Please call us at 303-823-6108 with the latest news, or to correct inaccuracies in this information regarding Old Man Mountain in Estes Park, Colorado, USA.
We originally posted this site to counteract a development plan in 2008. It would have turned the Elkhorn Lodge property (which includes a ridge leading out from Old Man and his river valley base) into high density housing with a shopping district and a highway over the ridge. The town posted comments regarding the development plan on its website. Letters poured in from people far and wide who love Old Man, calling for preservation. The developer has withdrawn. But the lodge is still for sale.
The University of Northern Colorado, which owns two-thirds of the upper part of the mountain, that summer denied access to thirty-six Arapaho elders and teens. These natives were in Estes Park to visit their tribe's historical sites in a program run by the national park. Turning them away was an illegal action. Legal access to the mountain for the public was secured in a four-year lawsuit by the Elkhorn Lodge in 1991, as Old Man is on the historic Ute Trail. (Just as you cannot obstruct an interstate highway, you cannot obstruct public access to the Old Ute Trail.) In essence, the university's archaeology department has documented that this is a sacred site (with Arapaho artifacts). Yet the university refuses to treat it as such (despite the lawsuit). This unique historic site is managed by its Housing department.
I don't have a copy of the lawsuit. But I did speak to someone who testified in it from the Rocky Mountain Nature Association, as well as to a former manager of the Elkhorn Lodge. And I am certain the outcome of that suit between the Elkhorn Lodge and the University of Northern Colorado was assured public access. (Many lodge guests climb the mountain and ride horses on it.)
This tax-supported university presently has one cabin, two bunkhouses, and outdoor restrooms on the mountain, which it rents to the public, competing with local lodges. An additional vacation cabin is planned, further obscuring the trailhead. The university's claim that when you rent the cabin, you get sole access to this ancient treasure is simply untrue.
On the positive side, Old Man Mountain is amazing at keeping development at bay. Since 1995, the University of Northern Colorado has drawn up plans for an extension campus on the mountain's high shoulder—right below the peak—three times. These plans have all fallen through with a turnover in presidents. Likewise, the Elkhorn Lodge at the mountain's base has been for sale several years, and four different development plans—including for a King Soopers supermarket and a bunny ski slope—have fallen through there as well.
Please join me in affirming that what's best for Old Man Mountain will be what happens to the land on and surrounding the mountain.
A third of the top of the mountain (at the end of Old Ranger Drive) is privately owned, and protected by a conservation easement. You, again, legally have access because the mountain is considered part of the Old Ute Trail. However, you cannot sue the owners if you get hurt on the mountain. (People have gotten trapped in crevasses.) Please climb safely, and leave no trace. It's understandable that fire rings and fires make the owners nervous, so please don't build fires.
Recently (June 2014), a sign from the Estes Valley Land Trust has been nailed to a tree that states you must request authorization to set foot on the property. That organization cheerfully supplied information for my efforts to get the UNC to take down their "no trespassing" sign a few years ago. And now they've put up their own! (I called, and was told that I needed to get permission from the owners, but they wouldn't give me contact information to reach the owners.) I hope that their sign will come down soon (and that the tree will heal). The public does have legal access, irregardless of the sign.
Old Man Mountain has been a beloved spiritual center for humans for at least three thousand years for many tribes, including our current multiracial tribe. (I define a tribe as people who love the same land.) The alienating concept of "private property ownership" has been around a tiny amount of that time. It's as though an ancient cathedral—made vital by the prayers of thousands of pilgrims—has been sold to the highest bidder, and locked up.
On the university side, it's as though an incredibly wise teacher—with human and non-human vital connections around the globe—has been been slated to be paved under. The University of Northern Colorado should proudly put him on their faculty instead. I can't think of any subject more important to teach for the survival of humans at this point in history than human-nature relations. And Old Man is a master teacher of that subject!
So please, do come visit the mountain in spite of illegal signs or misinformed cabin caretakers and renters. You are in your legal right to come. And you may be part of the hope for the planet.
Nature beings like Old Man Mountain come strongly into human awareness when they're acknowledged in their uniqueness. It's not unlike how you probably feel more "alive" when you feel loved. When we love nature beings, they get to experience themselves in the beautiful reflection of our perception of them. I'm not solely concerned with our access to Old Man. He needs access to us.
Obviously, many houses have been built on Old Man Mountain. When I lived in a condo at the mountain's base a decade ago, Old Man at that time felt the housing was alright, because it brought him many people whose hearts he could touch. With the advent of wireless technologies, the integrity of his energy (as well as your body's energy) is being suppressed and skewed. If you use wireless devices on the mountain, you are harming his unique signature energy, and indicating that you do not desire a relationship with him. The home devices and towers that have been installed in the past decade have assaulted him on physical and spiritual levels. (See more on the effects of electromagnetic fields.) I feel that if we lose Old Man to "development," whether that be physical development or energetic interference, we lose a priceless treasure. Old Man can pull the focus of his consciousness to other parallel worlds and just be a spiritually dead mountain here. But the loss to us would be tragic. Under this stress, Old Man has become intensely receptive to those who do cherish him. I have heard many stories of people who have profoundly fallen in love with this master lover!
The mountain—although quiet and secluded-feeling when you're there—is surrounded by the town. I wouldn't recommend a traditional vision quest there, where you would sleep overnight on the mountain. But in our book How Nature Sees Us, Old Man talks about how what matters in vision-receiving is how relaxed and loved you feel. Long, arduous fasts are not necessary. (To many people, going anywhere without their cell phone, GPS or wireless camera is like an arduous fast. Stay strong! You can do it!)
If you wish to stay several days, you can rent the cabins near the trailheads from the University of Northern Colorado. Elkhorn Lodge at the base of Old Man Mountain holds the mountain's energy strongly as well. If you wish to camp as part of your spiritual journey, I recommend Meeker Park Overflow Campground, up on Highway 7 near the Wild Basin entrance to the national park. It's rustic, beautiful, roomy, and unspoiled (except when the national park's NEON broadcast tower is blasting). It's also on a portal between parallel worlds.
Wishing you and the mountain great happiness together —
Cathee Courter with Peter MacGill
Old Man Mountain table of contents
©Cathee Courter and Peter MacGill, photos and text.
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