As a seamstress making sheepskin coats for a Canadian Company, Elaine Hayden relocated to Evergreen in 1976, having grown up in South Denver. She rented space from Dale Kleist on lower Main Street and did some sewing of leather products for him as well. Evergreen was somewhat on the hippie side then, much smaller, still just one stoplight in town.
At the time, she was the single mother of two boys attending Wilmot.
She met Tom Hayden – her husband-to-be – across the street at Olde’s Texaco. He was pretty much a local guy who’d spent his summers growing up on the Evans Ranch until he could move there permanently at age 18. From that relationship Elaine would become familiar with more of the ins and outs of Evergreen, the Upper Bear Creek Valley and Clear Creek County than most people who’ve lived here for 90 years.
Tom owned a sawmill, milling beetle-killed pine and was close with other old-family names in Evergreen – the Alderfers and Hammonds – which meant he too would become one of the storytellers of the area. He was active with Evergreen Fire Rescue and worked with both Evergreen’s fire district and Clear Creek’s, and held several positions for Clear Creek County, ranging from dog-catcher to county commissioner. Elaine was very much a part of his involvement in the community, and Elaine took her role seriously playing the support role.
Tom and she moved into the old summer cabin his grandmother had had built in 1923, a good-sized house by most people’s standards – two stories with a basement and wrap-around porch. The Evans Ranch had essentially been a place for members of the Evans family to spend summers, dating back to the 1860s. “The only person of the Evans family who was born and raised on the ranch was our daughter, Laurel,” Elaine points out.
“Life up there has changed with the sale of the ranch,” Elaine says of the 5,000 acres that once comprised the Evans Ranch. To preserve much of the mountain character that existed when the estate had to be settled, Colorado Open Lands sold five 500-acre ranches with restrictions limiting the construction of a single home within a 40-acre parcel. “The owners can keep their horses at the ranch headquarters,” but owners no longer have the liberty of riding horses throughout the entire property as they once had.
And then there’s the helicopter-landing zone. And trophy homes.
At one time there were four locked gates to get to her house, but now there’s just one to get through. The road is now owned and maintained by Clear Creek County, no longer privately owned. “The road gets wider and wider, but it’s still a dirt road,” Elaine says, explaining that owners declined an offer to have the county pave it. Part of the access road is shared with the Mt. Evans Outdoor Lab School.
Elaine’s love of the mountains was stimulated early-on by a family who loved camping and a mother who made it possible for the entire family to go. Elaine and her four sisters would accompany a father who loved fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park. “We would camp for two weeks at a time,” Elaine recalls fondly. “We hiked as a family.”
Besides all the people Elaine met through her husband, she got to know just about everyone else by being a rural mail carrier for 17 years. She quit when her daughter was a third-grader, devoting her time to being a full-time mom, volunteering in Clear Creek schools as a room mother, working with the PTA, and reading to children. When Laurel continued on to high school in Idaho Springs, Elaine found herself actively involved with the Booster Club and fundraising.
Somewhere along the line she started volunteering as a tour guide at the Hiwan Homestead, a role she continues for Jefferson County Open Space, which owns the museum. She’s now president of the Jefferson County Historical Society and has a vision to make it more visible to those who will be area residents in the next decade.
Along with Tom, Elaine worked with the Bear Creek Cemetery Association, run entirely by volunteers since its inception in 1871. Volunteers are responsible for selling plots, writing deeds, documenting plots, mapping new gravesites, working with the grave digger to determine location of plots, and cleaning up the cemetery as well as filing paperwork with the State. Elaine is president of the board.
In her spare time she enjoys her three book groups.
When Tom died suddenly a year ago (February 29, 2016), Elaine found life changing once again after a 35-year partnership. “Tom and I always did our outdoor chores together,” she says describing the work entailed in keeping up with an outdoor wood-burning boiler that provides hot water to heat the house and for domestic use. And the snow plowing.
“I’ve always told my friends, ‘I work like a man when I go home,’ but now I work like two men.”
“But that’s my home, and I’m going to stay there. I don’t consider it to be remote,” she says praising satellite TV and the Internet, which keep her connected. “I love it.”