When Groucho LeMieux first crossed into Lake County on the Colorado Trail, a local picked him up at Tennessee Pass, gave him a tour of Leadville and dropped him off at a hostel free of charge.
“I remember thinking ‘this is one of the most welcoming communities I’ve been to.’” LeMieux told the Herald. “Especially, in terms of accepting dirtbags.”
When LeMieux stopped in Leadville again on his Continental Divide Trail through-hike, he was passing through his home, having moved to Leadville in 2018.
Throughout the summer, LeMieux has spearheaded an effort to designate Leadville and Twin Lakes as Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) Gateway Communities, a growing network of welcoming towns and counties along the 3,100-mile trail.
LeMieux organized a CDTC advisory committee, including representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, Get Outdoors Leadville!, Cloud City Wheelers, Twin Lakes and the City of Leadville, and collected letters of support from local businesses like Melanzana, Community Threads and the Economic Development Corporation.
“Leadville is already a great trail town,” LeMieux said. “I just want to promote the resources it has.”
On Sept. 11, local stakeholders and CDTC representatives will gather at Treeline Kitchen at 6 p.m. to designate Leadville and Twin Lakes as CDT gateway communities. Steamboat Springs, Grand Lake, Salida, South Fork and Pagosa Springs have also earned the title.
The designation is a way to formally acknowledge the economic and cultural value the CDT brings to mountain communities, to market Leadville and Twin Lakes to through-hikers, and to inspire community members to explore and care for the trail. Gateway communities also have the opportunity to share CDTC’s marketing materials and programming expertise.
For example, South Fork offers a trail-adopter program that encourages locals to adopt sections of the CDT. Chama, New Mexico, hosted an avalanche-training program led by the Wolf Creek Ski Patrol for hikers venturing into the snow-laden San Juan Mountains, and Anaconda, Montana, built a “hiker hut” in a community park where through-hikers can charge phones and relax.
For now, LeMieux plans to focus on promoting Leadville’s pre-existing hiker resources. But further down the road, he hopes to look into a shuttle system to and from trail access points and collaborative trail-stewardship programming.
The designation ceremony on Sept. 11 is just one of the“CDT Southbound Trail Daze” festivities taking place in Leadville next week.
A “dirtbag mastermind quiz show” will take place at the Manhattan Bar at 6 p.m. on Sept. 10. On Sept. 12, Tyler Lau, a calendar-year Triple Crown finisher (the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail), will speak about through-hiking and access to the outdoors at Leadvelo Bicicasa at 6 p.m.