We have the pleasure of working with some incredible non-profits that share the same passion we have for the outdoors. Two of them, Colorado Fourteener Initiative (CFI) and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) happen to apply their mission to protecting trails on or the entire Continental Divide Trail (CDT) – a trail that is special to all of us at Big Agnes.
If you didn’t know – we hiked the entire portion of the CDT through Colorado as an employee relay hike in the summer of 2018. All 740 miles of it. We also adopted 75 miles of the trail from essentially our backyard in northwestern Colorado to the Wyoming border. You might be asking – Why would Big Agnes do this? We did it because the CDT has been a place of inspiration and product testing for the almost 20 years that Big Agnes has been in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Our product designers and developers, our product-testing ambassadors and many of our other employees have traveled the CDT and have been inspired by star-filled nights dreaming of ways to evolve camping gear. We thought it was about time that we paid it forward by not only giving monetary help to these non-profits but by actually getting dirt under our fingernails and putting our backs into some trail maintenance.
In late August, a group of us headed north of our office to work on a section of our adopted CDT trail that goes to Island Lake. It’s an absolutely spectacular 45 minute drive from the office with views of the Elk River valley and cattle ranches, most of which have been operated by the same Steamboat-area families for generations. We also drove past the Clark store which has some of the best breakfast burritos in the county. Rain was in the forecast but that didn’t stop us from meeting a friend from the Forest Service and a truck full of his trail maintenance tools.
We grabbed tools and started on our 3 mile-ish hike up to Island Lake. Our mission was to remove any down trees on the trail, work on water mitigation and anything else that came up. Well, about 20 minutes into our hike it started raining and the rain quickly went from a cute little drizzle to an all-out soaking downpour. We were prepared with rain jackets and pants, hats, gloves and a number of layers. The upside of all the rain was our water mitigation work was happening in real-time. Where water collected we diverted and when our diversion tactics didn’t work – we made adjustments until it did.
After a thorough soaking we eventually made it to Island Lake for lunch. We huddled under tall pine and spruce trees in search of dry ground while a few of our group sporting large backcountry ponchos sat down lakeside for an incredible view of fog and rain blowing through. After a few moments of refueling, the rain turned to our first snow of the 19/20 winter. Yep – snow in August which made our hike out cold, so cold that many of us could barely hold our tools for our trail work. We did more work on the hike out and also took shelter behind some large trees as a moose and her calf ate leaves just off the edge of the trail. Steamboat moose always make the decision on where and when you’re going – these majestic beasts are not be messed with.
Fast forward to about three weeks later and another crew of Big Agnes staff headed out of town to work on a different section of the CDT with CFI. This section happens to go over Grays Peak at a 14,278’ elevation – which is actually the highest point of the entire continental divide watershed and highest point of any National Scenic Trail. Our work zone was at 13,400’. Our mission was to gather rocks and build a rock wall to protect high-alpine tundra, reduce trail erosion and provide hikers some natural seating along their hike. There’s not much better than a Colorado bluebird day and we got a full one from sun-up to our last step off the trail around 5pm that evening. Working at 13,400’ was exhilarating – always awe-struck by the view over to Torreys Peak and up to the summit of Grays. As a team we worked together, helped each other lift rocks and build the walls. We worked hard – a lot harder than I prefer to work on any given weekend on home projects, but this time all our work paid it back. It was rewarding in so many ways. From the first step we took that morning to last moment when we put heavy tools into the back of the truck – we smiled, felt amazing and gave back to the trail.
Big Agnes is a proud supporter of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition through monetary donations and trail maintenance.
CFI was formed in 1994 with a mission to preserve and protect the natural integrity of Colorado’s Fourteeners. Learn more at 14ers.org
CDTC was founded in 2012 by a passionate group of volunteers and recreationists. Their mission is to create a community committed to constructing, promoting, and protecting, in perpetuity, the CDT. Learn more at continentaldividetrail.org