We welcome Guest Blogger, the Rocky Mountain Nature Association to celebrate the birthday of Enos Mills:
"Scenery, like music, is thought-compelling and gives one a rare combination of practical and poetical inspiration. Along with mountain climbing, scenery shakes us free from ourselves and the world. From new grand heights one often has the strange feeling that he has looked upon these wondrous scenes before, and on the crest one realizes the full meaning of John Muir's exhortation to ‘climb the mountains and get their good tidings.'" -Enos Mills
Today we remember Enos Mills, the "Father of Rocky Mountain National Park," on his birthday for fighting to preserve the place he loved for future generations, and we honor him by continuing his legacy. Enos was born April 22, 1870 and lived until 1922. In 1884 at the age of 14, searching for a place to cure physical ailments, Enos embarked on his journey to Colorado on his own. In Estes Park, he became an innkeeper and homesteader, adventure nature guide, author/speaker, and national park advocate. We can still follow the trail of his life and find our own special place in Rocky Mountain National Park that we wish to continue to protect.
Our first stop on his trail is the Elkhorn Lodge where he worked for a summer at the age of 14. Next stop is the Longs Peak Inn (formerly the Longs Peak House) that his cousin Elkanah Lamb owned and from where they guided climbers up Longs Peak. Despite being too young to file for his own government homestead in 1885, he started to build his homestead on the southwest slope of Twin Sisters Peaks with panoramic views of Longs Peak. The next summer he finished his homestead, still owned by the Mills family, across the road from the Long's Peak Inn. He became an innkeeper in 1902 when he purchased the Longs Peak House which he renamed the Longs Peak Inn.
After his first climb of the 14,259 Longs Peak he decided to become one of the first nature guides. Enos thought that all living things have their own interesting life stories to tell, and he studied in "Nature's big school." Enos spent many days at Lily Lake, always fascinated about the new discoveries he could make. Your next stop at Lily Lake challenges you to see what new discoveries you can make. He climbed Longs Peak solo at the age of 16 in 1887, and then went on to summit the Peak more than 300 times as a nature guide out of Longs Peak Inn. It burned and was rebuilt in 1906. He also trained both men and women nature guides creating a new career for women at that time and paving the way for what we know now as park ranger interpretation.
Adventuring in 1889 in California, he met John Muir who worked to preserve Yosemite which became a national park in 1890. Their chance meeting was life-changing for Enos as Muir encouraged him to start observing, writing, and speaking. Muir told him, "I want you to help me do something for parks, forests and wildlife," and Enos did just that! First he explored California, then Yellowstone, Alaska, Europe and returned to Colorado to start his work as a writer and speaker. He wrote and published his first book, The Story of Estes Park and a Guide Book, in 1905. At the same time, he launched his first national speaking tour. He eventually wrote 14 more books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. Stop by any of the five visitor centers in RMNP to find books written about Enos Mills and reprinted versions of his original works.
As a preservationist, he began as a Colorado snow observer from 1902-1905 making observations on the health of the forest and the water supply. He found that much of the forest had been logged or burned as a result of human activity. From 1907 to 1909, he was asked by President Roosevelt to tour the nation as the government lecturer on forestry. The "Estes Park project" was a six-year struggle through his writings and lectures and through the help of many local residents to turn the Rocky Mountain Wonderland into a national park so that it would be protected from logging, grazing, etc. Congress signed the legislation to make this the 13th national park on January 26, 1915, and Rocky Mountain National Park was dedicated on September 4, 1915 in Horseshoe Park with 2,000 local supporters in attendance. But Enos continued to fight for the development of the National Park Service which was created the next year to protect the national parks.
Almost 100 years later, we can join millions of people every year in enjoying the area where Enos Mills lived and guided in the scenery that "shakes us free from ourselves." If you want to go with a nature guide the Rocky Mountain Nature Association offers a variety of classes. Check out our classes or purchase books at https://rmconservancy.org/ or call us at 970-586-3262.