Emma Hostetler (17) is president of the Roaring Fork Hiking Club and a senior at Glenwood Springs High School. Photo by Theo Corwin

On Oct. 8, Emma Hostetler, a student at Glenwood Springs High School, will host a community charity hike at Sunlight Mountain. For her senior year capstone, Hostetler started the Roaring Fork Youth Hiking Club to advocate for youth rights and the environment. Hostetler’s hiking club will be fundraising to support a Colorado-based nonprofit called Protect Our Winters, which works toward fighting against climate change at a legislative level. Last year, Hostetler took an AP environmental science class which inspired her to take action against climate change and environmental issues at her school.

“[The class] totally rocked my world,” Hostetler said. “Taking that class last year really kind of showed me like, oh my gosh, we might not have this forever.” Moreover, it gave her a sense of purpose.

Hostetler pointed out that as a society, especially among younger generations, we constantly hear about environmental issues and climate change, but never see anyone act with urgency.

“Something that I’ve heard a ton as a kid is, ‘Oh good luck!’ or ‘We’re all going to die anyway’ — things that are just discrediting. I’m young. I have only been able to experience the outdoors for 17 years and my little brother is 12 years old. He has experienced less than I have. You’re saying that as someone who has had like 58 years of privilege of being outside,” said Hostetler. “Being able to filter through those really negative and harmful perspectives, that all comes back to supporting the youth and supporting people who are going to eventually be the ones dealing with this.”

Taking on a big challenge in a world where younger voices are often shut out can bring burnout. Hostetler said that learning about everything that is going on in the world made her feel isolated, especially when she saw that no one was acting on the issues.

“I was so concerned about it. It felt like no one else was feeling that,” Hostetler said. “It hurts for a reason.” Hostetler used her emotions as a guiding light when trying to figure out what she could do to help the outdoors. “Trust yourself and don’t put Band-Aids over it. Let it guide you,” she said.

Hostetler’s hiking club has been running for almost two months now. While Hostetler was happy to see students participating, she realized that there was still more that could be done.

“We’re educating each other and we’re building community and we’re supporting each other through these tough things, but we haven’t really done too much. As kids in this valley, we’re being told and taught about climate change, but we’re not able to do anything about it. People right now are making poor decisions for us and that’s the world we’re going to be living in, not them.”

With Hostetler’s hiking club, she hopes to bring younger people into the outdoors and inspire conversations about what they can do to combat climate change and other environmental issues. Hostetler understands that while many are not at the age to vote yet, they still have a say on what can be done.

“Something that kids can do at my age is getting that knowledge down before going to vote so that when you walk into your 18th year, you already know what you want and what you need and how that looks like at a government level,” Hostetler said.

Since their first hike, Hostetler and the club have worked on creating a fundraising event at Sunlight Mountain Resort, which is donating its facilities for a day. As an eighth grader, Hostetler did charity work for Protect Our Winters and realized that they were the perfect candidate for her continued support. Hostetler admires the local initiative for being able to take Colorado issues to Washington, D.C.

“I’d love to really bring the community together on this problem and to support this valley’s youth. It would mean so much to see people bring their kids or their neighbors to do this hike and for the youth of the Valley to see all of that support because it’s so hard to have this horrible thing to look forward to,” Hostetler said.

The community charity hike will be on Oct. 8 beginning at 2pm and guests will be free to hike Sunlight Mountain or enjoy live music and food at the base. The Roaring Fork Hiking Club will also be selling t-shirts at the event. All profits will be donated to Protect Our Winters. 

Visit roaring-fork-hiking-club.webflow.io/contact for more information.