Captain Jack Was a Woman

    Captain Jack's trail in Cheyenne Cañon is a favorite of mountain bikers and off-road motorcyclists. Did you know its namesake is a gun-toting woman?

    Portrait of Captain Jack with her pet parrot.
    Captain Ellen E. Jack, circa 1910. Photo courtesy of Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum.

    Most mountain bikers, motorcyclists, hikers and equestrians who use Captain Jack’s, the popular Cheyenne Cañon trail, have no idea that its namesake was a woman. Ellen E. Jack’s history comes to us primarily through her autobiography, The Fate of a Fairy, originally published in 1910, and reprinted in 2010 by Western Reflections Publishing Company with a note that says, “What is fact and what is fiction is for you to decide.”

    What we do know is that she was born in England in 1842 and married her first husband, Captain Charles E. Jack, in 1860. The two arrived in America right before the Civil War broke out. After the war ended and her husband and two of their three children died, Ellen moved to Pueblo, then Denver and began using the Captain Jack name for herself.

    She became a tough gun-toting woman, and a bit of a spiritualist. She spent many of the following years wandering around Colorado, dueling with bandits and a second husband while mining for gold, silver, zinc and coal.

    Colorado Springs’ High Drive became her home in 1900, and she spent summers renting cabins on her property to tourists, leading tours and burro rides, and posing for photos. She spent winters in a small home in the city with her pet cats and parrots. Captain Jack died in 1921 and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery with her grave facing High Drive.


    By the Numbers

    .44 Ellen Jack’s choice of pistol. She often carried two.

    $25,000 Ellen’s payout for selling her ownership of the Black Queen Mine. The mine sold again a year later for $3 million.

    667 Official designation of the Captain Jack’s trail.

    3.5 miles Approximate trail length, though exact portions of Captain Jack’s are debated.

    July 14, 2017 Trail reopens for multiuse, including off-road motorcycles, after 2012 closure and rerouting to protect Bear Creek’s greenback cutthroat trout population.

    Find more inside stories in Kirsten Akens’ new book, 100 Things To Do in Colorado Springs Before You Die.

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