Hike September 16, ride September 17
[ By Kendra Walker ]
In recent years, the Crested Butte community has worked to increase awareness around suicide and mental health illness and improve access to mental health services in the Gunnison Valley. One of the leaders of this charge is the annual Trek for Life and Pedal Your Butte Off events effort, which aims to raise awareness and eliminate the stigma associated with mental health illness by helping to provide services for those who are underinsured. This year, the Trek for Life and Pedal Your Butte Off events on September 16 and 17 will once again bring the community together in the fight against suicide.
The fourth annual Trek for Life hiking event will take place over West Maroon Pass from Aspen to Crested Butte on Friday, September 16. This memorial hike celebrates the lives of those no longer with us and aims to raise awareness about mental health issues in the community. Event organizer Paul Uhl began this tradition back in 2019 to honor his son Kyle. Anyone is welcome to join the 12-mile hike that begins at Maroon Lake in Snowmass at 6:30 a.m., up the West Maroon Trail to the top of West Maroon Pass at 12,645 feet, and down the other side to the Schofield Park Trailhead.
Then on Saturday, September 16, the second annual Pedal Your Butte Off fundraiser invites the whole community to pedal for mental health. This costumed-encouraged, human-powered wheeled event begins in Town Park, with the course following Butte Ave out along Peanut Lake Road and through town via Elk Avenue back to Town Park.
As for what meets the “human-powered wheeled” criteria, Uhl says it can be anything with wheels as long as it’s human-powered, such as a bike, unicycle, rollerblades, tricycle, wagon, wheelbarrow, wheelchair, push-scooter, or any invention of your own. “In true Crested Butte style, creativity is strongly encouraged,” he says.
The event will include a Health and Wellness Fair in Town Park before and after the ride, featuring guest speakers and highlighting health-focused businesses in the community. “We want to help bring a little more awareness to what we’re trying to accomplish,” said Uhl. “We want to start more community outreach and general health prevention. We’re trying to get ahead of people’s injuries and mental health needs, we want to start reaching out in the community to prevent those things from happening in the first place.
This event will also be a wildcard route for Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association’s (CBMBA) Fall Poker Ride, which begins at Town Park immediately following. Check-in begins at 8:30, and the Pedal Your Butte Off ride begins at 9:30 a.m.
This year, the goal is to raise $40,000 between the two events. Proceeds for both events this year will go to the Gunnison Valley Health Foundation, earmarked specifically for providing access to behavioral health services for those who cannot afford them.
Uhl notes how important these services are to the community, as Colorado’s suicide rate is nearly one-and-a-half times greater than the national rate. “During the past couple of years, we have seen a sharp increase with anxiety and depression in school aged children — a key group of individuals Pedal Your Butte Off is reaching out to,” he said. “Additionally, GVH is getting a full-time therapist into the CB school and is deeply integrated with the first responders in CB and Gunnison.”
Since 2018, the events have raised $42,604 to support mental health in the Gunnison Valley, which has served 33 individuals and provided 167 services. “During the past three years we’ve raised funds that helped realize the opening of The Center for Mental Health in Crested Butte and provided funds for those who are either under insured or don’t have any mental health insurance,” said Uhl. “In short we’ve worked to remove barriers to access of services as well as bring awareness to mental health and suicide in our community.”
To join the Trek for Life hike, visit trekforlife.net/the-events/trek-for-life. To register for Pedal Your Butte Off, visit trekforlife.net/the-events/peddle-your-butte-off.