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People of the Times

Len Shoemaker (Courtesy Aspen Historical Society)

The boom was over in Rosita, Colo., and Len Shoemaker was all of 5 years old when his family left for the promising boom of the Aspen area in 1886. His first memorable recollection of the region was of passing though snowfields on Taylor Pass in July.

The family attempted to settle somewhere in the Owl Creek or Brush Creek area and establish a small dairy operation. Winter proved too harsh and they soon moved farther downvalley near Carbondale.

Raised in the Roaring Fork Valley and working various jobs, Len saw much of the development of the Roaring Fork Valley. He eventually became one of the first Forest Rangers of the area, helping manage nearly 300,000 acres, most of which he was intimately familiar with. He retired in 1943 and continued another vocation, writing. He authored several books. Though an occasional date or event may be slightly askew, two books, “Pioneers of the Roaring Fork” and “Roaring Fork Valley” (which was later printed in a revised illustrated third edition) are must-haves for anyone interested in the history of the Roaring Fork Valley. In the latter book, Len Shoemaker’s personal recollection while serving as a Forest Ranger provides delightful insights into the backcountry.

– Larry Fredrick, in collaboration with the Aspen Historical Society

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