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    10 athletes, enthusiasts and advocates give thanks to Colorado’s outdoors | Lifestyle

    How do we begin to express our gratitude for Colorado’s great outdoors?

    Perhaps by spreading the love.

    In this season of thanks, we asked athletes, enthusiasts and advocates from around the state to share their appreciation for certain places and the endless gifts of nature.

    Christel Aime, hiker, Colorado Springs

    Christel Aime celebrates 1,001 Incline climbs in a year with a poster made for him. 

    Born in Haiti, land of high mountains, I never really explored or fully appreciated the landscape there. However, since I came to the City above the Clouds, Woodland Park, 22 years ago, I never miss an opportunity to explore the high mountains here in Colorado. My favorite is the Incline, on which I spent almost three hours a day on average in 2019 doing my 500 ascents and topped it in 2021 when I decided to commit five hours a day to my 1,000-Incline challenge. I would summarize by saying that “the streams of the mountains are more pleasing to me than the sea,” as beautifully uttered in the famous Caribbean song “Guantanamera.”

    Russell Finsterwald, pro cyclist, Colorado Springs

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    Russell Finsterwald, pro cyclist of Colorado Springs, along the Colorado Trail. 

    The Colorado Trail in particular pops into mind as one of the most amazing assets Colorado has to offer and one of the challenges I am most grateful for. In riding the 500 miles from Denver to Durango, not only do you see some breathtaking scenery, but you learn a lot about yourself and how you overcome adversity. The trail challenges you with rugged terrain and hike-a-bikes. But each of those miles is rewarded with jaw-dropping singletrack that keeps you pushing on deeper and deeper into Colorado’s backcountry.

    Jenn Green, founder of Trinidad Trails Alliance

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    Fishers Peak, Colorado’s 42nd state park, towers over Trinidad Lake State Park.

    Fishers Peak is my home mountain and the place I am beholden to. Now the namesake of Colorado’s 42nd state park, it has always been a beacon and a sentinel for those of us living below. The unspeakable beauty of the peak and its surrounding mesa lands holds us in a wild and timeless safety. No matter where you walk, hike, ride, fish, hunt or ski in these parts, the peak is always watching, rising up in the distance somewhere, cloaked in fog, masked with snow, showing its face at a new angle, in a new light, always there.

    Annalise Grueter, high-altitude runner, Roaring Fork Valley

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    Annalise Grueter smiles atop Leahy Peak in the Elk Range. Grueter has authored a new book on high alpine trail runs in Colorado.

    Top of mind for me are outdoor stores like the Ute Mountaineer in Aspen and Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder. Locally owned outdoor shops are part of the backbone of communities and do an amazing amount of outreach, education and advocacy for our wild spaces

    Philip Henderson, mountaineer/advocate, Cortez

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    Members of the Full Circle Everest team on Mount Rainier. The leader, Philip Henderson of Colorado, is on the far right, back row.

    Living in southwest Colorado is a beautiful place to wake up to and greet the sun. The San Juan Mountains are one of the gems of Colorado, and I am happy to call it home. I love that I am able to find peace, solitude and good skiing not far from home.

    Mike McCleish, angler, Colorado Springs

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    Mike McCleish of Colorado Springs. 

    As a disabled veteran participant in Project Healing Waters fly fishing, I am grateful for the endless opportunities Colorado offers. I’ve come to love the high alpine, with Pomeroy Mountain (in the Sawatch Range) catching my heart lately. The high-alpine lakes offer a great fishing adventure, but it’s the camping, views, wildlife, crisp air and hike to and from my camp that provide the healing atmosphere and escape that I need.

    David “Outback” Mizer, avid thru-hiker, Colorado Springs

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    David Mizer poses for a picture along the Edna Mae Bennet Trail in Colorado Springs’ Palmer Park. Mizer recently finished the 5,700-mile-plus Eastern Continental Trail from Key West, Fla., to Cape Raven, Newfoundland.

    A circuitous, high mountain route in the Sangre de Cristo Range, snaking high above South Colony Basin, known as the Peak-to-Needle Traverse. This semi-technical route, artfully connecting Crestone Peak to Crestone Needle, required Class 4 scrambling out of a mountainside couloir and even the use of a climbing rope to ascend a crux wall. The traverse, though daunting at times with its precarious cliffs and ice-slickened gullies, called me to a life outdoors forever after. In the Sangres, I began to see the world afresh and learn the lessons that only the trail could teach. This was my first multiday backpacking trip some 20 years ago.

    Natalie Moran, mountaineer, Denver

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    Natalie Moran hiking up Mount Sneffels.

    I find the change of seasons in Colorado mesmerizing. Transitions from summer to fall to winter to spring and back to summer bring about a fascinating supply of different colors, temperatures, and scenery. As a result, we lucky people never have to choose just one outdoor activity. I am very thankful to have well-defined seasons for hiking, skiing, biking and climbing, all in one state.

    Kate Nelson, president of Pikes Peak Climbers Alliance

    I am thankful for (North Cheyenne Canon Park) because it offers something for everyone and is right in Colorado Springs. I see avid hikers, bikers, climbers, picnickers, families and general nature lovers out enjoying this amazing park every time I am there. It offers trails and activities for all levels and, in my opinion, some of the best views along the Front Range.

    Shirley Romero Otero, educator/activist, San Luis

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    Shirley Romero Otero of the San Luis Valley.

    I am thankful to be able to live in in the San Luis Valley in the town of San Luis, where I can trace my roots for generations back. To enjoy the land and acequias (irrigation network) my ancestors created for me and others. To use the land and water in a good, meaningful and productive manner in which we can feed our community healthy food. The outdoors provides me an opportunity to teach the next generation to be kind to Mother Earth.



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