Lake City Reputation for Hiker Hospitality on the Increase

In an increasingly diverse recreation-based economy, Lake City is gaining an enviable reputation for its hospitality to hikers along both the Colorado and Continental Divide Trails as they pass through scenic regions of the county.
Kristie Borchers reports that fine-tuning is taking place, strengthening Lake City’s application as one of a handful of “Gateway Communities” for Continental Divide Trail hikers.
Once known as a “notoriously difficult hitch” among avid Colorado Trail hikers, Lake City is now famed as “the place to go” for legions of hikers who annually traverse the trail.
A volunteer-based group of “Trail Angels” was formed in 2014 through the efforts of Lucky O’Dubhaigh and Christian Hartman, together with numerous volunteers, who offer a no-charge transportation shuttle between Spring Creek Pass and Lake City on a seven-days-per-week schedule during peak summer hiking season.
Volunteers provide their own gas and vehicle leaving daily from Lake City Park at noon and returning around 12:30 p.m. from the Continental and Colorado Trail crossing at Highway 149 on Spring Creek Pass.
The service is offered on a no-charge daily basis during the peak Colorado Trail hiking season from July 1 to August 31 mirroring the Trails Angel philosophy of providing an “act of kindness.”
The shuttle is available to a variety of recreationists, including day hikers in the Spring Creek Pass region, as well as Colorado Trail hikers who through the internet and other venues are learning to head to Lake City for supplies.
Fewer Continental Trail hikers are taking advantage of the free shuttle, O’Dubhaigh says, due to the fact Continental Trail hikers tend to be using the trail headed north earlier in the season and later in the season when the majority of the trail hikers are going south.
O’Dubhaigh describes as “massive,” the economic impacts to the community, as the result of the free shuttle. Prior to reliable transportation into Lake City, O’Dubhaigh says Colorado Trail hikers tended to bear off the trail near San Luis Pass and travel nine miles over to Creede.
From Spring Creek Pass, however — and with a Lake City-bound shuttle — the distance to Lake City is 17 miles, compared to 31 miles to Creede.
According to O’Dubhaigh, an average of four hikers are using the shuttle each direction on a daily basis, in the process aiding Lake City businesses and, especially, restaurants.
After days on the trail in remote locales, “those hikers are hungry,” O’Dubhaigh says.
Volunteer “Trail Angels” taking part in the seven-days-per-week free shuttle are Julie and Henry Rothschild, Schuyler Denham and Carol Robinson, Raul V. Alvarado, Christian and Amanda Hartman, Lucky O’Dubhaigh, Morris Coile, and Miriam Truitt.
Now in its sixth year, the local Trails Angels program emulates similar volunteer programs which have sprouted near hiking trail heads throughout the country.
In addition to the current regiment of volunteers leaving from Lake City Park at noon each day through the end of this month, past volunteers have included Judy Hashem and Joanne Mallet, Ron Davis, Ken and Cindy Swinarski, Doug Crinklaw, Preston McLaughlin, Bill Goodwin, Peter Nesbitt, Jennifer Rhinehardt, and Kevin Lee.
Among hikers taking advantage of the shuttle service this past summer was a BACKPACKING magazine journalist who has written an article featuring Lake City’s relationship with the Colorado/Continental trails which will appear in the national magazine later this fall.
Also visiting Lake City with focus on its trails connections last month was Nicole Karem from Silver City, New Mexico, who was here in late July as a representative of the Continental Divide Coalition based out of Littleton, Colorado. The coalition’s premise is to “complete, promote and protect the Continental Divide Scenic Trail.
Karem was here as part of a site visit tied to Lake City’s application as a “Gateway Community” along the Continental Divide Trail.
Once approved, Lake City will join neighboring Colorado communities such as Salida, South Fork, and Pagosa Springs which have already been designated as Gateway Communities.
Benefits of the Gateway designation include being listed on Continental Divide Coalition maps and other publications, a well as longer term benefits such as forming a network of strong trail communities for the ever-increasing number of recreationists who are hiking all or portions of the Continental Trail stretching from Canada to Mexico through portions of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
According to Kristie Borchers, an advisory group has been named to oversee the Gateway Communities’ application led by Elaine Gray. Other members of the Gateways advisory group are Jerry Gray, Drew Nelson, Sarah Gutterman, and Michelle Martin.
Partners in the Gateways application are Town of Lake City, Hinsdale County Marketing Committee, Lake City/Hinsdale County Chamber of Commerce, and a variety of local businesses.