Penrose Trails by Eric Swab

Did Spencer Penrose (1865-1939) build hiking and equestrian trails on Pikes Peak? He was certainly interested in trails as a source of recreation for his guests at the Broadmoor hotel and the town’s visitors in general. The title of a 1920s trail map The Mountain Trails of the Broadmoor Region supports this assumption. Even though this map is not dated or signed, the cartographic style is certainly the work of Manly Ormes (1858-1929), a librarian at Colorado College from 1904 until 1928, and father of Robert Ormes, author of the Pikes Peak Atlas. An early 1920s date for the map is suggested by the map’s sub- title, The Pikes Peak Camping and Mountain Trail Association (PPCMTA).

PPCMTA was an exclusive wilderness club created by Penrose in 1923, and headquartered at Camp Vigil, which he had recently purchased from the Girl Scouts. To become a member, it cost $1,000 and the annual dues were $100. Spencer chose Henry M. Blackmer (1869-1962), Charles M. MacNeill (1871- 1923), Russell K. Dougherty (1888-1944), John R. Bradley (1866-1953), and Charles L. Tutt, Jr. (1889- 1961) to be the directors of the Association. If you study the map, you will find trails named for all these men except Penrose and Tutt.

Two newspaper articles of the early 1920s confirm Spencer’s interest in equestrian trails. A 1922 Gazette article reports that Penrose took Henry M. Blackmer, Mr. and Mrs. Charles M. MacNeill, and Russell K. Dougherty, by horseback, up the newly-constructed Sunrise Trail to The Horns on Cheyenne Mountain. The trail was completed, “thru the generosity of Mr. Penrose and Russell K. Dougherty.” Mr. Penrose told his companions he planned to build a “Swiss chalet-style cottage” at the top of Cheyenne Mountain. Four years later, he built the Cheyenne Lodge at The Horns. This is now the location of “Cloud Camp”, one of the Broadmoor’s wilderness experience retreats. In the 1920s, the Dougherty Sunrise trail could be combined with the MacNeill and Blackmer trails to make a loop around Cheyenne Mountain.

A May 20, 1923 article in the Gazette and Telegraph describes another longer loop trail on the mountain. “One of the most recently completed of these [trails] is the Buckhorn Mountain trail, an official survey of which was made last week, … The entire trip being a 25-mile affair thru some of the most majestic scenery of the Pikes Peak region. Shortly after the start it skirts across the High drive and wanders thru Jones Park, from there idly making its way to Rosemont and Rock creek where it joins the Blackmer trail and wanders around Cheyenne mountain before returning to the plateau below. Nature lovers will have more than a passing opportunity to see hidden beauty spots of the region this summer, for in addition to Cliff Frager, cowboy guide and trail blazer of the Broadmoor, there will be Hubert Strang (1869-1956) in charge of nature study and wild life trips.”

Two photos accompany the article. The first photo shows a group of dismounted equestrians standing in front of a pavilion. The caption reads, “The official survey party at Mother Gaines’ new pavilion on the High Drive, where sounds of merriment and music will be heard this summer.” Norah “Mother” Gaines (1864-1933) had purchased “Buckhorn Park”, Ellen E. “Captain” Jack’s (1842-1921), concession at the top of High Drive. “Mother” Gaines built a new 25’ by 42’ dance pavilion on the site in 1923. She was a tourist driver who conveyed her customers in a horse drawn carriage long after other hacks were using automobiles.

The caption under the second photo of five mounted equestrians, reads, “Distinguished party of Colorado Springs men, with a visitor from New York. In the far background is Charles L. Tutt, Jr.; center, Spencer Penrose; next Russell K. Dougherty, and extreme left, Cliff Frager.


The Guys
Henry M. Blackmer was an attorney involved in several business ventures with Penrose. He was a member of Penrose’ Cooking Club. Charles M. MacNeill partnered with Penrose and Tutt in their mining and milling companies. Russell K. Dougherty and his wife Bertha, were involved in the real estate development of the Broadmoor and were friends of Spencer and Julie. Hubert Strang’s brother Charles G. Strang (1862-1922) started the first automobile garage in the County in 1899. Hubert would later join Strang Garage as secretary treasurer.

John Roger “Jack” Bradley (1866-1953) made his fortune in the gambling business in Texas and Florida. His travels as a big game hunter, brought him to the Pikes Peak Region where he built a mountain retreat, he called the “Wild Rose Camp” (Bradley’s Camp on the map). It is now known as Bear Trap Ranch located on the Old Stage Road. When not staying at the Camp, Jack and his wife Katherine stayed at the Broadmoor Hotel where they met the Penroses. Jack and Spencer agreed to build a trail connecting the Wild Rose Camp with Camp Vigil. That trail in shown on the map, and most of it still
exists today.

The 1922 Gazette article confirms that Penrose was involved in the building of the Dougherty Sunrise trail. He may have had a hand in the construction of other trails, but documentation of this has not been found. The current loop route identified as the “Penrose Trail” by the Forest Service is a relatively resent application of the name to several trails that historically had different names.

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