Barr Camp boasts new deck in time for peak hiking season
Even before Nathan and Ashley Miller became Barr Camp caretakers two years ago, they knew the cabin midway to Pikes Peak needed a new deck.
The wood was so rotten that a visitor's foot slipped into it last summer.
The deck at Barr Camp is a traditional resting place for hikers about halfway up their 13.5-mile climb. It's a place where they can catch their breath, relax amid wildflowers, and watch chipmunks and mountain bluebirds while exchanging trek experiences with other backpackers.
This month, thanks to helicopter drops and a decade of fundraising, the hiker hangout has a new wooden surface and railing.
The project cost about $180,000 and required permission from the U.S. Forest Service, said Don Sanborn, a member of the nonprofit Barr Camp board.
Over five weeks, a team of workers with GE Johnson Construction Co. have been staying at Barr Camp a few days a week to demolish and rebuild the deck. The company also is building the Pikes Peak Summit House, with construction to begin next summer.
A helicopter delivered most of the heavy building materials, such as cement and wooden boards, to a nearby landing pad. El Paso County Search and Rescue team members hiked other supplies and equipment to the cabin, which sits at 10,200 feet.
The project's completion comes at a critical time. July and August are two of the cabin's busiest months, with 872 guests staying there last July - more than double the number from July 2013. Nathan Miller said caretakers already are seeing a steady stream of visitors this summer, despite the construction.
"The team is doing awesome," Ashley Miller said. "They're working so fast. They're getting it done quickly and being adaptable to having our camp still being open."
The Millers have watched the construction eagerly, while maintaining the cabin with two loft beds, a wood-burning stove, kitchen, office, shower and 15-bed bunkhouse out back. The cabin itself was renovated in the late 1990s with outdoor toilets, roof repairs and a solar composting toilet system.
The cabin was built in 1922 by trailblazer Fred Barr as a place for tourists to stay overnight before hiking up to Pikes Peak.
"Even though we were expecting and hoping it'd happen while we were here," Ashley said, "we still weren't positive that it would because the nature of the project can get pushed back so easily for one reason. And the building season is so short. It's really great to see it finally happening."
The changes came just in time for the Millers, too, as their stint as caretakers is almost finished. They've ratcheted down to part-time, helping occasionally and training their replacements, before they move to Denver for school and work.