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What’s In a Name?
You can always tell when Jack Zumwinkel’s fine hand has been part of an issue of the WIND. Have a look at the July issue, which Jack edited. Every time the name of our unincorporated village comes up, he writes it as “Allens Park.” So far, nobody on the staff has been willing to change it.
Jack is spitting into the wind (you should excuse the phrase) and just being stubborn about a lost cause. On the other hand, Jack will tell you he lives on Cabin Creek Road, when in fact it was Big Owl Road for its entire three mile loop for about 75 years. The southern section was renamed “Cabin Creek” just a few years ago. It’s all County Road 82.
Cabin Creek Road is actually County Road 82E, which takes off from the bottom of Big Owl and follows Cabin Creek for about two miles until it climbs the hill to the Smitherman place. Prior to that, the road doesn’t even come close to Cabin Creek. Still, the signs are up and newcomers don’t know the difference.
I have the same problem with Cow Creek. Cow rises on the west slope of the Twin Sisters (which in 1915 narrowly escaped being named “Tahosa Mountain”) and flows along the eastern side of the valley, where it joins Roaring Fork, which comes from Chasm Lake, and Cabin Creek, which comes from the trough of Mt. Meeker.
In 1961 the U.S. Board on Geographic Names changed Cow Creek to “Tahosa Creek.” As if we didn’t have enough Tahosas around here. To me and mine, it’s still Cow Creek.
We are fond of the names of places. Ski Road is still Ski Road, several decades after the last rope tow was torn down. Lily Lake hasn’t had any yellow pond lilies since the dam blew out in 1951. Still, the name survives and perhaps some day it will deserve the name again.
Some of us like to name our homes and cabins. My grandfather called his cabin “Cabin John,” in honor of the homesteader who sold him the land. My Aunt’s cabin was “Treetops,” based on the view. Similarly, mine is called Skyline because of its unobstructed view of Meeker’s ridges. My parents’ cabin is called “The Ark,” because when it was first built it looked like the Ark stuck on a rock. Still another cabin is called “Ridgeview,” for obvious reasons.
Some names just disappear. Enos Mills had a number of things named for him: Mills Lake, to the northwest of Longs Peak in Glacier Gorge, Mills Moraine, which was pushed up by the glacier at the east face of Longs and is part of the Longs Peak trail, and Mills Glacier. There’s even a Mills Drive near the Park Headquarters.
Never heard of it? In the early part of the century there was the remnant of a glacier in the slot between Meeker and Longs, above Chasm Lake. Not a living glacier (it had no movement), it nevertheless stayed put all year, just below a snowfield called The Apron. Chasm Lake itself was at one time “Gold Lake,” and “Crater Lake.”
As the years went by, however, the “glacier” melted away. In most years it’s bare of snow by August. In this remarkable year it’s still there, about half as large as when it was named. It seems probable that it won’t melt completely this year, and this may be a turning point. In another few decades the name “Mills Glacier” may be back.
According to the excellent but now outdated “High Country Names,” produced by the Colorado Mountain Club in 1966, for 53 years Mt. Meeker was just the East Peak of Longs. Together they were often called “The Two Guides,” because travelers from the east could use them as easily recognizable landmarks. Nathan Meeker has two places named for him. The most famous is Meeker, a small town in western Colorado, which is where he was killed in 1879 in a famous Ute massacre. He was an Indian Agent at the time.
Prior to that, nothing had been named for him on the eastern slope. He was, however, the prime mover in establishing the Union Colony, an experiment in cooperative farming, in 1869. When Horace Greeley gave his name and reputation to the enterprise, they named the town after him. In 1873 someone, perhaps Anna Dickinson or William Byers suggested Meeker’s name as a fitting one for Longs’ East Peak.
Very few place names have changed in the past few years. We have named just about everything namable. Some names make sense; Cabin Creek commemorates the perhaps apocryphal story that Kit Carson built a cabin and wintered in the area in 1840. But over in Wild Basin is Horse Creek, and its origin is obscure. Likewise with Fox, Willow and Rock Creeks. Cow Creek was probably named by someone who saw a cow drinking from it. And the others probably had similarly simple origins.
The Post Office says our village is Allenspark, and that’s good enough for me. Jack will tell you that the 1961 Rocky Mountain National Park map calls it “Allens Park,” and he’s right. It’s also the only name on the map that dates from the 1860s. On the other hand, we don’t look at that map nearly as much as we look at our mail or the phone book. If you ask the phone company for the area code for “Allens Park,” (and shouldn’t that be “Allen’s Park”?) they will tell you there’s no such listing.
So Jack thinks he’s right and I think I’m right. Probably we will both pass on to our rewards without giving an inch. It’s the kind of harmless controversy we could wish we had more of. We do love to take sides.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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