Beyond the Trail

Beyond the Trail

Posted on 5/2/2019

Summit County local, Tom Koehler, has helped care for Colorado’s outdoors for years as a volunteer with outdoor stewardship organizations including Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) and many others. Now, he has founded Sustainable Hiker to inspire others to care for the health and sustainability of water and forests in the Blue River Watershed and beyond.

As the snow begins to melt in the high country, I anxiously look forward to another season as a proud steward of our land and water through trail and eco-restoration projects. As volunteers, we all give what we can on the ground to restore our heavily used land and over tapped waters.

Over the last few years, my appreciation for our natural resources was heightened while engaged on many volunteer projects with VOC, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV), Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD).

We worked passionately to rejuvenate our natural assets, and through these magnificent – and at times unrecognized – efforts, satisfaction and an even deeper passion for the landscape with its beauty and ecological power rose within me.

Recognizing the value in the trail system for recreation and health, and our most treasured riparian zones for our water and wildlife, I contemplated if there was anything else that I, or any of us, could be doing beyond the trail and decided emphatically that we can.

I began to acquaint myself with legislation that promotes funding and protections for the public land we take care of on the ground as well as clean water bills that foster healthy rivers and streams, the ones that we help on streambank restoration projects.

The pollution and emissions that adversely affects the air- and water-filtering properties inherent in our soil and plants began to resonate, so I began to contribute more time to helping the High Country Conservation Center here in Summit County. Their organization leads the efforts in the county for businesses and individuals to become more energy and water efficient, which in turn helps our forests and rivers.

As the dots between the environment all around us and the work we do with the land and water began to connect with me, I wondered what else I could explore in this journey to heal and rejuvenate our eco-system.

Sustainable Hiker was born out of this journey. Over time, I aim to bring awareness to all our work that helps the land and water we love and need, from stewardship to advocacy for our natural resources and environmental conservation.

Let’s all continue to seek ways to support the outdoors beyond the vastly important trail and eco-system work we do as volunteers. If you would like to explore other paths, please let me know. As more of us go beyond the trail and learn about other levers we can pull to affect positive change, the same will happen for stewardship.


Tom Koehler
Sustainable Hiker


Previous Blog Posts:

Trail Maintenance: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
The Stewardship Solution
9 Reasons to Volunteer with VOC