A map of the places named after women -- and a plan

This is a screenshot.  Click on the link below to go to the actual interactive map.

This afternoon, I spent significant time creating an interactive map of the mountains and lakes named after women.  I used the wonderful website batchgeo.com to create THIS.  You can click on the little markers to find the locations, but I've only mapped peaks here.  For the WHOLE updated list of all 60 lakes and mountains named after women in the state of Colorado, please look at this spreadsheet, which I also created today.

I did decide to exclude mountains named for vague references to women (e.g., Twin Sisters, Sisters, Hermosa, Nipple).  I also decided to exclude the mountains named for Native American tribes, since those are not references to specific women.  That said, I'm excited that I discovered Mount Chipeta is named for the second wife of the Ute chief Ouray.  More on that when I hike Mount Chipeta sometime in the next ten years.  I also decided to exclude passes, mines, ridges and creeks.  I'm still not sure about whether to include Columbia and Zenobia, who were both mythical figures -- but were decidedly women.

Basically, I've created a hiking plan for myself for the next ten years (I'll start with the mountains and lakes nearest Denver this summer).  I contacted the Autry Museum of the West, hoping they would be interested in posting this blog on their website (they merged with Boulder's Museum of Women of the West in 2002). They responded promptly and kindly, complimenting the contents of the blog, but saying they can only publish blogs their own staff writes.  But maybe they'll carry my book someday.

Stay tuned for posts on my hikes up Mount Rosalie, Squaw Mountain, and Mount Lady Washington last summer.  Haven't you always wondered for which women those peaks were named?

Mount Helen (aka Belle and Helen Peak), Breckenridge, CO

My backpack at the Wheeler Trail, where I walked into the woods and started the steep ascent up Mount Helen, pictured here.  The snowfields were incredibly vertical!

SummitPost.org claims Mount Helen (also written on some maps as Belle and Helen Peak) is a straight-forward ascent:  only 5.1 miles round trip, just one steep section that involved bush-whacking with no trail.  Somehow, when I planned to hike the mountain, I ignored the hefty elevation gain (2,700 feet in 2.5 miles), and I didn't examine the topo map carefully enough.  My cousin Brian told me he had "run up there" before; he said it was a great mountain.  I was in Breckenridge staying with my aunt, anyway, so I decided I would wake early and "run up" to the summit of Mount Helen, too.

It was not so easy.  But the more I read about the Helen and Belle for whom the peak had been named -- Helen Rich, a journalist and novelist, a Summit County social worker for 22 years, a humanitarian; Belle Turnbull, a poet and novelist, reviewed by the New York Times and published by Saturday Evening Post -- the more I appreciated this relatively small mountain (13,171 ft) that stands sloped and lovely green south of Breckenridge, apparently accessible.  Helen and Belle, too, held secrets.  One:  Helen made a life with Belle, 13 years her junior.  Two:  While Belle wrote her poetry about the mining lives she observed in Summit County, Helen spent the last decade of her life attempting to write the story of Silverheels, that gorgeous dancehall girl who supposedly contracted disfiguring smallpox and then disappeared.  Three:  Helen died exactly one year after Belle, in November of 1971.

I'll tell you more about Helen Rich and Belle Turnbull in a moment.  First, the mountain.

How to hike Mount Helen:

The beautiful green tundra is STEEP, hiding at least 3 false summits.

