n Christmas Eve in 1918, Fred Barr stood triumphantly on top of Pikes Peak.
He had done what was thought impossible. He surveyed a trail route up the steep east face of the mountain.
Then he broke into the Summit House - not for the last time - and returned the next day with his Christmas present for Colorado Springs.
It remains the single greatest gift to outdoors lovers from the man known as "Trailmaster of the Rockies," though it might not seem like such a gift while huffing and puffing up 12.6 miles and 7,500 vertical feet of trail.
Popular history in the Pikes Peak region begins and ends with the trail and permanent camp halfway up that both bear his name. But a new exhibit at the Manitou Springs Heritage Center explores every aspect of his life.
With rare photos, historic documents, interviews with some who knew Barr and newspaper accounts, historian Eric Swab paints a multi-dimensional picture of the man: musician, shrewd entrepreneur, husband and, above all, lover of the mountain. He also challenges the long-held notion that Barr single-handedly built the trail up the peak.
"People don't remember him as a musician or an entrepreneur, although I hope this exhibit will expose the public to those ideas," Swab said.
Barr was born in Arkansas in 1882, the first of six children and the only boy. The family moved to Colorado City, then its own town.
The mountains called to Barr at an early age. His grandfather owned a stagecoach stop at Cheyenne Mountain on the road to Cripple Creek, and young Fred would hitch rides on coaches into the high country. Later, he and his father ran a livery on West Colorado Avenue, taking tourists on burro trips to Garden of the Gods and other attractions. When the Manitou Incline train opened in 1908, he was at the top, selling burro trips to a rocky overlook above the summit station, on a trail he built.
Sometime around then, he began taking people up Pikes Peak from the top of the Incline, where he lived in a one-room cabin.
There had been trails up the peak since 1871, including the Fremont Trail, built by the Denver and Rio Grande Railway. But it ended at timberline, and hikers had to pick their own way among the rocks and tundra to the top.
In town, automobiles were putting the burro rides out of business, and Barr's piercing blue eyes saw an opportunity in the mountains.
Said Swab: "It wasn't a new thing, but Fred certainly recognized it as an opportunity and took advantage of it."
The trail builder
In 1917, the U.S. Forest Service paid Barr $200 to supervise a 10-man crew to build the lower section of what would become Barr Trail from Manitou Springs to near the Incline. He also tried to get the agency to support plans for a road up Pikes Peak - Spencer Penrose beat him to it - and a chalet in Fremont Experimental Forest.
Barr had bigger plans and spent much of 1918 scouting and surveying high on the peak. Once he had the route surveyed, he began building the trail in earnest. While the story has been passed down over the years that he built it single-handedly, Swab believes that Barr supervised a work crew, referring to accounts in The Gazette, which reported in June 1921, "Workmen are now engaged in constructing a trail between the new Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak and Bottomless Pit ... Mr. Barr is himself now in the southern part of the state, securing additional burros for use on (his) trails."
And Swab points out Barr's newspaper obituary indicates the trail was "being constructed under his direction."
His trail-building days weren't over after he reached the summit of Pikes Peak. Many of the trails on the mountain today were surveyed and built by Barr or his crews, including trails to The Crater, Oil Creek Tunnel and, though it is no longer evident, Cameron Cone.
But one of his more lasting accomplishments wasn't a trail at all.
The camp builder
His summit trail completed, Barr knew he needed a place where tourists could stay overnight comfortably. In 1922, he set up a tent encampment, and later built a cabin, at 10,200 feet. He would meet tourists at the top of the Incline at 5 p.m. and lead them to the camp, where they would be fed and told stories around the campfire. The group then would wake at 1 a.m. and continue on his trail, making it to the summit in time to see the sun rise.
Barr Camp has been updated, and people now have to make their own way to it, but Barr's cabin still is used as hostel-style lodging for hikers, run by a succession of caretakers who live there year-round.
As winter set over the peak after that first successful summer, five guys decided they wanted to do something exciting to ring in the new year. So the five, including Barr, hiked up the Cog Railway right-of-way with fireworks on Dec. 31, 1922, and set them off at midnight.
Then Barr and the others broke into the Summit House. Again. Though they initially called themselves the "frozen five," they decided to be the AdAmAn Club, with the goal of adding a hiker for each year's climb. The group also began staying the night at Barr Camp, where Barr was always the first man awake, making coffee and breaking ice in the creek for water.
The AdAmAn tradition continues to this day.
Despite the vast amount of documentation over his accomplishments, Barr himself always has been somewhat of an enigma. He never was quoted in papers and left no memoirs when he died of a heart attack at age 58 while visiting New Mexico in 1940. His wife, Anna, lived another 25 years. They had no children, though Barr relatives still live in the area.
The Forest Service rebuilt Barr Trail in 1948, following his exact route. The burro business continued until the early 1960s. Barr Trail remains one of the more hiked trails in Colorado.
Swab's research uncovered some new insights, such as the fact Barr was a musician and played the French horn, and that he attended night school. The exhibit also includes rare photographs from people who knew Barr and artifacts from his life and the early AdAmAn climbs.
Barr was a shrewd businessman who saw opportunities in the growing popularity of outdoor recreation. Newspaper accounts are full of litigation and fist fights with competing burro guide companies. Even if he never got rich, he got to spend as much time as possible on the mountain, and his mark is on nearly every trail on Pikes Peak today.
The Gazette called him "Trailmaster of the Rockies." His obituary said he was "a firm believer in trails thru the mountains of the region, his opinion being that the best views of the beauty offered by the Pikes Peak mountain area are to be obtained from hikes along trails, rather than by driving over highways in automobiles."
Among the artifacts in the exhibit is the memorial booklet from his well-attended funeral.
It says, "The city never had a great appeal for him."