankful to Henry for letting us participate in something so sacred to the Native American culture. Pine Ridge Pose!

Oh Alt. Break, how I love thee

I’m sure my group wasn’t the only one that experienced something amazing during our time on Alternative Spring Break. You learn so much in such a short amount of time. Going on an Alternative Spring Break should be at the top of the CSU To-Do list before you graduate. What are you waiting for? Go sign up!

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Epilogues by Kelly: The V Word(s)

by Kelly T on March 5, 2012

Witticism O’ the Day: Put silk on a goat, and it’s still a goat (Irish proverb).

With spring break less than six days from our grasp now, I’m posing the question: What will you do over spring break? Will you Vacation, or Volunteer? That’s right, those are the V words. It seems like a pretty hard choice…until you realize that you can do both through CSU! How is this possible with only 10 days of spring break, you ask? Let me digress.  Spring Break party!

Alternative Spring Break

Is how you do both volunteer work and vacation during spring break. CSU’s SLiCE (Student Leadership, Involvement, & Community Engagement) Office offers a great program during Fall, Winter, and Spring break in which you can head out of Colorado (or even out of the country!) and get involved in some important and rewarding volunteer work for various organizations. Some of the locations for this year include: Panama, Georgia, Illinois, California, Tennessee, Utah, New York, South Dakota, Arizona, and Washington, D.C. The organizations on each trip range anywhere from volunteering with animals, to working with HIV/Aids, to restoration of natural habitats. No matter what your interest, there is an Alternative Break trip for you.

So if you’re not into that sketchy Mexico trip with friends this spring break or laying around your house and occasionally stuffing Dorito’s into your mouth like a bored whale, you should check out all that SLiCE has to offer with its spring breaks. There is an associated cost and an application process that must be completed very far in advance, but these trips sound so rewarding and awesome that it’s got to be worth it—like a miniature study-abroad trip!

Also, in honor of our favorite March holiday, St. Patrick’s Day, I am switching up the Witticism’s; for the entire month of March, I’m going to give you guys some great Irish proverbs. Go Rams!