You fill up my senses
Like a night in a forest
Like the mountains in springtime
Like a walk in the rain…
-John Denver, “Annie’s Song”
We had planned to conquer Pikes Peak over the Memorial Day weekend. But all the rain has put the Summit House construction project behind schedule, so that coveted summit is still closed off to the public. We briefly considered canceling our Barr Camp reservations, but it wasn’t like we’d be able to get reservations anywhere else on such short notice. Short notice for good camping reservations in Colorado is counted in months, not days. Anyway, we figured half a mountain was better than none, and the views would still be nice.
Then we got the weather forecast for the weekend: thunderstorms through Monday. Fun fact—the Pikes Peak area is one of the most lightning-prone spots in all of Colorado.
At that point we gave some serious thought to canceling the hike, because that would be a dumb way to die. But in the end we decided to risk it. Fortune favors the bold, right?
We got to the trailhead early, just as the moon was setting. Manitou Springs still had patches of blue sky, and the air was mild. Perfect hiking weather!
This hike was also the maiden voyage of my new GoPro, because I got tired of ruining good cameras with rain and dust and general abuse. I was surprised at the low resolution of the photos, considering the GoPro 9 is a 20mp camera. You can’t really zoom in at all without seeing every pixel. There’s quite a bit of lens distortion as well, even with the fisheye setting off.
The clouds rolled in early in the day, and the higher we climbed the denser they got.
We were surrounded by mountains, but the clouds swallowed them up. We never got even a glimpse of Pikes Peak.
We don’t know what this concrete thing is. It doesn’t go anywhere, it’s just a little man-made cave about five feet deep. Maybe a remnant of the cog railway’s utilitarian days, or maybe a shelter for hikers caught in storms?
My pack was the only one that didn’t come with a rain cover, and for some reason I didn’t think to buy one. So I used that incredibly classy trash bag, and it worked fine.
The clouds turned the trail into a mystical, otherworldly place.
This hike was harder for me than I expected. It was partly the altitude, but mostly the extra weight I’ve put on in the last couple of years. I need to get serious about getting back in shape if I’m going to be exploring Colorado on foot.
But we made it to Barr Camp at last!
For some reason I didn’t get a pic of the outside of our lean-to, but here’s the view from inside.
We got incredibly lucky with the weather. As soon as we were safely under shelter, the thunder and lightning and hail arrived. A couple of hours later the view looked like this:
After we got our stuff all settled into our lean-to, we went to the main cabin for hot chocolate and tea and the company of other campers. So cozy! At 6:00 they served spaghetti and garlic bread…
…and the next morning they served yummy pancakes hot off the stove.
The lean-tos have mattresses in them, so we only had to pack in blankets. One thing we realized right away is that the camp blankets we used in Texas are not warm enough for up in the Rockies. We ended up using our reflective emergency blanket as a top layer to hold the heat in. Next on the shopping list: winter-rated sleeping bags!
The storm stormed itself out overnight, but the clouds hung around. We refilled our water bottles at Barr Camp’s only source of fresh water:
We filtered it through a Sawyer Squeeze and had no problems.
Everything was fresh and wet from the storm. The clouds got more drizzly as the day went on, but it didn’t really rain until we were almost back to the trailhead.
The GoPro’s photos are so lo-res that this zoomed-in deer looks like a paint-by-number.
But credit where it’s due: the GoPro is impervious to mist and rain and dust and general abuse, which means it gets to go places other cameras shouldn’t. Like the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it.
For the last couple miles of the descent, Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods come into view down below.
The cog trains are running again, after a complete replacement of the cars, tracks and station.
After the hike, we had a nice lunch at Edelweiss.
All in all, Barr Trail is a challenging but beautiful hike. We’ll probably tackle a few of the “easier” fourteeners to build up our stamina before we have another go at Pikes Peak.