Life ended for Carol Cook on Oct. 4, 2013, but her legacy lives on. Carol was generous with her titillating stories of Grand County in the early 20th century, a veritable living history book.
Carol Marydel Hudler was born to the Grand County homesteading family of Hudlers on May 16, 1918. When barely a toddler, she and her older brother Russ lived with their mother Carolyn in a cabin built by their father Russell on what is now County Road 41.
The cabin was their home for two years while they “proved up” on their 160 acres. To get groceries once a week, Carolyn would set Russ behind and baby Carol in front of her on their horse, ride to the Stillwater Store where Dilly Docks currently stands, and a neighbor with a buckboard would later bring the week’s supplies down to the cabin. Russell spent winters in St. Louis building houses and summers at the ranch clearing land, creating irrigation ditches from the Red Top Valley Ditch and raising hay for their livestock. At the same time Russell’s parents and four of his six sisters homesteaded contiguous parcels, which were progressively joined and, with the addition of some purchased acreage, became the 4300-acre Hudler Tin Whistle Ranch.
Edna Hudler, Russell’s eldest sister, used her homestead to build the Hudler Girls’ Camp on Willow Creek. From 1923-1934, the camp was summer home to hundreds of girls and sister camp to Camp Chief Ouray Boys’ Camp, which was sold to Boy Scouts of America in the late ‘30s. Every summer Edna, Russell and several adult counselors would caravan carloads of campers, gear and food from St. Louis, sometimes having to stay in the little cabins at Berthoud Falls until the pass was cleared. Carol’s stories of days and nights filled with horseback trips, fishing, dances and games convey the camaraderie and fulfillment of the campers that brought them back to the mountain valley they learned to love, not only every summer but throughout their adult lives. Edna closed the camp in 1934 after a tragic accident took the life of a boy at Camp Chief Ouray, but she continued to caravan high school boys every summer to help Russell develop other parts of the ranches. The girls’ camp was taken by eminent domain in 1948 to create the Willow Creek reservoir, but gas station maps referenced Hudler Girls’ Camp as late as the 1970s.
When Carol married Steve [Stephen Wycliffe] Cook in 1937, they managed the Hudler properties from the easternmost parcel, which was also commandeered later for Lake Granby. Steve helped number the logs of the buildings and drag them by horse-hitch to rebuild them across the newly-relocated Highway 34 into what became “the front ranch” headquarters for ranch management for the next 60 years. During World War II, Carol and Steve were stationed as border patrol in Minot, N.D., but returned to manage the ranch several times; their eldest son David Cook managed the ranch from 1972 to 1999, when it was sold to C Lazy U holdings.
Carol enjoyed a long employment as executive assistant in the engineering department of Martin Marietta Corporation, retiring in 1982 to handle Russell’s estate, but remaining active in Martin’s retirement group. She had lost Steve to pancreatic cancer in 1977. A voracious reader, world traveler, seamstress and gardener, Carol was also active in several bridge groups and loved attending everything the Buell Theater offered.
She will be deeply missed by sons David (Glenna) and Jon and daughter Katie Puhl; six grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and many members of her extended family. The family will hold a private memorial when they scatter her ashes on the area of the ranch known as “the picnic grounds” that holds so many good memories.