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Column: Mixed feelings about the Incline
I plan to hike the Manitou Incline on Sunday for the second time ever.
My first climb was nearly nine years ago, a few weeks after I moved to Manitou Springs. It was a thigh-burning and lung-busting 32 minutes.
2,500 ties. 2,000 feet. â€¨1 mile. There’s poetry in those numbers and a masochistic romance in the challenge.
But when a co-worker asked why I had trespassed when there were so many beautiful trails in the area, I didn’t have an answer. I vowed not to return until the trail was open to the public.
At that time, the Incline had its regulars, but you didn’t see crowds. If you saw hikers, they were apt to be athletes training for the Olympics or folks signed up for the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon.
While I served as editor of The Gazette’s Out There section, the topic of the Incline’s use came up regularly. Would the landowners agree to open the trail? Would they fence it off? Would users get ticketed? Could you keep people away if you wanted to?
Gazette reporter Dave Philipps tackled all those questions and more in stories over the past decade, and in the newsroom we argued whether writing about the Incline did it more harm than good.
Then others — the New York Times, a trail guidebook, Sports Illustrated — wrote about the grueling climb, and the number of hikers increased. The Gazette created an outdoors website, outtherecolorado.com, and devoted pages to the Incline.
It seemed another 100 people a day hiked the trail, which meant 100 more cars trying to park at the trailhead or along Ruxton Avenue. Cog Railway workers became parking enforcers. Instead of hikers’ cars lining Ruxton on summer weekends, the residential street became chockablock year-round.
I felt for my Ruxton neighbors. Even blocks away at my house, it’s no fun coming home after a long workday and finding no parking in sight. I know our town survives on visitors’ dollars, so I take a deep breath, park a few blocks from home and try to embrace inconvenience.
But I’ve never wanted to see the trail close. It’s part of our history and should be part of our future. I welcome the chance to try to find solutions to the problems — of maintenance, parking.
And I will, as soon as I catch my breath.