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! 

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