Judy Collins

I’m writing to thank you for your support of Rocky Mountain Conservancy. Rocky Mountain National Park is at the heart of my dreams and my memories. A paradise, it is one of the most glorious places in the world, and a place where the wild and the beautiful live and stay. Here is my Rocky journey.

I’m a Colorado girl, raised in Denver. I’ve hiked Rocky’s trails and walked those miles and experienced that beauty. For all of us—visitors and caretakers, nature, and animals—Rocky Mountain National Park is a refuge and a solace. The park has and will be there for you as well. We are all lucky to have walked there, dreamed there, slept there, and experienced the magnificence of dawn there.

Judy Collins headshot

When I was 18, Jim Bishop hired my husband, Peter, and me to run the Fern Lake Lodge. Jim held the concession agreement from the National Park Service. He showed us the ropes, and in July 1958, after the snow had melted from the trails, we put on 50-pound backpacks and hiked five miles to the lodge with its nine small cabins. There was no electricity or running water, but the kitchen had three wood burning stoves.

For decades, tourists had climbed that same trail with their steamer trunks on mule-back and stayed—often a month at a time—through the winter cold and the summer heat. They wore wool and cotton; there were no puffy jackets and electric boot warmers back then. When Peter and I arrived, we were thrilled to be there, a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget. By then, the era of rustic lodges within Rocky was nearing its end.

We had the lodge for three months, all to ourselves except for serving lunch to the dozens of hikers who rested on our porch, gazing over Fern Lake, and eating the homemade pies and sandwiches I prepared with a wood-burning stove. By the end of the summer, I would tell you that the best food in the world is made on a wood-burning stove—forget electricity!

We did fine by firelight and candlelight. Peter chopped the wood and carried the water down from the streams while I baked bread and pies. We slept in one of the little cabins with its featherbed and coal burning stove. I was sleeping like a baby. It was heaven.

My family, parents and brothers and sister, hiked up that summer. My father Chuck, who was blind, made it admirably with only a long stick and my mother’s guidance. After we served pies and sandwiches to our hikers, I would sit down with the guitar and sing, “This Land is Your Land.”

What a gift that summer was: the friends we met and the lifetime of memories!

We tried to buy the lodge when that summer was over. We were the last keepers (of the human kind) to run Fern Lake Lodge; it was soon torn down as part of the effort to remove man-made structures in the park. For a commercial structure, the Fern Lake Lodge was heaven, unlike any other I’ve ever seen. I loved it. Many people had loved it. You would have loved it.

I hiked in the park and came back to Fern Lake many times over the years. Everything around the former lodge is still there—growing for the birds, for the red marten who came down to the lake to drink, for the wildlife everywhere, for the wild dreams every night.

Do yourself a favor and visit Rocky Mountain National Park every time you get the chance. You can dream as I do, and you will make memories as I have to treasure forever. Create your Rocky journey as I created mine. Thank you again for helping Rocky Mountain Conservancy protect and defend this incredible place so special to all of us.

– Judy Collins Judy Collins signature