Since 1965, Echo Lake Lodge has been a stalwart presence at the entrance to North America’s highest auto road, which takes drivers and cyclists to the summit of Mount Evans.
“It’s 14 miles that way (Idaho Springs) and 19 miles that way (Evergreen),” Bill Carle said, pointing figuratively away from the lodge.
Carle’s family members have been concessionaires of the building for 57 years. He was 9 years old — just tall enough to operate the cash register, he recalls — when he began working in the family business. The city and county of Denver, which owns the property, decided not to renew the concession contract at the end of the summer season, stating it wants to explore other options. The Carles’ time at Echo Lake Lodge has ended.
The surrounding views and recreation opportunities will remain, but the service and community of the lodge will be missed. On any given day, you’d find an assortment of travelers bellied up to the counter inside, sharing a gorgeous westward view of the lake.
A wide variety of guests visited the lodge — tourists who purchased wooden mountain goat bobbleheads, Lycra-clad cyclists ready to pedal to Mount Evans’ 14,265-foot summit, alpine rescue specialists seeking coffee after an overnight search-and-rescue mission (also seeking, of course, one of Barb Day’s famous homemade pies).
Above the gift shop, the staff who considers themselves family had lodging along hallways decorated with velvet clown portraits.
Those who cherished the lodge gathered to reminisce on the final day of operation. Songs, a meal and tears were shared. Most people mentioned Barb Day, Carle’s sister, who passed away a year ago to the day. She was more than the pie maker. She got to know the customers, lodged ill-prepared tourists in the middle of the night, and responded to medical emergencies on the mountain.
View of the lodge at Echo Lake Park, ca. 1930-1940, part of the Denver Mountain Parks System (Clear Creek County), Colorado. Automobiles are parked near the two-story wood and stone masonry building. Signs read: "Hotel Best Meal In The West Rooms If Desired" and "Echo Lake Lodge". (Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library Special Collections)
MAY 28 1954 – Original caption reads, ÒÉproof that the famed Mt. Evans road will be clear of snow in time for first traffic of 1954 on Memorial Day, Sunday. Friday bulldozers were working on the upper elevations of Mt. Evans, clearing the last remaining drifts from the road to the summit. Snow already has disappeared from Echo Lake (above) and only scattered patches show along the road to the summit. Traffic will be permitted free until the state completes arrangements to put the road on a toll basis this summer.Ó (Photo by Dean Conger/Denver Post file)
Credit: Denver Post
JUN 19 1953 – At Echo Lake Lodge, ice-coated bus is examined by Mrs. Connie Duchesneau of Evanston, Ill. and Ben F. Kendrick, driver of Pike's Peak limousine bus. (Photo by David C. Sydner/Denver Post file)
SEP 3 1968 – Snow fringes foliage around echo lake, at base of Mt. Evans road, Sept. 3, 1968. The road to the summit was closed by the storm. (Photo by Bill Wunsch/Denver Post file)
DEC 22 1975 – Ice skating at Echo Lake, December 22, 1975. (Photo by Steve Larson/Denver Post file)
OCT 10 1987 – Jeff Thompson, 17, tries his luck fishing in Echo Lake on Oct. 10, 1987, as a cold front heads for the front range. He said they had a pretty good covering of snow the night before but it warmed up and all melted off. (Photo by Duane Howell/Denver Post file)
Echo lake shown behind the sign showing ownership by Denver Parks and Rec in this June 1988 file photo. (Photo by Dave Buresh/Denver Post file)
Echo Lake is seen from the Mt. Evans Highway in this June 30, 1988 file photo. (Photo by Kit Miniclir/Denver Post file)
Written in Sharpie on cardboard, a sign read: “It’s been a great 57 for us at the lodge. Our new Mt. Parks Director wants to go in a different direction’ now. Have to Close. We are truly sorry.”
Carle told stories of tragedy and triumph. “These things don’t just happen. It takes someone waking up for decades to make it special,” he said of the lodge’s lure.
On every table, there was a hiking boot-shaped magnet. “The theme of the night, is we are getting the boot,” Carle said.
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