Laura Claire Gold, age 65, died on Sunday, March 10 near her backcountry home above Lake San Cristobal and south of the beautiful mountain town of Lake City, Colo.
From her birth in Austin, Texas on Oct. 15, 1953 to her death, Laura nourished people with her boundless love, pure joy and deep spiritual wisdom. With a belly laughter as big and pure as the San Juan Mountains she loved so deeply, she became known to one and all as “Mama Laura.”
She was born an only child, and from an early age was very independent and felt empowered to study, learn and master anything that interested her. Laura’s childhood companion was a friendly cat named Twinkle, and she spent most of her time outside with Twinkle and in nearby parks surrounded by birds, squirrels, butterflies and flowers. By the age of 12 Laura was babysitting, playing ping pong and studying theosophy and other topics that interested her at the University of Austin libraries. By the age of 16 both parents had passed away due to cancer.
Laura spent the next four years living with kind and caring relatives in Ruidoso, N.M., where she continued her studies and worked at the family owned restaurant.
Preferring walking as her means of transport and as a spiritual practice, Laura followed her intuition and embarked on the first of many long distance treks that would define her life. In 1973 she walked from Ruidoso to Taos, N.M., where she spent the next 15 years living in a natural earth shelter abode near Angelfire. While in Taos, she completed her masters degree, deepened her meditation practice, and volunteered at the local natural food store where she connected with the community. Laura walked from 1988 to 1995 essentially as a peace pilgrim, carrying next to no money, and no worldly possessions beyond clothing and a toothbrush, walking mostly at night when it was cool, resting and visiting with people she met during the day, and using her intuition to connect with those who were curious about her way of being, bright smile, fearlessness and her deep and profound love.
Laura’s journey took her through the mountain states as far north as Montana’s Glacier National Park, and she often recounted the milestone of walking the trail from Glacier into Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the Canadian side.
In the fall of 1995 she walked to Ashland, Ore., where she met Kale Casey, who had just graduated from college and having traveled eleven months in third world countries had returned home with more questions than answers.
Laura become Kale’s lifelong spiritual mentor and partner, and in May of 1997, they rode a motorcycle from Ashland, Ore., to Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in search of quiet places to spend time outdoors meditating. Over the next two decades Laura called the high alpine paradise and fertile valleys of Colorado home, and made lifelong friends from Crestone, Durango, Mancos, Cortez, Dolores, Ophir, Telluride, Placerville, Norwood, Hastings Mesa, Ridgway, Ouray, Silverton, Montrose, Grand Junction, Paonia, Gunnison, Lake City and all across the world.
Laura worked at the Rico Theatre Cafe from 1997-2004, moved to Orvis Hot Springs for two years where she worked as a greeter and coffee maker. Kale bought land in Paonia in 2006 and Lake City in 2007 and with a large group of friends built Mama Laura two houses; the first was completed in Paonia in July 2010 and the second was completed above Lake San Cristobal just before Christmas Day 2013.
With health challenges on the horizon, on Jan. 9, 2014, Mama Laura took the unusual step of throwing herself a “going away” party at the Paradise Theatre in Paonia. She explained to the crowd that gathered from all over that she would be going to her new home at 10,200 feet with a massive view of Lake San Cristobal, Slumgullion Pass and the Continental Divide for her end of life experience. “I am about ready to go on the next part of my journey. I don’t know when, but I am. I have completed what I came to do in this body. And at this point I am going through the last of the tasks that I took on. They are love tasks by the way. And I am very much embracing anyone who wants to share about being in a body fully, and about transitioning from a body when it’s time to leave, and I love you all. And I thank you thank you thank you for being here.” Watch the entire video: http://youtube.com/watch?v=GTpTAb8yF3M or simply search “Mama Laura’s Love Boat” on YouTube.
Mama’s retreat at her backcountry house lasted for over five years and she spent every day with her Siberian Husky named Misty. Friends and family visited throughout the year, and Laura made the occasional trip to Lake City or Orvis Hot Springs most often with her dear friend Joy Armstrong. Mama always looked forward to getting back to Lake City, and she took her last and most mysterious walk of all on Sunday, March 10, 2019.
With the record snowfall on her roof having shifted the stove pipe in the house, Mama made the choice to leave her fully charged cell phone and not call her local contacts in Lake City for assistance. She put on her tennis shoes and winter clothes just as she had for five decades, and walked 1/3 of a mile to her final resting place where she laid on the road looking up at the trees and stars and took her last breath, transitioning from her body in the mountains that she considered the most beautiful in the world. Mama had told her community at her Love Boat going away ceremony: “I came an eon ago, or two or three out of the Source, which is as I would call a clear pool of potential. And I am a drop of water out of that clear pure pool of potential, that is made up of it. Just as each one of you are.”
Laura will be remembered as a wildly unique soul who loved everyone she met, whose laughter and joy were boundless, and whose deeply held spiritual beliefs remained consistent throughout her entire life. Above all, Mama Laura will be known as someone who knew what her deepest spiritual purpose was, and where her soul would be going after her physical death. She will be remembered as a woman who was absolutely fearless, completely one of a kind, and much much larger than life.
The Paonia, Colo., memorial was held on March 30 at her home. Lake City and Ridgway memorials will be held this summer. The Casey family would like to extend our gratitude to all who loved and supported Laura over the years, and to the Town of Lake City and Hinsdale County for their support. A bronze memorial statue of Mama Laura sitting on a park bench is in the works by artist Maya Arthur in Paonia, Colo., with donation details to follow. The walk up the mountain to Mama Laura’s backcountry retreat will be marked with memorial benches for sitting and reflection. And Mama’s “Eagle’s Nest” will always be the place she chose to spend the final years of her extraordinary life. Her place at the table will always be infused with laughter and love, and will be there for guests to visit for many generations to come.