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Identifier: CONS277

Content Description

The Gudy Gaskill Papers consist of correspondence (both personal and professional); planning documents; scrapbooks; photographs; maps; newsletters; ephemera; newspaper and magazine articles; sketches and watercolor artworks; audio-visual materials; and awards, certificates, and trophies belonging to Gudrun and David Gaskill, and the Colorado Trail Foundation.

Gaskill’s passion for the outdoors is demonstrated throughout this collection, as her blended personal and professional lives were often closely intertwined to the degree that it is hard to separate the materials one from the other. Researchers of the Colorado Trail and Gudy Gaskill alike will want to review materials across each series. The extensive scrapbooks and photo albums in particular often contain a mix of documents and photographs related to both the Colorado Trail and her personal life, and in many instances are not in chronological or thematic order.


This series contains correspondence received (primarily from friends, family, and Colorado Trail volunteers); biographical memorabilia such as diplomas, accomplishment lists, and awards; a couple of Gudy's travel diary logs; photographs; business cards and a few ski passes; materials from Gudy's memorial service; stories by friends; and an extensive collection of clippings and other documentary material that was collected and arranged by Gudy's husband Dave Gaskill.


This series contains material related to the Colorado Trail Foundation, including a trail planning survey and report undertaken in 1994; a small amount of Board of Directors' and planning documents; a trail crew leader's manual; collected songs and verse about the Colorado Trail; a trail volunteer list and scrapbooks; materials related to the Tread Lines newsletter, with a strong but incomplete run of the publication between 1986 and 2017; and several folders of clippings about the Trail.

While no complete list of trail crew volunteers is found in this collection, the volunteer list and scrapbooks located in this series help to document a large number of names. Researchers interested in further volunteer information should view the scrapbooks and photo albums arranged in series IV. Photographs, Photo Albums, and Scrapbooks.

Researchers of the Colorado Trail Foundation will also want to access related collections held at the History Colorado museum (listed under "Related Materials" in this collection guide).


This series contains materials stemming from Gudy Gaskill's involvement with the Colorado Mountain Club, the American Hiking Society, the Lookout Mountain Recreation Association, and her real estate company Mountain Associates, Inc.

The American Hiking Society materials are primarily related to her involvement as the Colorado coordinator for the Hike-a-Nation (or HikaNation) event in 1980. This 14-month cross-country hiking event began in San Francisco and ended more than 4,000 miles later at Cape Henlopen, Delaware.

The Colorado Mountain Club materials largely document her involvement as a Colorado and international trek leader.

The Lookout Mountain Recreation Association (LMRA) materials largely document the establishment of, and Gaskill's board involvement with this entity. The LMRA materials also include dcoumentation of the ski school that Gaskill ran for neighborhood kids. The Mountain Associates materials document the establishment of her real estate business.


This series overlaps with the personal and professional series in its themes, and thus contains a number of scrapbooks, photographs, and photo albums that document Gaskill's international travels, Colorado Trail work, artwork, and personal and family life.

There are several photo scrapbooks documenting trail crews and their volunteers. Of interest are the two scrapbooks documenting all forty-five trail crews working during the summer of 1987 (Photobox 6).

Also particularly notable are four photo scrapbooks identified as "The Complete Colorado Trail" (OVBox 2). These scrapbooks document the trail stage-by-stage from Denver to Durango, through photographs taken on different dates that have been compiled together into one narrative. Interspersed throughout are occasional trail reports describing the experiences of various trail crews.


Collection contains digital images and audio-visual materials that were originally on physical media: 44 CD-Roms and 2 cassette tapes. The materials were all migrated to Denver Public Library servers in 2023, and access copies are available to researchers on the library's I drive. The materials consist of 4,599 digital files (primarily jpegs and AVI files) totaling 22.7 GB.

The images consist of Colorado Trail and other mountain scene images, including photos of the Education Center cabin and classes; European travels; Gudy Gaskill's paintings and sculptures; and friends and family.

Of particular interest are an hour-long 2002 interview with Gudy Gaskill, recorded in conjunction with her Colorado Women's Hall of Fame induction; and a photo publication created by Gudy and Dave Gaskill entitled "Under Lake Powell: Before the Damnation."

The cassette tapes contain an instrumental song with vocals entitled "Colorado Trail," and Gudy's presentation at the "Win Win Business Forum."


