It appears that you are currently using Ad Blocking software. What are the consequences? Click here to learn more.
Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Mount Chapin

August 13th, 2008 · 12 Comments

Print This Post Print This Post

Two trails lead from the Chapin Pass Trailhead on the Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. They are the only trails along this one-way, one-lane, dirt road that goes to the top of the park, which is open only for about two months of the year.

I knew that this was where I wanted to go today. But I couldn’t decide which of the two trails to take.

Why not take both? I will eventually take both, but not on the same day. First I decided to climb the mountain.

Mount Chapin, Chapin Creek, and Chapin Pass commemorates the name of someone who is probably a relative. I have again become family-conscious after sharing notes with Erica and learning that we are both descended from a man and a woman who came to this country in 1620 on the Mayflower.

But it was a different part of the family tree that captured my attention today. Deacon Samuel Chapin, my eighth great-grandfather, emigrated from England to America in about 1624 and was one of the founders of Springfield, Massachusetts. My family visited Springfield in 1954, and I still remember seeing the big sculpture of his proud pose rendered by master sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens,  He and his lineage was so important to my mother that Chapin is my sister’s middle name. My mother had a paper that said all Chapins in the country are related.

Wait Chapin, my second great-grandfather, was a pioneer settler of Michigan in the 1820s. A carpenter, he made a deerskin-covered chest that once was my most prized possession. But since I was attached to it, I gave it to my niece Julie. She is the family member who is most interested in our ancestors. Anyway, it belongs in the female line, having come to me from my mother, my grandmother, and Wait’s daughter Rosa. I hope that she eventually gives it to her daughter Samantha or my niece Kathy’s daughter Breanna.

The Chapin whose name is remembered where I hiked today is Frederick H. Chapin. He wrote the book Mountaineering in Colorado: The Peaks Above Estes Park after his first visit here in 1886. Since we are probably related and both of us have been hikers and writers, I bought a copy of his book last night.

And today I hiked to the top of the mountain that bears his name. Discounting three peaks that are only about 8,000 feet, this is the first real mountain that I have climbed.

The hike starts at the Chapin Creek Trailhead, one of the highest trailheads anywhere at 11,020 feet. One unmaintained branch of the trail goes down Chapin Creek for three miles. The other goes up to Mount Chapin at 12,454 feet high. But the park maintains only the first half, which is as far as I went on it a couple of years ago.

I hiked with my trekking poles, which nowadays I use only to climb mountains, backpack, and snowshoe. I used my newer fanny pack to give my shoulder a rest. Today my shoulder was fine, probably because my resistance training class yesterday loosened the muscles.

En route to the mountain I stopped at the one big tourist attraction right along Old Fall River Road, Chasm Falls. Leaving my apartment at 6:30, I got to the falls at 7:30, which was exactly first light:

Chasm Falls at First Light

Chasm Falls at First Light

When I got to the summit of Mount Chapin at 11:15, I was disappointed that no one else was there. I hoped that somebody could take a photograph of me on Mount Chapin.

So I wandered around, shooting pictures to capture the 360 degree view. The closest mountain is Mount Chiquita, which could have been named for my sister’s beloved dog, but probably wasn’t. Here is 13,069-foot Mount Chiquita with the top cairn in the foreground pointing the way to Mount Chapin’s summit:

Mount Chiquita, 13,069 feet, from the Summit of Mount Chapin

Mount Chiquita, 13,069 feet, from the Summit of Mount Chapin

Most of my hike today was in the tundra above treeline, as shown in this photograph of the Chapin Creek area. But much of the trail was rocky — talus or scree.

The Chapin Creek Area

The Chapin Creek Area

The morning was crisp and clear. It was so windy on top of the mountain that it blew my trip notes right out of my pocket. They are probably in Estes Park by now.
Eventually, another hiker summited Mount Chapin with me. He took this picture of me with the Mummy Range of Wyoming in the background:
On Top of Mount Chapin

On Top of Mount Chapin

After returning to earth, the only way out was to drive up the Old Fall River Road to the Alpine Visitor Center. From there I drove down Trail Ridge Road.

At the center it began to cloud over, and snowflakes began to fall. They were still falling at the so-called “Rock Cut” on the way back, where I stopped to shoot Flattop:

Flattop from the Rock Cut

Flattop from the Rock Cut

I was on a wildlife watch today. I saw even more beautiful animals than I could have hoped for.

