Colorado Springs lies at the base of a mountain that has remained integral to the identity of the city and its people, more so than the Air Force Academy, Olympic Training Center, an inordinate number of Southwestern-themed chain restaurants. Pikes Peak not only contributes to locals’ lives through a collective ability to instantaneously point due West, but it also remains essential to the history of the Springs and the well-being of its people. Even with the Broadmoor’s purchase of the Incline, Incline parking lot, and Cog Railway, Barr Trail enthusiasts continue to ascend the peak. They form a community of mountain patrons who come from a variety of backgrounds, age levels, and experience. These individuals continue to scale the trail despite $25 daily parking fees and frequent closures and renovations. This series seeks to address the individuals who call the mountain home, as well as the community they form, in order to share their stories.
There’s one way in and one way out: the trail. The first three miles of Barr Trail are followed by rolling hills through forests covered with Rocky Mountain Columbines, and, just as you’ve begun to yearn for rest and a way to use the bathroom, you arrive at Barr Camp, painting the midway point. Tucked 6.5 miles back into the recesses of the Pike National Forest, Barr Camp provides an escape from the corporate rhythm of Colorado Springs. While many locals associate the mountain with home, the Barr Camp groundskeepers choose isolation to create a 1950s community warmth, working in 95-year-old log cabins with crimson front doors and linoleum entryways. These modern-day homesteaders pursue a life of isolation in the forest to foster a deeper community of mountaineers, adventurers, and dreamers alike – all through an open wooden door.
Teresa and Neil Taylor, who are so close that it is impossible not to refer to them as a joint unit, are a quirky couple with at least a foot of height between them. The Taylors were full-time caretakers in the 90s for over almost a decade. Long distance running enthusiasts, the Taylors have stories of adventures on the mountain and 13-mile Subway sandwich runs into town. When they revisit Barr as part-time caretakers, they can still be found laughing over corny dad jokes and sharing intimate, quiet moments: washing dishes side-by-side, Teresa on her tip-toes, head resting softly on Neil’s shoulder. While the couple set a tone of family love, the new generation of caretakers foster a new environment of adventure and exploration.
Then there’s Zach Miller. He once taught engineering, but chose to pursue a career as a professional outdoorsman and groundskeeper. Zach Miller humbly states that he enjoys running, while he, in fact, happens to be a nationally recognized top-tier ultramarathon runner. Miller enjoys his work – from homemade bread kneading, to wood chopping, and even to cleaning the composting toilets. However, neither the training nor the work excites Miller like talking about Barr Camp’s visitors: packs of ultramarathoners, prospectors, and trail-frequenters.
Miller is one of many ultramarathoners at Barr Camp. These ultramarathoners spend some time at Barr to catch up with friends and participate in high-altitude trail-running. Among these runners, Marco Strum travels from Germany to train over the summers and works in a part-time caretaker role.
In the Pikes Peak or Bust spirit, modern-day prospectors also frequent the camp and the mountain. “Oh, you know when Prospector Matt comes up,” Miller said with a chuckle, “he’s usually the talk of the day.” These men tote a large metal detector up the side of the mountain, camp out for several nights until their own stench becomes intolerable, and return into town surprisingly successful in collecting gemstones and precious minerals.
Trail-frequenters can range from retirees to mountain men. Every week, an elderly Korean woman named Annan comes up to have tea and visit with the groundskeepers on the trail. The groundskeepers also have a “paper boy” named Pete who visits from Woodland Park every Sunday, bringing tabloids and stories of local dramas. There’s Vince, an eccentric bear fanatic who the groundskeepers are “fairly certain comes up to talk about his overwhelming fear of bears.” Sunshine Dave, who comes up the trail only when the weather is good, primarily likes to talk about Arkansas Razorback football. Speed-walker Craig, who frequents the camp, finished the ascent with a surprising time for not so much as a skip in his step. Mountain man “Everest”, has wild, untamed facial hair and a disheveled appearance. He enjoys sharing stories of extreme survival circumstances and being “raised by wolves,” but, despite this upbringing, returns to town when he runs out of coffee grounds.
From the Everests to the Teresa and Neils, Barr Camp welcomes a diverse community of outdoor enthusiasts of all levels of experiences. Tune in next block to hear about stories and experiences from the Barr Camp community.