The objects contained within this series consist of trophies, plaques, and awards for a variety of events and commemorations; a framed photograph of the first group to hike the entire 500+ miles of the Colorado Trail; pins and badges collected by Gudy; and medals for winter sporting events.

Of note in the awards are the Minoru Yasui Community Volunteer award (1989); plaques from the U.S. Forest Service (1985, 1994, 1999); and a plaque listing each stage of the Colorado trail by name, with check boxes to mark off upon completion.

The framed photograph of the first Colorado Trail through-hikers identifies the hikers as: Julie Mesdag, Gudy Gaskill, Marcie German (?), Steve Gladbach, Bob Newman, Virginia Knowlton, Janet Robertson, and Colonel Donna Hildebrand.

The winter sporting event medals primarily date from the 1990s through the early 2000s, when Gaskill competed in the Rocky Mountain Senior Games and the Senior Winter Games. The races they represent range from downhill and cross-country skiing to snowshoeing, hockey, and ice skating. Many of the medals are for placing as one of the top three winners.


  • 1935-2019

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.

Biographical / Historical

Gudrun “Gudy” Gaskill (1927-2016), an avid athlete and nature enthusiast, was the driving force behind the creation of the 567-mile Colorado Trail. Over a twenty-five year period, Gaskill worked with the Colorado Trail Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and private property owners to cobble together sections of this public trail. Intended for hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers, the trail spans from Durango to Denver. Gaskill helped to raise funds and plan the trail’s route, and then coordinated and led numerous teams of volunteers to clear and build trails and support structures, one trail segment at a time.

Born Gudrun E. Timmerhaus to Elsa and Paul Timmerhaus in Palatine, Illinois, on February 28, 1927, “Gudy,” as she became known, grew up with a brother and sister in Palatine. Throughout her childhood, she competed in local downhill and cross country ski races, which sparked a lifetime love of the outdoors, mountaineering, and adventure. In her early teen years, her interest was solidified over several summers when her father served as a volunteer ranger naturalist at Rocky Mountain National Park. Gaskill’s father brought the family along for the season, and each day young Gudy and her siblings would have free rein of the park’s trails.

Gaskill would eventually come to climb all fifty-four of Colorado’s Fourteeners, many international high peaks, and she continued ski racing into her seventies and hiking into her eighties. In a 2008 interview recorded by the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, Gaskill proudly stated she had adventure packing down to an art, managing to successfully pack only eighteen pounds for a week-long hiking trip.

In 1944, Gaskill chose to attend Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. Her choice of school was largely influenced by the college’s famed ski run, known for being lit up at night to allow for evening skiing. She earned a degree in Education, and also there met her future husband, David L. Gaskill. Their 1948 marriage was somewhat unusual for the time, as indicated in a 1989 “Up the Creek” interview with Gudy, where she stated “When we were married, before women’s lib, I was already mountain climbing, and he [Dave] gave me a written contract that I could do anything I wanted to do.”

Together, David and Gudy Gaskill raised four children–Steven, Robin, Polly, and Craig–while moving around for education and job prospects. Their relocations took them to Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and California, before they finally settled in Golden, Colorado. Dave became a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Gudy completed a Master’s in Industrial Recreation at the University of New Mexico. She eventually worked in real estate, founding her own real estate business, Mountain Associates, in 1974.

The Gaskills joined the Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) in 1952, and Gudy quickly became an active leader of CMC’s local hikes, eventually leading many of their international treks. She served on the Outings, and Huts and Trails committees in the 1970s, and in 1977 became the first woman president of the CMC.

In the early 1970s, Bill Lucas of the U.S. Forest Service called together a group of environmental organizations to discuss a new idea: building a public recreation trail spanning across central Colorado. Gaskill attended as a representative of the CMC. While some organizations were against the idea of increasing public backcountry access, with concerns about the potential environmental impacts, Gaskill was intrigued. Her interest in this “Colorado Trail” became the life’s breath that kept the construction project alive over thirty years, with Gaskill helping shepherd the project from idea to reality. Until 2000, she ran the entire enterprise of the Colorado Trail Foundation organization from her house.