1.  The SummitPost.org directions are good, as long as you remember that "taking the Wheeler Trail" means hiking the bit that stretches between the 4WD road toward Mohawk Lakes (#800) and the 4WD road toward Crystal Lakes (#803).  It is a bit easier to walk up #800 than #803, and I think a bi shorter.
2.  Just as recommended, I left the Wheeler Trail when I thought I spied a place I could trek up through the forest to treeline on Mount Helen.  For a while, though, I stood on the Wheeler Trail and stared at Mount Helen, utterly intimidated.  It looks steep from every angle.  Finally, I took a deep breath and strode forward into the forest, but not before I took a screenshot of my iPhone's compass reading, just in case.  The way up to treeline is one of the steepest hiking ascents I've ever done (and I've climbed Long's Peak a few times).  The fact that it's trees and plants and grasses does not help, as I'm certain it would still hurt to fall down that wall.  I was relieved when I got to treeline and saw the great green slope of Mount Helen's summit stretching away from me.
3.  From treeline, it's just a tundra trudge up to the Mount Helen summit.  It took me about an hour, which included some cursing at the three false summits, several breaks to appreciate the scenery (which just improved as I climbed), and a greeting of a busy pika.
4.  The summit is a surprise after all that tundra -- it's rock, and sheer on its north side.  Considerate (or desperate) people have built rock shelters up there, so I nestled into the one on top to admire the surrounding peaks (Father Dyer Peak, Crystal Peak, Peak 10) and the frozen Upper Crystal Lake.  Beautiful wildflowers grow up there (at least on June 27, when I hiked the mountain).  It was windy, but not in my cozy shelter.
5.  The hike down is harder, as hikes on very steep mountains usually are.  I proceeded slowly, admiring and photographing perfect forget-me-nots on my way.  I was glad to find the Wheeler Trail again.

At the summit of Mt. Helen on June 27, 2017

Forget-me-nots showing off the Colorado blue.

Who Helen and Belle Were:

Helen Rich

Helen Rich and Belle Turnbull (the historians, of course, provide no help for how to characterize their relationship) moved to Frisco in 1937, and then to a cabin on French Street in Breckenridge in 1939.  Rich worked as a social worker for the Department of Public Welfare of Summit County, where she handled job placements and welfare payments, but she also concentrated on her writing:  she published her first novel, The Spring Begins, in 1947, and her second novel, The Willow Bender, in 1950.  Belle, meanwhile, who had won the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize from Poetry Magazine in 1937, concentrated entirely on her writing (though she did serve as a clerk typist for the War Price and Rationing Board in Breckenridge during WWII).  Belle published several volumes of poetry and a novel.  A 2017 book, Belle Turnbull: On the Life and Work of An American Master, by David Rothman and Jeffrey Villines, illuminates Belle's work, demonstrating that, in her quest to capture mining and mountain life, she remains one of Colorado's most important poets.  Her most well-known books are the verse narrative Goldboat (Houghton, Mifflin, 1940) and The Tenmile Range (Prairie Press of Iowa City, 1957), a collection of poems.

But none of that history adequately explains who Helen or Belle were.  As I hiked Mount Helen, I longed to discover more about them.  What was their relationship like?  Did the residents of Breckenridge consider them a couple, a Boston marriage, or?  Did the two of them hike together?  Did either of them every hike Mount Helen?  What was it called then (note that an alternative name for the peak, according to the U.S. Geological Survey is Belle and Helen Peak)? I plan to read the Helen Rich papers and the Belle Turnbull papers (both collections available in the Denver Public Library collections) to find out more.  I've ordered the Belle Turnbull book, too, and I've added Helen and Belle to my list of strong women couples to admire.

Belle Turnbull


From the beginning of Goldboat (1940), by Belle Turnbull:

Over the Great Divide unrolls the highway
And cars go wagging their tails among the thunders,
Range to range stitching, weather to weather.
In half a day you can hem up the watershed
And rush on the prairie or race on the desert again
Unaware of the infinite clues of legend,
The featherstitching of roads that thread the meadows,
Follow the gulches, follow the mountain pattern.
Or a man may twist his wheel where a wild road feathers
Under a range that marches on a valley,
Turn and be gone away to Rockinghorse country,
Wind through a park beside its swaggering river,
Creep on a shelf around a rocky shoulder,
Check in a pasture, by a waterpit
Under a rocksnake of cold blue cobbles mounded.
Still pond, no moving. And a wooden bird,
A squat hightailing monstrous waterwidgeon
Diving its chain of spoonbills down and under
Red-rusted in the turquoise pit.
No moving. And no sound from the grotesque
Impossible of vision.
                                    Only the wind,
The long, the diamond wind disturbs that water.

