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Column: Incline hikes helped me get in shape
The first time I hiked the Incline, my family thought I had lost my mind.
At the time, I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am now and my family knew that I would be trespassing on private property. It took about â€¨1 hour, 45 minutes to climb more than 2,500 steps, and I had to stop numerous times to catch my breath.
Nearly a year ago, my daughter persuaded me to join Weight Watchers, and we signed up on Super Bowl Sunday. I started the program the following Wednesday and treated it like a competition — I wanted to conquer a weight problem that I had fought for much of my adult life. I didn’t want to be out of breath at the top of every set of stairs.
After a few weeks in the program, I set a goal of cutting my Incline time in half once I got to my target weight of 160 pounds. That goal motivated me to work hard. When I hiked the Incline in May, I finished in 50 minutes, stopping to catch my breath only once.
A few weeks later, I hiked the Incline and started to get hooked on the heart-pounding workout as a way to improve my conditions and maintain my target weight. Each time I completed the hike, I shaved a minute or two off my time.
I was never really concerned that I was trespassing on private property since I was doing so with hundreds of others on most every trip.
On my last illegal trip, I reached my goal of completing the hike in 40 minutes and set a new goal of 35 minutes, which I hope to achieve this summer.
I made my first legal hike up the Incline on Saturday. It didn’t feel much different hiking the Incline legally than it did when I did it illegally. I was surprised, however, that there weren’t more people hiking on a sunny Saturday morning. There were plenty of people violating the rules against bringing dogs and hiking back down the Incline, but the other hikers were supportive and encouraging as they usually are.
I am thrilled that I can now hike the Incline legally. I appreciate the efforts of City Council President Scott Hente and others to legalize what for many has become a ritual. I believe the Incline will become a huge draw for Manitou Springs and encourage other hikers to patronize businesses there after hiking.
As Incline hikers, we also should recognize that we have a responsibility to keep the trail clear of litter, pet droppings and other unwanted additions to the beautiful natural landscape.
I recognize the parking and traffic burden placed on the residents of Manitou Springs because of the Incline. Other hikers and I need to be part of a solution to that problem by showing a willingness to pay for parking and by treating neighbors, employees of surrounding businesses and others with courtesy when we are in the area.
Heilman has been a business writer at The Gazette since 1982 and first ascended the Incline with his wife and three children — as a tourist in the train.