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Emmaline Lake and Naming Places for Mothers

The day before we hiked to Emmaline Lake, I told my mom that "Emmaline" was Emma Schupbach Koenig, the mother of one of Rocky Mountain National Park's three first park rangers, Frank Koenig.  To my surprise, my mom sighed.  "They were always naming places after their mothers and their wives just because they were mothers and wives, not because they DID anything memorable."

It was true that I couldn't find anything more about Emma.  Her son evidently added the "-line" suffix to her name just as he added it when he named the remote Hazeline Lake in honor of his wife Hazel Ramsey Koenig (note that Frank named Ramsey Peak after his father-in-law, but did not call it Ramsey-line Peak).  I learned Emma was born in Sardis, Ohio, in 1862, to Swiss-German parents; I learned that she married Rudolph Koenig (twenty years her senior), moved to Colorado, and gave birth to eight children (Frank was the second).  I learned that she died in 1960 and is buried in L…
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Lake Isabelle and women who live their lives

What I love about this project is the sleuthing (and the hiking, of course).  I love the question:  Who was ___?  I love the beginning search, the simple typing of a name into Google.  With these women's names, it has not yet been easy or straight-forward, not the way it would be if I were researching for and writing a book about Stephen Long (Long's Peak) or Nathan Meeker (Mount Meeker).  Those men have Wikipedia pages, clear book references, whole histories.  Not so with the women.  The naming convention is part of the problem -- with only a first name, Google has difficulty proceeding.  "Who was Isabelle?"  "Who was Helen?" "Who was Molly?" I have to add geographical details, key words:  "Who was Rosalie, Mount Evans area, Colorado history?"  I have to hope I will crack the mystery.

As my wife, our daughter, and my wife's mother Elaine drove from Evergreen to hike to Lake Isabelle last Friday, I learned that the lake (and the glac…

Lady Moon, and being "good enough"

My sister Katie and I are women who worry, constantly, about how to be good enough.  At 37 and 40, we are both women with graduate degrees, lovely Colorado houses, children, and loving spouses -- and yet we both become easily consumed by anxiety that we are not good enough wives, good enough mothers, good enough friends, good enough daughters, good enough artists, good enough people.  Our worry weighs on us, threatening us, unbalancing us.

We talked about this as we hiked the Lady Moon Trail near Red Feather Lakes last week.  What has made us this way, when other people evidently waltz through their lives with very little worry at all?  Why do we feel so responsible for everything and everyone?  Was it our upbringing on an Iowa farm, in a culture that praised children primarily for their contributions and hard work?  Was it the model of our mother and our aunts, our grandmothers and our great-grandmothers, who hurried to please and do and fix?  Or did we simply inherit a chemical prop…

Update on re-naming Squaw Mountain

After readers of this blog submitted their "votes" for the re-naming of Squaw Mountain, I decided Mistanta/Owl Woman had the most support, since she is a notable Native American woman who worked to bridge differences in one of Colorado's first and most important trading forts (before the era of expulsion and massacre).  I have just submitted a proposal to the US Board on Geographic Names to change Squaw Mountain in Clear Creek County (I guess I'll work on Routt County's Squaw Mountain and Teller County's Squaw Mountain later) to Mount Mistanta.  Wish the proposal luck!

On Squaw Mountain -- and renaming it

Although it is not named for a specific woman, I have to discuss Squaw Mountain, which is an 11,773-foot mountain near Idaho Springs, and which I love for its surprisingly astounding view and for the little fire lookout tower on its summit.  I love it, but its name twists my heart every time I hear it.

The origin and the appropriateness of the word "squaw," according to an article from Indian Country Today, has been much debated.  Some historians (including Dr. Marge Bruchac, an Abenaki historical consultant) argue that, in the Algonquin languages, the word merely means "woman" or "wife".  However, others have argued that the English word came from a French corruption of the Mohawk (or Iroquois) term for "vagina," which gives sexual meaning to the word. Suzan Shown Harjo, a Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee American Indian rights activist insisted on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992 that squaw was certainly an Algonquin word meaning vagina, that it …

Mount Rosalie and Rosalie Bierstadt

I love to look at Mount Rosalie.  From my sister-in-law's deck in Pine, Colorado, it's a pleasingly rounded summit, a dome blanketed in snow until late in the summer.  Beside its 13,575-foot gentle rise, Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt, both 14ers, appear harsh, craggy, forbidding.  And yet Rosalie is deceptive.  It is easy to summit Mount Rosalie from the Mount Evans road -- merely drive up the zigzagging road to just above Summit Lake, park, and hike south up and over Epaulet Mountain and then to Rosalie.  But I'm not sure this counts as "climbing" Rosalie any more than parking at the lot on Evans and walking the final half mile to its summit counts as climbing that 14er.

To climb Mount Rosalie, and say you've really done it, you must begin at the bottom -- and you must know the history of the person for whom the mountain is named -- and the controversy that surrounds it still.

Who was Rosalie?

In 1863, when the painter Albert Bierstadt climbed the mountains…

Mount Lady Washington and Miss Anna Dickinson

By now, I know Anna Elizabeth Dickinson so well it's as if I knew her personally.  Before the summer of 2013, I had never heard of her (have you ever heard of her?), and yet in the prime of her career, in the 1860s and 70s, Dickinson's name was a household name in America.

People flocked by the thousands to hear her speak.  She was the first woman to speak on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, in 1863. By 1865, she earned $20,000 (the equivalent of about $280,000 today) per year from speaking fees, first as an abolitionist and then as an advocate for laborer's rights, for equality for all, and for women's rights.  Affectionately called "America's Joan of Arc," Dickinson was far more famous than her contemporary, Susan B. Anthony.  She was a celebrity.  Although several wealthy, high-profile men proposed to her, she never married; her letters reveal that she immersed herself in passionate love affairs with women in various cities (sometimes a…