National Geographic : 1954 Aug
Colorado by Car and Campfire 207 Lured by the Grandeur of Distant Peaks, Four Adventurous Girls Try Their Luck at Week-end Mountaineering BY KATHLEEN REVIS With Illustrations from Photographs by the Author DECISIVE moments in one's life don't always occur in dramatic settings. Mine came in a clinical laboratory. I was working as a medical technologist in the University Hospital at Charlottesville, Virginia. It was May, and students at Thomas Jefferson's grand old University of Virginia would soon be leaving for home. Spring fever floated through the windows on air already warm and humid. Through the windows drifted, too, the sounds of men working on the rising walls of a new hospital building. Along with the clatter of bricks and trowels came snatches of a workman's whistled tune-"Don't Fence Me In." Suddenly my mind conjured up a vision of frosted peaks under limitless blue skies. I saw the Rocky Mountains as I had seen them as a girl of 15 touring the West with my family. The vision faded, but an idea grew. Why not come to know those proud peaks as close and intimate friends? Denver, Door to a Mountain World Making arrangements took months, but in the end I boarded a train bound for Denver and a position in a hospital there. My work would be much the same; beyond the labora tory windows, however, new mountains and a wide western world would beckon. On the second day of my train ride, as dawn slowly lit the vast, empty stage of the Great Plains, I saw the Rockies again for the first time since my teens. Faintly, then more definitely, the misty profile of the Front Range appeared ahead. A fellow passenger pointed out one soaring summit. "That's Longs Peak," he said. I made a private vow: "Some day I'm go ing to stand on the top of that one." In Denver I soon found congenial spirits who shared my desire to get up into the moun tains: Joanne Mahkorn, a laboratory techni cian from Milwaukee; Fern Johnson, a secre tary from South Dakota; and June Markley, an office worker from Kansas. One evening, as we pored over a map of Colorado, June made a suggestion. "Why don't we plan circuit routes that we can cover by car on different week ends?" she asked. "If we take sleeping bags and camp out overnight, we'll save enough to pay for the equipment, and we'll be able to stop whenever and wherever we please. I've never camped out before, but I know I'd enjoy it twice as much as putting up in a cabin or a motel." None of us, it turned out, had ever slept under the stars, but we decided we'd like to. First Goal: Pikes Peak We assembled a jumble of equipment: sleeping bags, air mattresses, cooking uten sils, an ax, and a spade. Forest Service maps provided a key to 273 campsites scattered through 12 national forests which cover almost 22 percent of Colorado's area (map, page 208). With so many targets to choose from, we settled happily on the most obvious: Pikes Peak (page 228). It isn't the State's highest mountain by any means. But gold seekers who trudged toward it across the Plains 95 years ago, using its summit as a beacon, made it the most famous.* From Denver our road to Pikes Peak wound south along the crest of the Rampart Range into Colorado Springs, where the new Air Academy of the United States Air Force is to be located. The bald rock of Devils Head rises above huge boulders scattered among the trees. Near the end of the drive we looked down on a highway winding through Ute Pass, 2,000 feet below. Here ran an Indian trail which gave passage to hordes of miners tramping westward in the 1860's to the gold strikes of South Park.t This mountain-rimmed expanse of grassland, 9,500 feet above sea level, stretches 30 miles in length and breadth. To * See "Colorado, A Barrier That Became a Goal," by McFall Kerbey, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, July, 1932. t See "Colorado's Friendly Topland," by Robert M. Ormes, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, August, 1951.