June 4th-National Trails Day

Saturday June 4th marks the 30th National Trails Day, originally founded by the American Hiking Society. It is a day that means a lot to me. My time in Summit County began volunteering with stewardship groups for day and overnight trips repairing trails that provide us so much connectivity to nature.


The trails I roam continue to provide me with the path toward greater awareness of our eco-system with all its beauty and power. A few of the trails meander by the magnificent cabins in the Summit Huts system. Volunteering at over 11-thousand feet above sea level provides even more time for appreciation and exploration of the unique natural assets here in the region.


I began to wonder, what is really beyond the trail where most of us spend our time in our outdoor pursuits? It turns out there is a wonderous system out there. This forested watershed is both the Dillon Ranger District and the Blue River Watershed.


According to the USDA, the White River National Forest is the most visited in the country and arguably the most critical watershed in the Rockies. Our snowpack provides water to our community, the unsustainably growing Front Range and those living in the southwest to California.


The Imperial Valley agricultural community depends on our snowpack, as it only receive three inches of rain annually. The Colorado River provides the rest. Their senior water rights allow them to produce a significant portion of winter vegetables for the US.


Yes, beyond the trail way up in the snow-capped peaks lies the beauty we are inspired by and the water for a lot of people in the southwest. A healthy landscape promotes quality water, filters pollutants and fosters vegetation for our magnificent mosaic of wildlife. Climate change is challenging this landscape with drying soil and increased risk of wildfire.


Our wildlife depends on water and healthy vegetation. Some of you will regularly see red fox or moose, which interestingly, is not native to Colorado. One creature that can be elusive is the Ptarmigan. It is a favorite of mine found on one of my favorite hikes up none other than Ptarmigan Peak near Silverthorne. It happens to be designated Wilderness.


The squeaky sounds from the Pika are endearing and can be heard beyond the trail, though their future is uncertain. Warming temperatures are making life uncomfortable for these creatures that are part of the rabbit family.


Soaring eagles and hawks soar in the skies above. Trout entice anglers from all over our state and the country to fish our Blue River waters. This eco-system provides year-round recreation and inspirational experiences for millions. We can creatively and collaboratively take the lead in eco-restoration as Friends of the Lower Blue is doing with its Climate Resiliency Initiative.


It will be game changing for our natural resources.

Tom Koehler

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