2° of John Muir - Rocky Mountain National Park

Think of the terms 'conservationist' and 'naturalist' and there's one person who will undoubtably pop into any nature lover's mind: John Muir.  The founder of the Sierra Club and the man responsible for fueling the flames of Teddy Roosevelt's dreams of land preservation is aptly named "The Father of our National Parks".  His efforts toward saving our lands were significant in the formation of multiple National Parks including Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, and Petrified Forest.  This year marks the 100th anniversary of Muir's death, December 24, 1914.

The Lava Cliffs at the highest point of Trail Ridge Rd.

On the way back from Steamboat yesterday, Linda and I decided to take the scenic route through Rocky Mountain National Park instead of fighting the summer Sunday parking lot called I-70.  It's a beautiful drive that enters the park at the west entrance at Grand Lake, traverses the park via Trail Ridge Road, and exits the east entrance at Estes Park.  Trail Ridge is one of the most breathtaking roads in the US, both with its views of the Rockies and the precipitous, unprotected drops for those who happen to steer off the road while sightseeing instead of driving.  Within the park boundaries it crosses the Continential Divide while rising to 12,183' near the Lava Cliffs and Iceberg Pass.  As part of our entrance fee to the park we were provided with a map of RMNP which mentioned that next year is the 100th anniversary of the founding of RMNP.  The park was founded on January 26, 1915, one month and two days after the death of John Muir.  

The grandest character in national park history and nature literature is John Muir. He has written the great drama of the outdoors.
— Enos Mills, in a memorial to John Muir

So, how is John Muir associated with the founding of Rocky Mountain National Park?  Enter Enos Mills.  Due to serious health issues Mills left his Kansas home at age 14, moving to live with cousins in Estes Park.  He quickly fell in love with the Rocky Mountains.  The Colorado air seemed to heal his illness and by 15 Mills had climbed Long's Peak.   Mills became enamored with the mountain.  He decided to settle in the area, building his own log cabin over two summers.  At 19 Mills traveled to the Pacific Coast and one day while walking on the beach accidentally ran into none other than John Muir.  They became long and fast friends, with John teaching Enos about the importance of conservation.  Mills took Muir's education to heart, later buying his cousin's farm at the base of Long's Peak and turning it into the Long's Peak Inn.  He began guided hikes up Long's, quickly becoming a voice of conservation for the Rockies.  Soon he was writing and lecturing about the importance of preserving the land for future generations.  In early 1915 his efforts paid off when Congress created Rocky Mountain National Park.  The Denver Post called him "The Father of Rocky Mountain National Park."

As we drove along Trail Ridge Rd. yesterday, noting with some displeasure the number of cars stacked on the road in front and behind us, I knew none of this.  Now that I know a little more about this man Enos Mills I have to smile.  Mills must be happy that over 3 million people each year are enjoying the place in which he called home for most of his life.