Continental Divide Trail through-hiker stops to give speech at sponsor Smartwool |

Continental Divide Trail through-hiker stops to give speech at sponsor Smartwool

Continental Divide Trail through-hiker Ken Dawson addresses the Smartwool staff at his stop-over — and well-deserved luncheon — on Friday.

Continental Divide Trail through-hiker Ken Dawson addresses the Smartwool staff at his stop-over — and well-deserved luncheon — on Friday.

It’s nice to have friends — and sponsors — in the right places. Especially if it means a non-dehydrated meal and new socks.

So it was last Friday for Continental Divide Trail through-hiker Ken Dawson, of Michigan, who, midway through his 3,100-mile traipse from Mexico to Canada along the spine of the Rockies, stopped over in Steamboat Springs for a welcome lunch, reception and sock swap at the Smartwool world headquarters.

Dawson is making the journey on behalf of Golden, Colo.-based Big City Mountaineers, a nonprofit providing wilderness mentoring programs for underserved urban youth. To date, he’s raised $28,000 in pledges for the organization through its Summit for Someone program. Long a supporter of Big City Mountaineers and other youth-outdoors advocacy efforts, it was natural for Smartwool to climb aboard Dawson’s effort.

“We’ve been giving to Big City Mountaineers for nine years through our advocacy committee, so it was the perfect chance to support Ken’s endeavor, as well,” said Smartwool advocacy co-leader Andrew Bisbee. “It was a great opportunity for our broader employee base to hear first-hand what some of our partner groups are doing.”

Joining Dawson at the presentation was Big City Mountaineers Executive Director Bryan Martin, who journeyed up from Golden to meet Dawson in person. Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015, Big City Mountaineers has, since its founding, taken more than 7,300 kids on outdoor expeditions and organized 5,000 adult volunteer mentors to help. Among its findings is that participation increases young people’s likeliness to stay in school, as well as reduces instances of violence and drug use.

“What Ken’s done fundraising-wise has far and away exceeded anything else we’ve seen this year through our Summit for Someone program,” Martin said, adding that typical domestic fundraising trips raise $4,000 to $5,000 compared to Dawson’s nearly $30,000. “As soon as we started sharing Ken’s story with our partners, Smartwool picked up on it and joined in.”

Dawson, a recently retired infrastructure planning and facilities staffer at Michigan State University, said he’s doing the trip to help others who are less fortunate learn as much from the outdoors as he and his family have. “Instead of my legacy being buildings, I wanted to turn it into a more humanitarian cause and help get kids in the outdoors,” said Dawson, who began his trip on the New Mexico border on April 15 and plans to finish in Waterton, Canada, Sept. 12

Dawson — who, in addition to his 60-pound backpack, is shouldering 100 percent of the costs associated with his through-hike — is averaging about 20 miles per day on his journey at an average speed of 2.2 mph.

“There’s a big difference between 20 and 25 miles per day and a huge difference between 25 and 30,” he said, adding that about 400 people through-hike the Continental Divide Trail each year.

“The 30-mile days hurt,” he added, “but it hasn’t been all pain and punishment. I’ve been taken in by some pretty nice people along the way.”

Dawson last visited Steamboat 38 years ago when he cross-country skied into Strawberry Park Hotsprings with his wife. During his quick pass through this time, in which he took in the free Jonny Lang concert at Howelsen Hill and dove into well-deserved bison burgers at his camp at Steamboat Lake, called his stop in Steamboat a “zero” day, for no miles gained.

“I don’t plan to take any more zero days from here on out,” said Dawson, who resumed his northward trek Saturday. “Maybe a couple of “nero” days, which are nearly zero, but I still have a pretty long way to go.”

For more information on Dawson’s journey, visit

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