If you’ve thru-hiked The Colorado Trail in the past few years, or contemplated taking on the challenge, you’ve probably come across the Colorado Trail Thru-Hike page on Facebook. More than 1,500 members have already joined the 2023 page, and based on past years, that number will likely double or even triple before the trail season begins.
Why so popular? Because under the watchful eyes of page administrators Susie Q. Luther, of Chattanooga, Tenn., and Bobbie Hickman, of Denver, they have created a community where like-minded people can share information on planning a CT hike, including advice on what equipment to take and food choices to make, as well as personal experiences on the Trail, updates on weather and Trail conditions, and more. During the trail season it becomes a message board, connecting hikers with rides, resources, and other hikers.
Though not officially associated with The Colorado Trail Foundation, which has its own more broadly focused Facebook page, it receives support from CTF staff and others associated with the foundation. (In turn, Susie also serves as an administrator of the official Colorado Trail Facebook page.)
Because of the work these two do to support the CT and broaden its popularity, we wanted Tread Lines readers to get to know them better, so we reached out with a few questions:
Tread Lines: The annual Colorado Trail Thru-Hike pages on Facebook continue to grow in popularity. Give us some background on the site.
Susie: I didn’t create the first group. I just joined back in 2016 and 2017 in advance of my 2017 thru-hike. (But) I was very disappointed in the lack of attention by the administrators and all the spam, politics and some of the discourse that was allowed to appear. It seemed to be a free for all. So, I created the 2018 page and all the others since then. I see these pages as sort of a year book for that year’s hikers, and it wasn’t being treated that way, so I changed it. You have to be nice in our group. It’s okay to have an opinion, but it’s not okay to bully or berate someone just because they don’t share your view. I view every post and conversation with an internal filter of “Would the Colorado Trail Foundation be embarrassed by this?”
Bobbie: I met Susie through a mutual friend from Chattanooga. She was coming to Colorado to hike, and he thought we needed to connect. She flew to Denver on June 29, 2017, and I met her for the first time. Before that, we had talked, and she thought there needed to be a page for hikers that answered questions regarding the Colorado Trail. When she took over the page, she asked if I was interested in being the other admin. The page is set up so you must answer questions prior to approval for membership. We’re both good at spotting fake accounts. We allow no bullying, politics, selling gear, etc. It’s just done for the love of The Colorado Trail and to help people. We start a new page for each year and pause the prior years’ pages, though people can still access them.
Susie: There was actually a point in 2020 or ’21, when the administrator of the 2017 page just abandoned it. Luckily, I was the first one to notice, and I took it over and spent the next month cleaning out all the spam and bots. Then, I archived the page to preserve the memories of that year. That’s what I do with all the pages.
TL: Clearly, you have a great fondness for the CT to put in the time to administer the site. Tell us when and how that began.
Susie: My first year on the Trail. Mile for mile, this is the best major trail in America. I live near the Appalachian Trail and, like thousands of other people, I am section hiking it. I’m also section hiking the Benton MacKaye Trail, the Smoky’s 900, and the Florida Trail. I’ve already gotten my 150 miles on the Florida Trail done for this year; I did it in January. These trails are nice, but the CT offers hikers something new every day, sometimes their entire day! The way the Trail changes from the Front Range down to the San Juans is nothing short of magical.
Bobbie: My husband and I live four miles from Waterton Canyon, where the CT starts southbound. I ran and biked Waterton a lot and would see hikers. Sometimes I would stop and talk to them. I thought the Trail sounded interesting. I met some the nicest people from all over. When Susie came to hike it, I thought “that sounds like a great thing to do.” In 2017, I hiked my first segment, Segment 1, with Susie. I still run and bike Waterton a lot in the summer and stop and talk to people, get information about them, and ask if I can take their picture and post on our page. Sometimes I will pick people up and give them a ride to the trailhead. I love people.
TL: Tell us a little about yourselves.
Bobbie: I am 63 years old, have lived in several states and have traveled all over the United States for my work in engineering and construction. I am now semi-retired. We moved to Colorado in 1996 for work and decided to stay. I had never run, biked, or skied until we moved to Colorado. I had hiked some, but never overnight. In 1997, we started doing all of that and loved it. Outdoor activities are contagious when you live in such a beautiful environment.
Susie: I’ve been a radio broadcaster and programmer for the last 41 years. My husband and I also own a large-format digital print company. We’ve printed a few things for the CT, but would love to do more in the future. Basically, marketing and advertising is our life.
