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COBWEB CORNERS: Fred Barr and the making of his camp

By Mel McFarland

Dec. 30, 2018
       Back in 1922, the Barr Trail was finished and used by the "Frozen Five" to reach the Pikes Peak summit on New Year's Eve for the first fireworks display in what would become an annual event by the AdAmAn Club.
       But Fred Barr, the trail's builder and one of the "five," had another project on the mountain. He was creating the halfway stop known as Barr Camp. What was it like in 1922? We will have a look at it.
       The trail started at the top of the Incline (which had rail cars in that time), and parties ranging from 5 to 50 would embark from there. Two miles up the trail was Fred's camp, high on the east slope of the peak, just below timberline. Fred had purchased “war surplus” tents, large enough to accommodate 50, and they were pitched back in the trees.
       A picnic supper was fixed in the evening, usually spaghetti. Then, after a few stories, it was sleep time, as the sun rises earlier there. On windless nights, as told by a news reporter in 1922, the only sounds were provided by a distant animal or the burros in their corral nearby. When the wind blew, you might be in for a "high seas" experience!
       The report from 1922 goes on to describe breakfast with strong coffee and scrambled eggs. Water used to come right from the creek, but bottled water has become safer. As soon as the burros are ready, the ascent begins. The party arrives on the summit well before noon. Lunch on the top has unusually grand views on a good day. The ride back down is only marked by a brief stop at the camp for a change in burros.
       The high-altitude animals are used to operating above 10,000 feet. There was a time when the trip up was done in the dark, and the burros reached the top as the sun rose. Breakfast would be in the summit house. But it took a lot to convince tourists to make that much of an effort when often they did not get to see the sun come up.
       After 1922, it was a couple more years before Fred built the first cabin at Barr Camp. This gave winter visitors someplace to take shelter. In the days of the tents, the cool nights at the camp, even in the summer, required many blankets.
       It would be more than 50 years before there were people who maintained the camp year round. The trail is longer now since it was built up from Ruxton Avenue. A few hardy souls still do the Incline - on foot now - as well as the old trail to Barr Camp.

(Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 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.

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