When someone grows up in an area teeming with outdoor beauty and an abundance of recreational opportunities, sometimes it takes leaving that place to really appreciate it.
That’s what happened to friends Austin Johnson, Kyle Lusk and Morris Hogan. The three young men all grew up in the Roaring Fork Valley and all enjoyed the variety of outdoor activities the area offers.
Television wasn’t a huge priority for them like it is for some kids. Instead, they played in the local mountains and lived for the outdoors, whether it was skiing, biking, climbing or hiking.
“We were spoiled growing up,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we really realized it until we got to Fort Collins for school. I think we all assumed every outdoor community would be like Aspen or Basalt. Well, they’re not.”
In the Fort Collins area, many of the same recreational opportunities were available. For the trio of valley boys, their outdoor experiences on the Front Range were tarnished by an abundance of trash, areas that were overused by the public and trails in need of repair.
“The three of us are so attached to the outdoors,” Lusk said. “We wanted to raise the awareness of taking care of these precious outdoor resources and do something positive to help. We think we came up with a good way to do that.”
The three friends decided to make a difference, and they will begin a 100-day journey on Wednesday that will have them biking an estimated 1,800 miles and hiking close to 500 miles this summer. They’re attempting to ride to and hike up all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado to raise money to help maintain recreational areas and encourage preservation of these peaks so that future generations are able to use them.
Johnson is a graduate from Basalt High School, while Hogan and Lusk are both from Snowmass and attended Aspen High. All three are from the class of 2009.
“We all knew about each other in high school,” Johnson said. “I didn’t hang out with them back then. Probably because of that Aspen-Basalt rivalry thing.”
The three became close friends while attending Colorado State University, and all three graduated this month.
“Austin is super-ambitious and very much a go-go type of guy,” Hogan said. “Kyle is kind of the goofball of the group. He’s pretty much a loose cannon. You never know what’s going to come out of his mouth.”
At the beginning of their final college semester, the three friends talked about their summer plans and in realizing none of them had lined up jobs yet, they decided to have one last hurrah together.
They came up with the idea to conquer all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado after attending the Banff Mountain Film Festival and watching “Sufferfest,” a video about two pro climbers who biked and hiked the dozen 14,000-foot peaks in California.
“After watching ‘Sufferfest,’ we decided to do the same thing in Colorado,” Hogan said. “Since we’re all Colorado boys, we wondered if anyone has ever biked and hiked all our fourteeners and decided we could do it. We were looking for an adventure, and I think we found a great one.”
The trio agreed to dedicate 100 days this summer to ride to all the fourteeners in Colorado and attempt to climb them all, but with an extra purpose, as well.
They agreed that since they’ll be adding to the traffic the fourteeners incur, it only made sense that they minimize their impact. They agreed to do any maintenance the trails may require, such as clearing debris, improving markers and more, while also cleaning any waste found along the way.
“We want to raise awareness and understanding about the local environment and how we all need to protect our wilderness,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of an extension of the way we were raised.”
Hogan agreed and said they all were shocked to learn that not all mountain areas are taken care of the same was as they are around the Aspen and Basalt area.
“Trash is a problem in the recreational areas around the Front Range,” Hogan said. “It’s not a question of if you’re going to see trash, but more when will you see trash. For all three of us, it’s been hard not to strive for the same stewardship we learned in the Aspen area. If we can get a few people to be more conscious of taking care of the outdoors, then our trip will be a success.”
They also created a nonprofit foundation called PedAllthePeaks and plan to give all proceeds in excess of their travel costs to other charitable organizations, specifically Colorado Fourteener Initiative and the Continental Divide Trails Coalition.
They’ve received several local sponsorships, including Big Agnes, Inc. out of Steamboat Springs, a company that manufactures tents, sleeping bags and sleeping pads; Justin’s all-natural nut butters; Honey Stinger all-natural foods; and the Brave New Wheel bike shop in Fort Collins.
Much of their inspiration to take on such an ambitious summer trip comes from their upbringing in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“That’s where it all started for me,” Johnson said. “I’ve climbed the fourteeners around the valley, like Capital and Pyramid peaks. I think I climbed Elbert (highest peak in the Rocky Mountains) when I was 8-years-old.”
All three have been training together to prepare for this summer’s journey. They’ve been taking 40-mile bike rides and hiking seven miles a day. Lusk said they’re all in the best shape of their lives.
“We’re feeling pretty confident we can do this in 100 days,” Lusk said. “We’re not trying to set a speed record. We’re going to take our time and enjoy this. If it takes an extra day to help clean an area or restore a trial, so be it. One of my goals is we all make it through the trip healthy and safe.”
People can access their trip itinerary through the PedAllthePeaks website. Hogan said a lot of their friends are stoked to join them and do a few peaks with them. They’re also hoping their friends help them restock their supplies along the journey.
“This should be a hell of a summer,” Johnson said.
Anyone wishing to donate money to PedAllthePeaks can visit http://www.pedallthepeaks.com/home.html and access the donation area.