In 1943, ten men were on night-time training mission in a B17 bomber. Their route was from Rapid City to Akron, Colo., but they got off track and crashed into a hillside west of Fort Collins. Despite the powerful impact, several men survived.
Two of them, LeRoy Faigin and Donald E. Jacobs, were able to hike out and look for help. ColoradoAirCrashes.com says the men found a couple fisherman who took the men to Fort Collins to get help. Faigin wrote on the blog WomanWithPen in 2012 that, "The memory of the crash and the details of the rescue after Jacobs and I hiked for 11 hours for help is still indelible in my mind."
There are conflicting reports on how many men died and how many survived, but most accounts say four died and six survived.
While it took Faigin and Jacobs 11 hours to hike through the forest for help, there is now a trail to crash site that makes it easy to see this historic site.
The trail is near CSU's Pingree Park campus in Poudre Canyon (directions below). The trail starts at what maps call the Stormy Peaks trailhead. In 2013, a small sign at the trailhead said Dennys Point, Twin Lakes, Stormy Peaks.
The single-track, dirt trail quickly enters a forest of short trees -- likely the new growth since the Hourglass Fire swept through Pingree Park in 1994.
The trail winds up a hill, getting a bit steep at times. Pass the turn off for Denny Point and 0.75 miles from the trailhead, hikers come to a trail split with several signs. Take a look -- one sign points the way for Stormy Peaks, one says "Original wagon wagon into Pingree Park," and one points the way to Twin Lakes. Take a close look at the Twin Lakes sign. Do you see the B-17 under it? That's the way to go. (Just in case it's not there, follow the Wagon Road.)
You'll hike about a quarter mile on the wagon road to an unmarked trail split. To the left we found a funky strip of concrete. Follow it a few steps and you should see one of the Twin Lakes in the meadow. Go back to the split and look on the trees -- you should see a small green tag that says B-17. Stay on the trail around the west side of the reservoir, in the trees. As you hike here, look east through the trees, you may glimpse both of the Twin Lakes that you couldn't see at the last split.
Continue on the trail to a split, about 1.6 miles from the trailhead. Look at the ground, there may be a pile of rocks in the form of an arrow pointing you left. Take the left fork.
As you hike along the path here, the trail gets steeper. At one point, you'll pass a spot with three poles in the trail. A short distance later, you'll pass a wilderness sign. At the top of the hill, a green B-17 tag points hikers to the right and a single-track trail along an irrigation ditch. Hike the lip of the ditch to a sluice box and turn left.
You'll hike in the woods to a clearing with another rock arrow pointing you left. The trail gets very wide here for a short distance, until suddenly, some small logs and rocks across the trail and another green tagindicate a turnoff to the right. Follow this trail through the thick forest about 0.4 miles to an open, rocky area. As you start to hike over the rocks, you will quickly begin seeing wreckage. This is the crash site.
BE CAREFUL!!! You'll want to climb over the rocks up and down the hillside. While you will see very large pieces from the wreckage including a trail section, four engines, landing gear and other parts, there are also a lot of small, metal pieces that can easily injure you -- be careful!
Expect to spend 30 minutes or more exploring this place. There are tons of pieces to see.
One thing you won't find is the fuselage. There are reports that the military retrieved the bodies, the top-secret equipment, the machine guns and blew up the fuselage. However, while those pieces are gone, there is still a lot to see here decades after the crash.
After exploring, return the way you came.
Details: The hike to the crash site is about 6 miles RT and 1,100 feet of elevation gain.
Directions: The trailhead at next to CSU's Pingree Park campus in Poudre Canyon. Google 16321 Pingree Park Rd, Bellvue, CO for directions. (You can get here via Fort Collins and Highway 14) or via Loveland. You will have to drive a dirt road here, but it is typically well maintained in summer. When you arrive at the entrance sign for CSU, turn left. Take that road a short distance to the parking lot/trailhead. A gate will likely prevent you from driving any further.