#Buythebookin2027 (An Introduction to this Blog)

Last summer, by accident, I realized I needed to write a book that would be part trail guide and part history (or "her-story", actually):  a book that reveals the forgotten stories of all the strong women for whom some of Colorado's peaks and lakes are named.

I realized this in the midst of my summer 2016 research on and writing about the abolitionist and writer Anna Dickinson, for whom two Colorado peaks are named:  the remote 11,814 ft Mount Dickinson and the accessible but rarely-climbed 13,281 ft Mount Lady Washington.  I am still working on my hybrid manuscript about Dickinson (part fiction, part list, part biography), but it led me to this other idea.  Every time I told people I was writing about Anna Dickinson -- even people hiking on the trail at Mount Lady Washington's base -- they looked at me blankly.  No one knew who Anna Dickinson was.  When I hiked Mount Rosalie later in the summer, I asked people I knew if they knew who Rosalie Bierstadt had been.  Some of them guessed Albert's wife (correct), but no one knew anything else about her (nor did I).  I wished ardently for a trail guide that would tell me about these women who were deemed famous/important enough for the men in the geological surveys to name peaks for them.

And then I realized I needed to write that guide.

My goal, then, has become to hike as many of the mountains and to reach as many of the lakes as I can in the next decade, to blog about my hikes and the research I do on the women, and then to assemble all that writing into a book by 2027.  YOU can help by following this blog, by hiking the trails, and by reading the histories and links I post about each woman namesake.  The point is to keep the memory of these incredible women were alive.

It's going to be challenging.  Do I include the mountains named for Native American tribes, which, of course, included women?  Do I include the mountains named for women's body parts (Nipple Mountain, Iron Nipple)?  Do I include the mountains and lakes named "Flora" or "Bonita" or "Hermosa," when those were as likely to refer to the beauty of the place as to specific women?  The U.S. Geological Survey gives places named after men the men's last names but places named after women first names (or nicknames), which makes the job of tracing exactly who that name was intended to honor even more difficult.  Who was Eva?  Edith?  Helen?  Dolores?  Isabelle?  We know who Governor Evans was (and we know what he did); we know who Stephen Long was; we know who Albert Bierstadt was.  It's easy to find copious history on these men, and -- not accidentally -- it's relatively easy to access the places named for them (that does not mean it's easy to climb them -- Long's Peak, for example, has a perfectly accessible trailhead on Colorado Highway 7, but it remains the most difficult mountain I have ever climbed).  It is often difficult to get to the trailheads for these peaks and lakes named after women. . .but it is not impossible.

As my readers, you can help me decide.  I'll hike and then blog; you comment and add ideas.  Then you can see your feedback in action in the book in 2027. . .

A quick note on my credibility:  I'm an avid hiker, a lover of mountains since I climbed Deer Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park at age 9 (and Long's Peak at age 14).  I am from flat-land Iowa, but we vacationed in Colorado every summer, and I worked in Colorado as a camp counselor and hiking guide in college.  I've lived in the mountains of New Mexico, Alaska, Guatemala, and now Colorado, where I've lived and hiked since 2011.

From the top of Mount Helen, June 27, 2017

Here's the rough list (with places I've already visited in bold, places I'm uncertain about in italics -- stay tuned for retroactive blog posts on Mount Lady Washington and Mount Rosalie from last summer's hiking) -- compiled from the excellent database HERE:

To climb/explore and then write about:
-- Sisters Peak (Hinsdale Co.)??
-- Amherst Mountain (Columbine Peak Quad)???
-- Anita Peak (Routt Co.)
-- Apache Peak?
-- Arapaho Peak? Arickaree?  (origin of Native American names here)
-- Augusta Mountain (Gunnison Co.)
-- Betty Lake (Boulder Co.)
-- Calico Mountain (Chaffee)??? (commentary)
-- Calypso Cascades (RMNP)
-- Carrol Lakes (El Paso Co.)???
-- Carroll Creek (Fremont Co.)
-- Celeste (Stunner) Pass (Conejos Co.)
-- Chapeta Mountain (Gunnison Co.)?
-- Cherokee Lake? (Hinsdale Co.)
-- Cheyenne Lake?  (El Paso Co.)
-- Cimarrona Peak (Hinsdale Co.)?
-- Columbia Mtn (Clear Creek Co.)
-- Dolores Mountain (Dolores Co.)
-- Dora Mtn (Gore Range) -- also Dora Mtn in Custer Co.
-- Dyke Col (???) Pass
-- Edith Lake (Clear Creek Co.) -- privately owned
-- Edith Mountain (Hinsdale Co.)
-- Electra Lake (La Plata Co.)
-- Emma Burr Mountain (Chaffee/Gunnison)
-- Ethel Lake (Clear Creek Co)
-- Ethel Peak (Jackson/Routt Co) -- near Fort Collins, about 50 min drive to TH
-- Florence Lake (Garfield Co)
-- Geneva Peak?? (Montezuma quad)
-- Georgia Pass?
-- Hagar Mountain (Clear Creek Co)
-- Hermosa Peak? (just means “sister”)
-- Imogene Pass (Ouray Co)
-- Iron Nipple Peak (Sangre de Cristos -- ha)
-- Isabelle Glacier (Boulder Co)
-- Jenny Lake (Boulder Co)
-- Josephine Lake (Eagle Co)
-- Kelly Lake (Eagle Co)
-- La Garita Peak?
-- La Grulla Lake? (Conejos Co)
-- Lake Agnes (Grand Co)
-- Lake Ann (Chaffee Co)
-- Lake Annella (Conejos Co)
-- Lake Caroline (Clear Creek Co)
-- Lake de Nolda (Conejos Co)
-- Lake Dorothy (Boulder Co)
-- Lake Esther (Eagle Co)
-- Lake Evelyn (Grand Co)
-- Lake Isabel (Boulder Co)
-- Lake Meredith (Crowley Co)
-- Lake Nanita (Grand Co)
-- Lake Rebecca (Gunnison Co)
-- Lake Verna (Grand Co)
-- Marcellina Pass (Gunnison Co)
-- Marion Lake (Custer Co)
-- Mariquita Peak (Culebra Range)
-- Mays Peak (El Paso Co)???
-- Minnie Mountain (Hinsdale Co)
-- Miranda Peak (Culebra Co)
-- Mount Aetna??? (Chaffee Co)
-- Mount Alice (Boulder Co) (18 miles RT, from Wild Basin in RMNP)
-- Mount Ashley (Larimer Co)???
-- Mount Dickinson (Larimer Co -- 11,000 ft)
-- Mount Emma (Sneffels Range)
-- Mount Eva (Clear Creek Co)
-- Mount Eve (Eagle Co)
-- Mount Flora (Clear Creak Co)
-- Mount Helen (Breck quad)
-- Mount Ida (Front Range)
-- Mount Lady Washington (Longs Peak quad)
-- Mount Rhoda (Howardsville quad)
-- Mount Susan (Clear Creek quad)
-- Navajo Peak???
-- Palmyra Peak? (Telluride)
-- Rosalie Peak
-- Saint Sophia Ridge (Sneffels Range)
-- Santa Maria Pass (Mineral Co)
-- Squaw Mountain (Routt)
-- Stella Mountain (Gunnison)
-- The Dyke (Gunnison) -- ha?
-- Uneva Peak (Summit)???
-- Victoria Lake (Conejos)
-- Virginia Peak (Sawatch)
-- Widow Creek (Ouray)??
-- Zenobia Peak (Moffatt)???

Hiking Mount Ida for Ida Ruth

My gram, Ida Ruth Miller, was the kind of woman people would have named mountains or lakes or flower species for. She was an intent ...