In 1974, the Colorado Mountain Trails Foundation was created. The organization obtained a grant from the Gates Foundation to support their plans to build the proposed 500-mile trail in time for the state’s Centennial celebration in 1976. The foundation members assumed they would be able to stitch together old trails shown on historic maps, but soon discovered that after decades of neglect many trails were now entirely grown in. Gaskill participated in drawing a new detailed route through Forest Service districts, stitching together existing, inactive, and nascent park trails with neglected mining and logging roads. Needless to say, the Trail was not completed in time for the 1976 state Centennial, nor for many years to come, leading critics at the time to call it the “Trail to Nowhere.” The Trail construction work itself would take nearly two decades of hard work to complete.

Over the years, Gaskill negotiated with federal agencies to gain support for the Trail, including attempting to persuade reluctant district forest managers to facilitate the projects. She recruited, trained, and led thousands of volunteers in the work, with each crew building about one mile of trail. The Colorado Mountain Club and Colorado Trail Foundation usually provided funding for food, and for many years tools were borrowed from various sources, or provided by volunteers themselves. Summer after summer, Gaskill recruited new crews largely by word of mouth, for week-long projects camping and working in remote areas. Project crews ranged from a low of three crews per summer, to a height of forty-five in the summer of 1987. These volunteers contributed their time and sweat-equity to clearing and building trails, and in 1984 even included then Governor Dick Lamm on a crew working in the Twin Lakes area.

Many volunteers built life-long friendships through these weeklong “vacation” projects, and as is documented in the collection, many continued to correspond with Gaskill for years after their crew experiences. Trail crews each fostered their own culture, with poems, stories, jokes, and even a Colorado Trail song being shared over the years.

Coming together segment by segment, the first 480 miles of the Colorado Trail (approximately 80% of the final distance) were finally dedicated on July 23, 1988. At the time of the dedication the trail was linked from Denver to Durango, including many miles on old roads. Following this success, Gaskill and volunteers continued to build additional sections of trail, routing the remaining road-based sections off-road through more wild and scenic areas. She also turned to recruiting volunteers on an ongoing basis to maintain the trails, bridges, and shelters along the route, and she continued to serve on the Colorado Trail Foundation board.

In approximately 1992, Gaskill located and orchestrated purchase of a cabin located four miles off-trail between Silverton and Lake City, to serve as an educational cabin for the Trail Foundation. She proceeded to plan, coordinate, hire instructors, and even cook meals for attendees for a variety of educational and art programs hosted at the cabin.

While the Colorado Trail continued to grow in pieces and be refined over the years, Gaskill herself considered the Trail finally completed in 2000. All trail signage was finally in place that year, thus preventing hikers from winding up lost off-trail.

Among her many lifelong service commitments, Gaskill served on the board of the American Hiking Society, as President and a board member of the Colorado Mountain Club, as Executive Director of the Colorado Trail Foundation, and as Chair of the Colorado Recreational Trails Committee of the Colorado State Parks and Recreation department.

Gaskill’s dedication was acknowledged by a variety of community, nature education, and volunteerism organizations, and by several government entities. She was recognized by President Ronald Reagan in his “Take Pride in America” Campaign (1987; Gudy was one of 37 people honored). She was later honored by President George Bush in his “One Thousand Points of Light” program (1991; Gaskill was Light #204). In 1989, the City and County of Denver declared February 28, 1989 as “Gudy Gaskill Day”; and in 2002, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. Posthumously, the Colorado legislature and Governor John Hickenlooper declared March 20, 2017 as “Gudy Gaskill Day” in Colorado.

In addition to this formal recognition, Gaskill has been covered by many media outlets for her contributions to outdoor recreation in Colorado. Much of this recognition and coverage is documented throughout the collection.

Perhaps most durable were the Colorado Trail features named in her honor: the Gudy Gaskill Bridge over the South Platte River, Gudy’s Rest in the San Juans near Durango, and the Gudy Gaskill Loop trail near Golden, Colorado. Gudy Gaskill Elementary School, not far from the northern terminus of the Colorado Trail in Littleton, Colorado, was dedicated in 2022.

In addition to her family, career, Colorado Trail work, and outdoors education and mountaineering pursuits, Gaskill was also an avid painter and sculptor, and a world traveler who visited more than thirty different countries in Europe, Central and Southeast Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa. Many of these trips involved mountaineering, and a number were as a CMC trek leader.

Gudrun Gaskill died following a stroke on July 14, 2016.


8 Boxes

8 PhotoBoxes

11 OVBoxes

22.7 Gigabytes

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Craig Gaskill, May 2022.


Catalog record based on preliminary inventory.

Laura Ruttum Senturia
March 2023
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States