I woke up in the morning not feeling like P-diddy. Well rested, but with a huge headache. I chalked it up to being an altitude migraine, and took some pain meds and drank some coffee and was good to go. My first stop today was the beautiful Garden of the Gods. It was nice weather for about an hour, and then it started snowing. It was pretty cool to watch the transformation of the bare gorgeous red rock formations to the light dusting of snow on their peaks. I’m not much for snow, or really cold for that matter, so after a few hours of easy hiking I called it quits.
I decided yesterday not to hike Pike’s Peak because winter hiking does not sound like much fun, especially when temperatures can drop 30 degrees during your climb. Buuuut I did make plans to do the Manitou Incline, a 2000 foot ascent up a mountain in only 1 mile. So I drove over there after leaving Garden of the Gods (where I was already sick of snow). There was so much snow on the ground of the cute little town of Manitou Springs that vehicles, including my own, couldn’t quite make it to the parking lot, so instead I paid $20 for 2 hours of road parking…eek. I sat in my car for 10 minutes, debating if I really wanted to do the hike in a snowstorm, and eventually geared up and set out.
I set a timer on my phone for an hour and 15 minutes, so that when the timer went off I would go back down the mountain to my vehicle, before getting a parking ticket. At the base of the climb I looked up, at the literally thousands of stairs at a steep, steep incline. I took a deep breath (but really not deep enough because mountain air is thin), and started the hike. After about 30 stairs I was questioning how much I wanted to do this. I peeled off my winter jacket and gloves, and kept climbing. Twenty steps later I was peeling off my puffy vest, and questioning my life choices.
This was the story of the hike: Pushing myself to go 30 steps before stopping to breathe, never getting enough air, and hoping my legs continue to lift. No amount of time in the gym could have prepared me for this. If you aren’t familiar with the Manitou Incline, it’s a hike labeled as EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, and professional athletes and the like will take it on as a challenge. Why I thought this was the perfect hike for today, is still beyond me. This hike was not fun. Not even in the least. Stairs, stairs, and stairs, in a SNOWSTORM! But I was bound and determined. Higher and higher I went, reaching the false summit (a plateau before the climb continues just one to two hundred feet from the top) when my alarm went off, signaling the climb down. I honestly only care a smidgen that I didn’t get to the tippy top. It was so snowy, there wasn’t much to see anyhow!
The descent down the mountain was invigorating, in a bad way. Little did I know (until the end of the hike, when I finally read the billboard of information posted at the base) it is not recommended you descend the mountain by stairwell because of how hard it is on your body. Oh well, I did it, it was scary since the stairs were slippery, but it was fun-ish. Then as I’m traveling back to my car, I see signs for the Pike’s Peak Cog Railway. Manitou Incline is part of Pike’s Peak. Oh.
So all in all, I hate winter hiking, but I still loved it at the same time. It took me a few hours to warm up, but I did the hike and it was cool. As I was ready to settle in for a nap, I reconnected with a high school classmate who happens to live in Colorado Springs, so off for a beer I went. If you find yourself in Colorado Spring, make sure you head over to Storybook Brewing for the Java Dragon Porter on Nitros, a delicious dark coffee beer. It could compete with Bent Paddle’s Cold Press in Duluth.
Today I felt at home. Colorado Springs is definitely a place that will be on my radar when it’s time to move. I’m packing my things tonight, and tomorrow I will head to Utah. I have another dear friend to grab breakfast with on the way, and then I’ll spend a short 6.5 hours on the road to my next adventuring area. I have a few more hikes planned along the way, assuming my legs are still functioning after 1700 feet of stairs. Great day, time for bed. Write to you all from Utah tomorrow!