COBWEB CORNERS: Fred Barr and his camp in 1922By Mel McFarland
Back in 1922 the Barr Trail was finished, and Fred Barr and four friends marked the start of 1923 by shooting off the first New Year's fireworks from the summit of Pikes Peak.
But old Fred was not finished. He was building the halfway stop known as Barr Camp. What was the camp like at that time? We will have a look at it.
He had chosen a spot high on the east slope of the grand peak, just below timberline at about 10,000 feet elevation. The start of the Barr Trail, which he had worked on for many years, was at the top of the Manitou Incline. and he would guide parties ranging from 5 to 50 in number to the summit on burros that he provided. About two hours from the Incline was his camp. He'd purchased tents as "war surplus" and pitched them back in the trees. The tents were large enough to accommodate 50 people.
The group would get a picnic supper in the evening. Then after a few stories, it was sleep time, as the sun comes up earlier there. On windless nights the only sounds at the camp are provided by a distant animal, or (back then) the burros in their corral near by. When the wind blows you may be in for a "high seas" experience!
Breakfast was mainly strong coffee, but sometimes there were scrambled eggs.
The trip up the trail was well timed, and as soon as the burros were ready the crews headed on up. Arrival at the summit was well before noon, allowing grand views on a good day.
The ride back down was marked by a brief stop at the camp for change in burros. The high-altitude animals were used to operating above 10,000 feet.
There was a time when the trip up was done in the dark, starting from the camp at 1 a.m., and the burros arrived at the summit as the sun came up. Breakfast was in the Summit House. But it took a lot of convincing to get the tourists to make that much of an effort, when often they did not get to see the sun come up.
It would not be until 1924 that Fred built his first cabin at the camp. This gave winter visitors some place to take shelter. The cool nights, even in the summer, required many blankets for people in tents. Later he would build two more cabins.
It would be more than 50 years before there people maintained Barr Camp year-round.
The Barr Trail is longer now since the start is off Ruxton avenue. A few hardy souls even do the Incline, then follow the old trail to Barr Camp.
(Posted 5/14/15; Opinion: Cobweb Corners)
Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb
Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since early 2004. To see past columns,
go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the
Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.