The Mother of the Colorado Trail
In honor of International Women’s Day Leadville Today celebrates two wonder women. One is famous for building trails and the other for telling tales.
While the wind blows cold and the snow comes in strong, eventually it will melt and greener pastures and open trails will appear, if only for a while. One of the more famous trails that intersect with Lake County is the Colorado Trail. This three-foot-wide path for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and back-country skiers winds through Colorado’s mountains avoiding towns and cities, running from Denver to Durango.
Gudrun “Gudy” Gaskill also known as the ”Mother of the Colorado Trail,” spearheaded the effort to build the 500-mile Colorado Trail, one of the top outdoor attractions in Colorado. She rallied thousands of volunteers from every state and many countries to help build the trail, one segment at a time. Today, this high-altitude wilderness trail is a model studied by other states and agencies.
For those who may be unfamiliar with her story, it is succinctly surmised by the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) as follows:
It took 25 years, but Gudy Gaskill turned a dream into reality. Her dream, the 500-mile Colorado Trail, has become one of the top recreational attractions in Colorado. To support her avocation, she sold real estate and sought private donations and individual contributions. She rallied thousands of volunteers from every state and many countries to help build the trail, one segment at a time. Today the Colorado Trail, a three-foot-wide path for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and back-country skiers, winds through Colorado’s mountains, avoiding towns and cities from Denver to Durango. This high-altitude wilderness trail is a model studied by other states and agencies.
Gaskill had extensive knowledge and experience as a hiker and climber. She climbed all 54 of Colorado’s fourteeners, the European Alps, and many other major peaks around the world (some as many as 12 times). During World War II with gas rationing, few guests, and a great deal of free time, she climbed Longs Peak in Colorado 31 times when she worked at a lodge.
She began hiking when her father, a summer ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park, left his children at a different spot each morning and picked them up at 5:00 pm. With little else to do, Gaskill and her siblings hiked their summer days away. She was also a downhill and cross country skier, who won many races in her youth. Numerous articles have been written about her achievements, and she was interviewed on many television programs, including the Today Show. Judy Collins and Michael Martin Murphey dedicated songs to her, and she received numerous awards, including those from former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
But if Gaskill’s vision is considered to be one-of-a-kind, then the woman herself certainly broke the mold! Never was that more apparent than at the 2002 Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (CWHF) Inductions, which was held at the glitzy Donald Seawell Ballroom in downtown Denver. It was the year Gaskill was inducted for her efforts regarding The Colorado Trail
That year, in addition to their special plaque, the women also received a beautiful crystal bowl. These were special gifts given by Joy Burnsley, owner of Denver’s historic Burnsley Hotel and CWHF Inductee, Class of 2000.
As Gaskill took the stage to accept her place among an elite group of Colorado women, she was presented the elegant serving vessel, at which point she spontaneously said, “Oh my goodness, what am I going to do with this?” then proceeded to place it upside down atop her head as if it was a bicycle helmet!
The ballroom erupted in laughter, paving the way for Gaskill’s acceptance speech as an honor to the woman who created miles and miles of pathways for millions to enjoy! Thank you for all the Happy Trails, Gudy!
Leadville Author Releases Final in Book Series
In other news about successful women, Leadville author Laurel McHargue has announced the release of the last in her Waterwight book series. This month, McHargue will host two new book release signing parties in Leadville this month. The first will be on Friday, March 15, from 5 – 7 p.m. at Fire On The Mountain in downtown Leadville, and the second on Friday, March 29 from 6 – 8 p.m. at Lake County Public Library.
“Old Man Massive is one of my favorite characters,” McHargue said. “He’s a mountain spirit who helps my protagonist throughout the series.” She is excited about finishing her Waterwight trilogy, which began with a dream and evolved with inspiration from people and places in Leadville.
Both events are free to the public. There will be a raffle for a free set of books at each event (must be present to win). The event at Fire On The Mountain is a “stop in when you can and say hello” event. At the library event, McHargue will do a reading from her series and will have a Q&A session. She hopes readers and writers of every age will attend and find out more about how she created and published the fantasy adventure series.
“Spring break is the perfect time to start a new series,” said McHargue. “Come and get your autographed copies!”
Laurel McHargue is a Leadville resident. Her books are available locally at Fire On The Mountain and at B & B Shipping And More, and on Amazon. She will also have them on display this year at Denver Pop Culture Con.