Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Stairway to Heaven | February 10, 2015

We did another "hike on a whim" day.  The weather has been unseasonably warm and we knew we were at the end of a stretch of nice days.  We had decided to tackle the Manitou Incline. We threw a few things in a back pack (diapers, wipes, a bottle of water) and we were off.
creative commons - user:Ahodges7
 creative commons - user: ahodges

The Incline is only about 20 minutes from where we currently live.  From afar, it looks like a vertical path right on the side of a cliff.  To reach the trail head you must drive through the town of Manitou Springs.  It is located away from the hustle and bustle of the Manitou's main street (which is an exploration day trip in itself).

Incline Trail head

Most parking in Manitou Springs is pay to park and the lot for the Incline is no different.  It costs $5 to get into a gated lot adjacent to the Incline.  We arrived at the trail head about 12:30p local time and were able to get a close spot at the start of the Incline Trail.

Amber carrying Truman in the pack near trail head

We embark on our trek up rail tie stair path.  It begins as a gradual incline at first.  At this point, we are all on foot.  Truman is enjoying hopping from tie to tie and Brian and I are chatting a bit about what lay ahead of us.  Several people comment on Truman's stamina and our "bravery" (bringing a toddler on the trail).  Truman receives several "high 5's" and "good job buddy's!" as we progress through this portion of the trail.  He starts saying "good job!" in return.

The grade switch is gradual and about a 1/4 mile in we find ourselves huffing and puffing a bit.  Truman is no longer enjoying the novelty of walking and is whining to be carried.  We are able to keep him on foot a bit longer because of his interest in a hiker and her dog just out of reach.

Truman being a trooper and trekking up the incline on foot.

Time slows down to a snails pace and our movements becomes crawl (literally at times).  We are now climbing while carrying Truman full time.  Progress is languorous.  With each step, the extra weight mixed with the rise in elevation increases our heart rates and makes breathing difficult.  Brian did pretty well when carrying Truman.  He seemed to carry him with ease (though this was an illusion).  I think his longer legs made all the difference in his ability to tackle the steep stairs.When my turns came to be the "toddler pack mule", I needed Brian to hold my hand in order to make each step.

Are we there yet?

About 3/4 of the way up the mountain there is a platform with benches to take a rest.  It is also considered a "bail out" with a connector to the Barr Trail.  I would be lying if I said I didn't consider giving up at that point.  The view below is spectacular and the one above, daunting.  But once our breathing and heart rates had returned to normal, we were onward and upward.


The next big accomplishment is the false summit.  Until you reach this level it appears to be the top.  But no, there are still an additional 300 ft to the actual summit.  Brian didn't even realize we had passed this milestone...until another hiker had commented that it was behind us.  I think this gave Brian his motivation for the final push to the top.
Obligatory Summit Selfie

I was struggling at this point, but slow and stead finishes the race.  With Brian ahead and out of conversation range I decide to access some music on my phone.  Why didn't we start listening from the beginning?!?  The beat pushed my body into motion.  I reached the summit just a few minutes after Brian and Truman.  Truman missed the all the excitement.  He had fallen asleep to the sway of Brian's steps, upon Brian's back.  It was a sweet sight to see from below, Truman resting peacefully as Brian reached the peak.  It felt a bit like we had hiked to heaven.

We took the obligatory "summit selfie" and started on our way.  From start to peak took us 2hrs 23mins and 14secs and we still had a 4 mile hike down the mountain ahead of us.  The temperature was dropping rapidly and clouds were rolling in.  Truman was cold.  I was glad Brian had packed his vest jacket in the pack.  We were able to keep Truman warm by wearing the vest around him and myself with the carrier on my back.
Amber carrying Truman down Barr Trail wrapped in Brian's vest.

Side note:  We realized this trip we had been a bit overconfident in preparation.  We as seasoned hikers, we know better.  Things we will be adding to future hikes...a bottle of water per person, water filtration, first aid kit, a blanket, a tarp, jackets for each of us.
Tree crusted mountains as seen from Barr Trail

If the Incline was the challenge, the hike down was the reward.  Beautiful pine lined switchbacks, interesting rock formations, and breathtaking views of tree crusted mountains awaited us on the way down.  I should have reached exhaustion, but it felt as if the life was flowing back into me.  Oh how I have missed hiking.  We were flooded with memories of previous hikes and discussions of future hikes filled our conversation and our bucket list.
Garden of the Gods as seen from the Summit

And then, in the middle of it all...Truman said his name for the first time!!!

What a day.

What a day!!!

Almost 5 hours from the time we began, we arrived back at the car.  Exhausted, but elated.  We had finished what we set out to do! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

In the morning we woke up to this...

View from our apartment balcony

Everything was coated in a blanket of white snow.  It felt a bit like living in a real life version of the movie Frozen.  Brian encouraged us to get dressed and gather supplies.  He had a plan.  To go to the Garden of the Gods while it was covered in snow.  All packed up, we headed over to REI for a few supplies.  Very glad to have a portable camp stove in our inventory once again.

