Highlight your visit to Rocky Mountain National Park with a hike to Mills Lake, named after Enos Mills. It is the quintessential scene in Rocky Mountain National Park due to Longs Peak, Pagoda Mountain, and Chiefs Head in the background.
Continue your investigation of the intrepid homesteaders who convinced Congress to preserve this wonderland in 1915. From Estes Park turn on S. St. Vrain Ave. Two miles south on Colorado Highway 7 from Lily Lake stands the sign indicating Longs Peak view. Across the road from that point is an intriguing cabin built in 1885 by young Enos Mills. Today, you can visit this authentic cabin and museum dedicated to Enos Mills’ legacy, which is run by Esther’s great-granddaughter, Eryn. The museum is open year-round, by appointment only. Go to www.enosmills.com to make an appointment or call 970-586-4706. A private tour costs $20.00 per person.
After attending Lake Erie College near Cleveland, Ohio and later studying interior design at the Pratt Institute, Esther Burnell worked as an interior designer. At age twenty six, she was tired of corporations and urban life. In 1916, she and her sister, Elizabeth took a life-altering vacation to Estes Park, Colorado, staying at the Longs Peak Inn, which Enos Mills founded. Esther decided to stay and stake her claim to land near the Fall River entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Using her design skills, she planned her cabin and helped build it.
While living in her cabin alone and proving her claim, Esther explored the Rocky Mountains thoroughly. One winter day, she snowshoed 30 miles, to meet friends on the other side of the Continental Divide. After a rest and full-day’s visit, Esther spent 2 days returning to her homestead. People who knew her claimed she was formidable.
The “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park”, Enos Mills, hired her to help him with secretarial work while he was writing his book, “Your National Parks.”
Esther became the Park Service’s first female nature guide. In 1917 she worked alongside her older sister, Elizabeth, and Enos Mills, taking guests as far as they were keen to hike.
Esther and Enos were married on August 12, 1918 at his cabin. Their daughter, Enda, was born in 1919. Just three years after their daughter’s birth, Enos died at age 52. Esther continued to run her husband’s business, the Long’s Peak Inn, and published several of his books.
In 1935, Esther Burnell Mills co-authored a book with Hildegarde Hawthorne on Enos Mills’ life, Enos Mills of the Rockies. Later, she also wrote A Baby’s Life in the Rocky Mountains.
Like Esther, I plan to influence those who seek an understanding of Colorado’s early inhabitants. My novel, Sun on Snow, delves into the White River Ute band and their effective survival skills.