Skip to main content

You are here

Mile Marker 141, I-70

Eagle County possesses beautiful horizons seen in every direction.  The mountains and valleys provide a strong sense of place, that character that can be felt by locals and visitors alike, contradicting Gertrude Stein’s, “there is no there there.” Being interested in local history, I find that it is frequently the horizon and geography that can identify an otherwise uncaptioned photo.  The photo below could be any town but the placement of Castle Peak in the background is an obvious clue that the town is Eagle and the street is Broadway, the main street in old town Eagle.  Looking north on Broadway, one finds Castle Peak as the dominant feature on the horizon. 2011.014.055 Traveling on I-70, there are many features and landforms on the horizon that can give one help with location.  These landforms, shaped by processes over millennia [think volcanism, sedimentation, erosion, etc.] provide a sense of place and find their way into local history accounts. In 1963, Betty Jo and Glen Schmidt bought their ranch between Eagle and Gypsum from the Lammeys.  The ranch was originally owned by Hans P. and Grace Wolverton Oleson and the ranch was always referred to as the Hans Oleson place.  Grace Oleson visited the Schmidts in the 1970s and pointed out a landform to Betty Jo that she referred to as the Pioneer Woman. Visible from the Schmidt’s corrals, the Pioneer Woman is a landform in the Gypsum cliffs north of the Eagle River at approximately the 141 mile marker on I-70.  Formed by sedimentation and erosion, both water and wind, the Pioneer Woman stands out from the cliffs, standing guard over the ranch.  Since I-70 hugs the cliffs closely, finding the Pioneer Woman takes a little ogling from the passenger seat and is more easily visible when driving west.
From the Knight Schmidt Collection From the Knight Schmidt Collection

The Pioneer Woman was also documented by local artist, Frank Gates, in one of his many paintings of Eagle County.  Frank was south of the Eagle River when he painted the landform, probably on the Schmidt ranch.  The top of the Pioneer Woman’s hat has continued to erode with the elements over the years but she is certainly identifiable and continues to gaze to the south, now looking at the commercial development in the Eagle River valley around the airport.
Pioneer Woman by Frank Gates Pioneer Woman by Frank Gates

If Hans and Grace Oleson and Glen and Betty Jo Schmidt visited the ranch today, the changes made since their time here would be overwhelming.  They could still figure out where they were standing by looking for the Pioneer Woman.    


This post reminded me of this unidentified landform in my family photos. Since family members lived in Oak Creek, I guessed it would be somewhere along the road to Oak Creek, but hey, maybe you know where it is: Or these houses:

I do believe this is on the way up to Steamboat but not sure exactly where. Might be time for a field trip! Was wondering if the cottages were for railroad workers...

Jaci, You always add something new to the experience of living in this valley. thank you

I'm hoping not to cause accidents at that mile marker as people look for the Pioneer Woman!

Add comment

Log in to post comments

Translate Page