Marmots were all over the place, because the place was rocky, their preferred habitat:

This Marmot was Right on the Trail

This Marmot was Right on the Trail

One of Two Baby Marmots that Eventually Came Out from Their Rocks

One of Two Baby Marmots that Eventually Came Out from Their Rocks

Four big bulls up 100 yards above Trail Ridge Road caused the biggest traffic jam I have ever seen in the park. So of course I pulled over and hiked up to the elk:

I'm Glad that I Don't Have to Carry Such Big Antlers as this Bull Elk

I'm Glad that I Don't Have to Carry Such Big Antlers as this Bull Elk

Between Chasm Falls and Mount Chiquita, I found something really special — a herd of five Rocky Mountain Sheep. They are much less common than marmots and elk. In fact, a ranger stopped there too. He told me that he had been taking a sheep survey for the past six weeks, and these were the first that he had seen this season:

Rocky Mountain Sheep

Rocky Mountain Sheep


Never Miss An Update

Subscribe to my free newsletter “Diabetes Update”

I send out my newsletter on first of every month. It covers new articles and columns that I have written and important developments in diabetes generally that you may have missed.

I also include new photo essays from this blog in my newsletter.

Your Email Address

Posted in: Mountain Climbing

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robert Fenton // Oct 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I am happy to see someone with diabetes doing so well with photography. This gives me hope. Keep up the photography – this is material for a good book.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Oct 4, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    Dear Robert,

    A lot of my friends have encouraged me to write a book with my natural photographs. Maybe some day. But that is why I compromised and made this blog. My only goal is to inspire other people with diabetes to get out and get exercise by doing something that is fun. And photography certainly is fun for me. Are you a photographer too?

    Best regards,


  • 3 Elaina May // Oct 19, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Hey, I’m related to Deacon Samuel Chapin too! He’s my tenth great-grandfather!

  • 4 David Mendosa // Oct 19, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    Dear Cousin Elaina,

    Thanks for writing! More and more of my Chapin cousins are coming out of the woods. Or are they going hiking back in the woods like me?

    Best regards,


  • 5 Linda // Nov 16, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Great photos! My 4th great grandfather was Loring Chapin. I believe he was Wait Chapin’s brother. They lived in Winfied, Herkimer County, NY. Loring ended up in Silver Creek New York and Wait went on to Michigan.

  • 6 David Mendosa // Nov 16, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Dear Cousin Linda,

    Yes, Loring Chapin was indeed my great great grandfather’s brother. I have him in my genealogy program. He was born in Herkimer County on February 26, 1790, and died in Silver Creek on February 2, 1864. He married Sarah (Sally) Brace. So that makes us second cousins twice removed, if I calculated that right!

    Thanks for writing,


  • 7 J Taylor // Sep 16, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Dear David:
    I loved your photos…I recently enrolled in a beginning painting class and we are supposed to bring a photo of something we like…Would it be possible to bring a copy of your chasm falls photo?

  • 8 David Mendosa // Sep 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Hiker Gurl,

    Absolutely! I would be honored.

    Best regards,


  • 9 John Patrick Chapin // Sep 19, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    I am another descendent of Samuel Deacon. In March in the mid ’70’s I passed thru Estes Park (which had just experienced a terrible mud slide & flood like the recent flooding nearby in Boulder & Loveland). Always wondered about the origin of the name for Mt. Chapin & Chapin Pass. The name Frederick H. gives some insight. My dad (Noel) was born in 1898 in Arlington, Oklahoma. His father or grandfather participated in the great ‘Oklahoma Land Rush’.
    Several of his brothers and a sister settled in Colorado: Meeker and Rifle.

  • 10 David Mendosa // Sep 20, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Dear John,

    Thanks for writing, cousin!



  • 11 Karen Burian // Jun 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

    My mother was a Chapin from Nebraska and my cousin has traced our ancestry back to Deacon Chapin. I had my doubts that Mt.Chapin could have any connection, but after reading your article I guess I need to rethink that possibility.

  • 12 David Mendosa // Jun 24, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks, cousin! My mother always said that all the Chapins in America are related.