Cameron Cone, at a height of 10,707 feet, does not figure among the tallest giants of Colorado, or even the Front Range, but its conspicuous shape and situation as one of Pikes Peak’s sentinels have always fascinated me. Until a recent invitation to join a small group of Colorado Mountain Club trekkers as a guest, I had only admired it from afar.
The official path starts at the Barr trailhead in Manitou Springs and rises nearly 4000 feet over 4 miles. Being escorted by a resident of the private community of Crystal Park, we tackled the mountain from an access at an altitude of approximately 8000 feet, which halved our trip to about 2000 feet and 2 miles. I never fail to be enticed by new climbs and novel vistas in my back yard, and Cameron Cone did not disappoint. On the day of our outing, a thick cloud cover lay over Colorado Springs, but as we wound our way up Crystal Park Road we emerged above it. Drifts of cotton wafting up from the prairie and out of the valleys created a fascinating atmosphere.
After the steep approach which involved some bushwhacking, the summit afforded fresh perspectives of Pikes Peak, several reservoirs, and additional conspicuous sentries, including Almagre Mountain (also known as Mount Baldy), Mount Rosa, and Cheyenne Mountain. While we were picnicking on the flat top, we were surprised to discover clusters of ladybugs clinging to rocks and wooden logs, and even more astonished to see them covering us and our backpacks. It took some persuasion to convince them not to hitchhike downhill with us.
The landmark’s namesake, Robert Alexander Cameron (1828-1894), hailed from New York, but moved to Indiana with his family as a teenager. A man of many talents, he practiced medicine, published a newspaper, and was a member of the Indiana State Legislature, serving at the Republican Convention of 1860 which elected future President Lincoln. At the onset of the Civil War, he volunteered for the Union and achieved the rank of Brevet Major General. After its end, he followed the call of the West, and became involved in the founding of Nathan Meeker’s Union Colony in what would later be called Greeley, for Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, who was credited with the phrase “Go West, young man”. The colony movement was popular just then, and General Palmer, founder of Colorado Springs, espoused some of its tenets, such as cooperative irrigation, and the temperance clause. In fact, our city was briefly named Fountain Colony. Palmer hired Cameron away from Union Colony and employed him as the manager of the Colorado Springs Company which platted the town sites, controlled land sales, and administered the newly founded community. According to our late local historian, Marshall Sprague, General Cameron named the cone for himself, but I have been unable to elicit if he ever summited it.
Unlike many early settlers who put down roots, Cameron pulled up stakes, and set out for further exploits. Following a stint in California, he returned to the Centennial State, to serve first as postal clerk in Denver, and next as warden of the Colorado State Penitentiary. He continued to live in Canon City after his retirement and was buried at Greenwood Cemetery. Even though he did not remain in Colorado Springs, he nonetheless left an indelible mark on our region.