Holy Cross VOC volunteers up at Halfmoon Pass

I meet tons of volunteers as part of the Adopt a Peak crew with CFI. I often must introduce them to the importance of practicing Leave No Trace principles while hiking and camping away from human-built areas. Many times I hear “Oh! I never knew that. Now it makes sense!” after I explain why CFI staff and peak stewards ask hikers to stay on the trail to preserve the fragile plants and prevent widening of the trail, both of which amplify erosion, or to keep a leash on dogs in high alpine tundra and wilderness areas to avoid any situation in which native animals are harassed or killed.

The Colorado Fourteeners Initiative strives to restore and preserve highly impacted trails, which includes respecting the fragile alpine tundra and wildlife that comprise the alpine ecosystem. We must show visitors who wish to experience the outdoors of Colorado that they are not the only ones using these mountains.

Trail work on the Fourteeners in Colorado is heavily focused on controlling the erosion that occurs by hikers. Hikers walk off-trail or alongside it to wait for other hikers to pass, to avoid walking in mud, water, and snow, or to make their hike seem shorter by cutting switchbacks. With just a few footsteps off-trail, the tundra vegetation is often destroyed, and the soil is no longer held securely on the mountain. Large amounts of soil then slides down the mountain with water and snow-melt. This effect is amplified each time a hiker walks off the trail, even more when many hikers walk off trail. This results in the trails widening extensively. The less vegetation left on the mountains, the more the mountains themselves disappear. This is why education of visitors is so important.

Some human caused erosion on Grays Peak.

While leading volunteer projects is primarily what we do, education always supplements the trail work we accomplish. While working with the volunteers we will point-out the effects of constant erosion, often human caused. Afterwards, volunteers leave with a whole new perspective about hiking and the amount of work it can take to mitigate human impact. I believe this significantly helps get the word out on how to treat the Fourteeners in Colorado. Treating the mountains with respect and staying on the well-built trails CFI has completed will go a long way to ensure the preservation of these awe-inspiring landscapes.

Grays Peak trail after Bold Earth helped us put a Backwall and Rock disguise in.

Rebecca Egan

Hello! My name is Rebecca Egan, and I grew up in Minnesota. This is my first year with CFI, and I am very excited to be working on the Adopt a Peak crew this season. After graduating from university, I came out West to lead a trail crew with Montana Conservation Corps. I enjoyed it so much, I continued on to work for the Student Conservation Association, Utah Conservation Corps, and Southwest Conservation Corps. During my off seasons I have worked on farms in Australia, learned how to ski in Breckenridge, WWOOFed on a vineyard in the Four Corners Region, and hiked a whole lot!