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As those who live in Chaffee County know, we are a county of amazing beauty and an abundance of recreational opportunity; both of which attract visitors from all over the globe. Many of them arrive as they traverse our extensive trail systems. Those systems include both the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which travels the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico, and the Colorado Trail (CT).

Photo by Austin Ban for UnSplash.

What might not be known is that Salida is one of only 19 Continental Divide Trail (CDT) Gateway Communities; meaning that the people traversing the trails frequently want to get down into town for a day or two to relax, resupply, and enjoy the local ambiance. Salida is 23 miles from where the trail crosses Monarch Pass. That fact underlies a volunteer program of Salidans and Chaffee County residents who help shuttle these hikers to and from Monarch Pass — and they need help.

Volunteer organizer Thomas Syzek explains, “we need more volunteer shuttlers for this summer in Chaffee County. From mid-June until mid-September there will be hundreds of hikers on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) and the Colorado Trail (CT) who pass through Chaffee County. Most of them take a break from the trail and choose Salida as one of their favorite towns to resupply with food and gear, stay for a night or two to rest, and enjoy everything Salida has to offer.”

The CDT and CT (west route) run together and cross U.S. 50 at Monarch Pass. This is where hikers leave the trail and catch a ride into Salida and then back again to Monarch Pass the next day (or a few days). Syzek explains that for years, there has been a small number of area residents who volunteer to provide rides so that hikers can get from the trails at Monarch Pass to and from Salida to clean up, eat, drink, sleep, resupply, and enjoy the town.

“We are down to only a few shuttle volunteers and we need many more to join us,” he explains. Syzek says that in the many years he has been volunteering as a shuttle, he has met “the most amazing people.”

Loveland Pass. Photo by for UnSplash

For those who may take up this volunteer experience, a few facts:

  1. Volunteer shuttlers do not charge for the ride, but appreciate a donation for gas money, or for the shuttler to give the donation to a local nonprofit such as Search and Rescue, the Colorado Trail Foundation, and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition.
  2. 2022 projections: 200-500 hikers will be looking for a ride to/from Monarch Pass this summer!
  3. With rare exceptions, hikers are not only very thankful but also interesting and amazing people to meet.
  4. Hikers come from all over the USA and many countries to hike the CDT and CT through Colorado.
  5. Volunteer shuttlers are great ambassadors for Salida and Chaffee County.
  6. Volunteering to shuttle helps provide safe transportation to hikers that include single women, families, and hikers of all ages.
  7. Most often, hikers call or text a day or two in advance of their need for a ride.
  8. Most ride requests are for approximately 7:00 a.m. from Salida to Monarch Pass, and then around 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Monarch Pass to Salida.

Syzek says there are a variety of ways to become a volunteer shuttler for CDT and CT hikers:

  1. Email the Colorado Trail Foundation and ask to be listed on their Trail Angel shuttler list —
    ctf@coloradotrail.org
  2. Post your interest and availability on a Facebook page/group where hikers post and read —
    Colorado Trail Thru-Hike 2022
    Continental Divide Trail Class of 2022
    CDT Trail Angels
  3. Add your name to the list of volunteer shuttlers at the Salida Chamber of Commerce, Salida Simple Lodge & Hostel, and Salida Mountain Sports.
  4. Email your name and phone number to tsyzek@gmail.com and he can add you to a list of Volunteer Shuttlers, that he can then share among other local shuttlers.

Featured image: Colorado Trail. Image courtesy of Wild Connections.