June 2nd, 12:02pm
Search for lodging in Estes Park, and one of the cheapest options you’ll find is the YMCA of the Rockies. It’s no mistake - in addition to camp students and conferences, YMCA of the Rockies is dedicated to providing affordable options for families. We stayed for one night, amidst a sprawling campus and a host of activities. With a presence in Estes Park from 1908, we were sure we’d find good campfire stories from the Y. On the porch of the Lula Dorsey Museum, we sat down with Carie Essig, Museums Director and Historian.
Carie is formerly from Minnesota, but found herself drawn to the Rocky Mountains, and so was excited to find a position that combined her interest in history, museum collections, her love of the outdoors, and her faith. She also shared some of the nuances of working in the shadow of a national park - how one spring, baby fawn were born behind one of the cabins, and the staff couldn’t travel to certain parts of the grounds for weeks!
We learned that Carie splits time between Estes Park on the east side, and Grand Lake on the more secluded west side of the park, which we’ll visit later this week. Our enthusiasm to visit grew as Nancy spoke of the vastness and beauty of the Grand Lake landscape, an experience so different from the east side of the park that it has created its own unique culture. She also regaled us with stories of famous YMCA alumni: of the Harbison Sisters, two feminists who operated their own ranch despite outcry, of Annie Pifer, one of the first female hike masters for the Park, and of W.C. Coleman, who after a visit to the YMCA of the Rockies, shifted his lamp business to production of camping lanterns, and soon, all sorts of camping gear. Yes, you guessed it—the Coleman brand.