Snow covered trail

Next stop, the visitors center.  I ran in to grab a trail map. The building was warm, the restrooms were spotless, and the staff was knowledgeable.  I left with two maps and a bit of motivation.  It was a very brief stop, but I would be interested in giving the visitor center a bit more attention in the future.  We entered the park at the entrance directly across from the visitor center and pulled into the first public parking lot (located to the left).
Checking out the giant red rocks

Although Truman was dressed for the weather we ended up carrying him most of the way.  Thank heavens for that baby back pack.  After a few photo and video ops close to the rocks we decided to continue along the Galloway Trail.  Truman was getting fussy, so we took advantage of snow crusted willow grove and began preparing lunch.   Never did a package of Ramen Noodles taste so delicious.   

Amber with Truman in tow

Bellies full it was back to the trail.  The next two miles are difficult to describe in words.  I think the pictures speak for themselves.  Simply breathtaking.  The trail itself was a multi-elevation terrain winding up and down and around.  The path was snow covered and at times still untouched by foot prints.
Amber enjoying some soup!

We hiked approximately 3 miles in about 2 hrs, singing songs to pass the time.  Truman loves music.  Its so fun to hear his version of our favorite hiking songs.   We made it back to the parking lot  just as the clouds were rolling in with more snow.  Truman was sound asleep before we pulled out of our spot.  We highly recommend using the park during all seasons.  So very glad we ventured out that snowy day.

And as promised. We have our first video!

Friday, February 13, 2015

An Important Distinction

In my original post "A Need to Move Along," I suggested we had no help until now, but that is not exactly true.  There have been mini gifts of generosity all along.  All of this amazing charity has made me quite reflective and sentimental.  Here's a list of random acts of kindness we have experienced through this journey...

...February 2013, Spanish Fort, Alabama-We arrived home to our camper to find a gift on the step.  It was a birthday gift for Truman.  A stuffed gator and an Alabama coloring book.  Oh and an Elmo birthday card.  We still have that gator by the way.  It was from our camp ground neighbor Laura V., an amazing young woman who believes in the barter system and living simply.

...March 2013, Monahans,Texas-We stayed 3 nights in the Monahans Sand Hills State Park camping free of charge because we were on our way to a volunteer assignment with the National Forest Service.

...June 2013, Roosevelt, Arizona-We reached out to our Facebook family in search of access to Game of Thrones.  Friends agreed to share their log in to HBOGO and we haven't missed an episode since.

...August 2013, Phoenix, Arizona-High school friend Jeanette
...August-October 2013, Kapolei, Hawaii-We stayed in my birth mother's home free of charge.

...October 2013, Phoenix, Arizona-  

We're back!

February 10th, 2015 marked 2 years since we packed up and pulled out of our driveway in Bethel Park, PA.  We may have settled a bit since our initial days on the road, but we are still far from the scenery and geography where we spent our youths.  It's been quite a journey both physically and mentally and our passion for travel and adventure only burns stronger.

I can't believe we haven't posted since July 1, 2014.  July 5th, I turned 38 and spent the morning running a 10K.  Then that afternoon, we packed up our things and headed to Colorado.  Thanks again to those who helped by donating or even just spreading the word during our Go Fund Me campaign last summer.  We wouldn't be where we are right now without your help.

I did it!

Finding a short term place in Colorado, within our price range, was no easy task. Rental rates have skyrocketed. We ended up spending our first month in a lodge. That was a crazy enough experience for an entire article. After searching and searching, we decided to rent an unfurnished apartment in Colorado Springs. Since we'd only be here a year, that didn't seem to bad. It was long enough we could acquire cheap or free furniture, but not so long that the small space would drive us insane.

With help from another Pittsburgh expat we were able to secure a one bedroom apartment and several of the furnishings we now have including our bed, dining table, and several kitchen necessities.  The rest of the items are either second hand purchases or built by Brian.  We now have a night stand, tv stand, shelves, desk, and spice rack all made from free re-purposed wood and Brian's handiwork.  It's quite cozy and feels like home.

Up until a few weeks ago, work has been plentiful.  I have gotten to enjoy a whole new group of families and children.  Still glad I do what I do! Truman is growing like a weed and his speech seems to be developing at light speed.  He is making friends, having play dates and most recently...his first sleep over (away from home).  He's been a trooper, joining us in our adventures.   He's hiked Garden of the Gods and climbed the Manitou Incline...and he's not even 3 yet.

Brian and I at the summit of the Manitou Incline
To our dedicated readers, thanks for still being here.  We are still passionate
for Gypsy 3
Wandering and our goal is still to share our experiences with you.  There is still much to share.  From our first 2 years on the road as well as new day trips we are doing locally, we have stories to tell.  In addition to making a commitment to provide more content on a more regular basis, we also will be expanding our media to include video via our new you tube channel.  Please hang in there with us as we make this transition...we've only just begun!