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Climbing  Pike's Peak 1883

previous letter: AM Palmer & Union Square Stock Co.     EJ Phillips was almost 53 years old when she climbed Pike's Peak. This was on her second trip to California where she would perform in San Francisco for six weeks.

Baldwin Hotel
San F[rancis]'co  Cal
August 10th [18]83 [Friday]

My dear Son,  

After a prolonged journey of 24 hours we arrived here last Evening at a little after 9 o'clock. I wrote you on train at  Cheyenne [Wyoming] - - telling you I had been to the top of  Pike's Peak on Monday.  When we started we did not expect to leave  Colorado Springs  until after eleven that night - but after our departure for the mountain, Mr. Palmer received a communication from the Rio Grande RR authorities that they would not be in working order for over a week - and they would have to transfer us over the Union Pacific to Ogden  [Utah]. 

When we got back to Colorado Springs , the omnibus, Mr. Palmer, and the non climbing mountain members of the company were all anxiously waiting for us to go to the Depot to take the train back to Denver.  The distance to the Depot was very short, so we caught the train leaving Colorado Springs a little after 8 PM

If we had not gone to Pike's Peak, we should have left at  2 PM. Well, I have been to the top of  Pike's Peak, and I am not sorry for it.  It was the grandest sight I ever saw.  Had I known what a journey it was I should never dared attempt it - but I started thinking it was about four or five miles, but when I had been traveling about an hour up the narrow path, so narrow in some places that two horses could not pass each other - I asked the guide how far it was, and he told me it was 13 miles from the place where we mounted the horses. 

I was in for it, and had to make the best of it.  The ascent takes about five hours, and the descent about three hours - the trail is over rocks, streams, hill and valleys.  About half way up is a plateau of about 3 or 4 acres of level land.  Here we were made to dismount to rest the horses - and take a drink of ice cold spring water.  I felt pretty tired then, but as I did not want to spoil the party, I made up my mind to continue the journey to the top - about 15 minutes rest and we start again. 

Now the sun strikes us pretty hot & we all get nicely sunburned.  We overtake a mule train and have to follow it a couple of miles before we can pass it - the path being narrow - and on either side very rocky.   

At last we dismount - we can scarcely stand - the air is so light - it makes everyone dizzy.  My mouth was parched  - froth settled on my lips.  I was deathly sick, and for five minutes I thought my time had come.  The guide helped me over the rocks to the signal service house - gave me a cup of very strong coffee without milk or sugar - and that revived me a little. 

I never felt such a strange sensation, sea sickness was nothing compared to it.  Two enlisted men are stationed at the Signal Service house to take temperatures, currents &c &c.  They must have a lively time of it in Winter.  There is no vegetation on the mountain top - nothing but rocks - square as if they had been taken out of a quarry - carted and dumped there.  They can be used for building without any cutting or blasting.  

The Signal Service house is built of these stones & nicely boarded inside.  The house has five rooms: kitchen, dining room, sitting room and two bedrooms.  A very large stove in the sitting room was kept red hot & a fire in the kitchen. It was very cold and snow fell while we were there.  A photographer took a picture of the visitors who were there, some sitting, others standing among the rocks.  If good we are to have some sent to us here.  

The fuel is brought on mule backs up the mountain - also food and anything else that is wanted - a start has been made to have a railroad built up.  I suppose the endless chain is the kind intended but it will cost an awful amount of money to complete it. 

After we were rested, and had seen all there was to be seen for that day, we were taken back over the rocks to the horses.  I felt rather weak but knew we had to get back, so got on the horse and began the descent, which was much more difficult than the climbing up.  We reached the stables about half past six - feeling pretty sore and tired. 

I think it has done me good and I would not mind going again - but I guess I never shall have another opportunity.  Daly's Co are at this house -  they close tomorrow night and we begin on Monday.  The Knights Templar are congregating - and by next week the city will be full - 5000 are expected with their wives and daughters.  Hope darling you are keeping well in health and happiness.  Love and Kisses from your ever loving Mother  

Was the photograph any good? Did EJ Phillips ever get one?  I keep hoping one will turn up.

Pike's Peak history, Manitou and Pike's Peak Railwa http://www.cograilway.com/aboutpikespeak.htm 
In the late 1880s, one of the tourists who visited the Pikes Peak Region was Zalmon Simmons, inventor and founder of the Simmons Beautyrest Mattress Company. Mr. Simmons rode to the summit of Pike's Peak on a mule, partly to enjoy the view and partly to check upon one of his inventions: an insulator for the telegraph wires that ran to the Army Signal Station on the Summit. In those days, the arduous, two day trip on a mule was the only way to reach the top. Mr. Simmons was awed by the scenery but determined that the views should be experienced in a more civilized and comfortable manner. He was relaxing in one of Manitou Springs' mineral baths after his return, when the owner of his hotel mentioned the idea of a railway to the top. Mr. Simmons agreed with the concept and soon after set about providing the capital needed to fund such a venture..
History of the trains https://www.cograilway.com/about-the-train.asp

The Pikes Peak Experience https://www.pikespeak.us.com/   Cog Rail including history https://www.pikespeak.us.com/activities/ride-the-cog-rail/

Manitou and Pike's Peak Cog Railway Is now slated to reopen in May 2021/
The Cog Cam will return once the renovations are complete. https://www.cograilway.com/

  Signal Station Pike's Peak 1882 

Despite its reconstruction, the army closes the signal station in 1888 after it concluded there was little correlation between the weather on top of Pikes Peak with that of the plains to the east. However, visitors continue to scale the mountain  History of Pike's Peak  https://www.pikespeak.us.com/learn/history-of-pikes-peak/

The Knights Templar are part of the York Rite MasonsJohn Nickinson , the father of her children, and possibly her husband had been a Mason.  See the letters of April 19, May 5 and  May 12, 1893. 

Pike's Peak, Library of Congress http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/aug05.html 
Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manitou_and_Pike%27s_Peak_Railway Company founded 1889, limited service started 1890, more in 1891.
Pike's Peak https://www.visitpikespeak.com/  History https://www.visitpikespeak.com/discover/history/  Includes maps, trail information and historical photographs.

The U.S. Signal Service (an early Weather Bureau) built a telegraph station on the summit in 1873 to monitor the weather, and a guard was posted in Manitou at the beginning of the trail to collect a toll  for hiking to the summit.  http://www.cograilway.com/aboutpikespeak.htm  First road up the mountain opened 1887.

Summit House Updates https://www.pikes-peak.com/summit-house/

next letter: Madison Square Theater Stock Co.

Last updated August 29, 2020

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