TL: Have you thru-hiked or otherwise completed the Trail?
Bobbie: I have not hiked the entire trail. Unfortunately for me, life has gotten in the way. I know people think you cannot allow things to get in the way, but they do. There are sometimes things beyond a person’s control. We have hiked 132 miles of the 485. This year, my husband and I are hoping to do a lot more hiking and would like to finish this year or next year. I love to hike in August and September – the weather is usually drier and I love the fall leaves in early September.
Susie: I have not finished the CT yet. Technically, I’m up to Carson Saddle, but will resume again at Spring Creek Pass. I did that segment out and back because I couldn’t find a reasonably priced shuttle. That’s a long way of saying I have the last five segments left. I spend three to five weeks out there every summer hiking a segment or two and acting as a trail angel, driving 3,000-4,000 miles to surprise hikers with some “trail magic.” Lately, I’ve been focusing on the southern segments where it’s more desolate.
TL: Any amusing anecdotes you’d like to share about the FB groups or the Trail?
Susie: How Bobbie and I met is a great story. She’s a fan of the radio station I programmed and did the morning show for, listening to us on the internet. She’s also a big fan of our voice guy, who is a singer/songwriter and a good friend of mine. Before my first year on the CT, she heard me talking about my upcoming hike, reached out to me, and offered her support. She received all my gear that I UPS’d to her. She also picked me up at the airport and got me to the Trail. Needless to say, we’ve been good friends ever since and that’s why I brought her in as co-administrator.
Bobbie: I will never forget when I first met Susie in 2017 and we went to Ted’s Montana Grill. She went to the restroom and came back with a man with a backpack and said, “Look who I found.” A stranger to both of us, he had ridden the train from the airport to the Littleton Station and was going to hike on to Chatfield State Park and spend the night. It was already late, so we decided to ask him if he wanted to stay with us and start out early the next day. Normally, I would not have a stranger in our house, but it turned out great. The next day we got up early, fixed a hearty breakfast, and headed out on Segment 1 together. I believe there are no accidents in life and people come into our lives for reasons. Something else amusing is how people recognize me on the Trail. We’ll be hiking in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden someone will come up and say, “Oh, you’re Bobbie, one of the admins,” and proceed to give me a hug and thank me for the job we do on the page. That makes it all feel worthwhile.
TL: We saw completer numbers shoot up during the pandemic. Do you have a sense of why that is?
Bobbie: I believe that’s due to the Appalachian Trail discouraging hiking in 2020 and in 2021 not issuing hangtags and recognizing people’s hikes. The Pacific Crest Trail was also discouraging hikers from using the PCT. But, people wanted to be outside and not cooped up any longer. Completer numbers shot up from 364 in 2019 (when there was a fire that closed some segments) to 595 in 2020 and 2021 had 658. In 2022, post-pandemic, the number went down to 472.
Susie: I think the reason our numbers picked up during the pandemic was because the CT was the only major trail that didn’t close or refuse completer certificates for those who did a thru-hike. After that, word really spread about the Trail and it seems we have more starting every year. That’s good and bad. I don’t ever want the CT to become the AT or PCT! We are perfect as we are. Plus, this trail can be completed leisurely in four to five weeks; most people can do that.
TL: Anything else you’d like to say related to the thru-hiker FB groups, the Trail, or the Foundation?
Susie: I think the reason our groups are so successful is first and foremost because of the members. We have some really awesome people participating and staying with us to serve as mentors from one year to the next. They offer helpful, non-judgmental information, which is what we are here to do. We don’t allow social influencers to try and push their stuff off on us. The only people who can post videos of their hikes are those who participated in that particular year’s group. You can’t just join the year after your hike and post your video. If you weren’t with us during your hiking year, sharing and participating, then you can’t post your stuff. We’re not here to help anyone gain followers or become influencers. But, we do want to see what our past members have done. I also think this group is so successful because it’s exactly what people come to us for: pertinent and timely trail information. Bobbie and I are very committed to that.
Bobbie: The Colorado Trail is a wonderful, organized, and well-maintained trail. The scenery and trail itself are fabulous. I encourage hikers, if they are not on Facebook, to join and get on the Colorado Trail Thru-Hike 2023 page and The Colorado Trail page. We have people that we have designated as “experts” who have lots of first-hand knowledge of the CT. Some have hiked the Trail many times. If you have already hiked the Trail, please send a donation to the Foundation or volunteer for one of the summer crews.