Tag Archives: hiking

Things I’ve been doing other than blogging

  1. Traveling for fun. We took our family trip to Germany and Belgium back in October (over 2 months ago – how crazy is that!) and I promise I will get around to blogging about that soon. Traveling with my parents was different, in a good way, as our budget was rather higher than what Adam and I usually have when we travel on our own. I discovered that Germany wasn’t my favorite country, and that I never care to go back to Brussels. But Bruges – that my friends is a magical city. I’m already planning our next trip; I’m thinking either Spain/Portugal or back to Italy (the country of my soul).

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    In summary, we did a lot of this.

  2. Traveling for work. In addition to my normal trips to DC, my company picked up a new client in Las Vegas, and I was there for two weeks – which, as you can imagine, is a looooong time to spend in Vegas. It’s hard for me to complain though, as the flight to Vegas is less than half of my flight time to DC, and Las Vegas restaurants are exponentially more enjoyable when someone else is picking up the tab. While we didn’t eat on the Strip every night, we did get to try several highly rated restaurants in different casinos, which is an experience in and of itself. One night my boss came to town and took us to Emeril’s Delmonico restaurant which was over-the-top delicious (with a price tag to match – not something I could ever afford on my own dime!) and served me the absolute best ahi tuna I have ever had in my entire life. I’m still dreaming about that meal.

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    I also got to drunkenly spend time with this stud, who is an exact replica of the original David, even down to the marble used. #onlyinvegas

  3. Hiked my first (and possibly last) 14’er. In Colorado, hiking a 14’er is a rite of passage. These routes are so named because they climb to an elevation of at least 14,000 feet. The “easy” 14’ers take about 5 hours round trip and are only 5 miles in distance. They go up in difficulty from there, with some covering 10 miles and requiring an 8+ hour time commitment. Because, in the words of my husband, “hiking is just walking, but for longer” (wrong – nothing is ever “just” at 14,000 feet altitude), we were over-ambitious and chose Mt. Bierstadt as our first mountain (ranked 38 out of 53 in terms of difficulty), rather than the much friendlier Torrey’s Peak (ranked only 9 out of 53). As we quickly learned, a 6-mile, 2,000 ft. elevation gain is nothing to laugh at, and 1/2 way into the ascent, neither of us were remotely pleased with life. But we stuck it out, were rewarded with Clif bars, buffalo jerky, and excellent views at the top, and I can cross it off my bucket list.

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    Reached the top! Finally smiling.

  4. Hosted my first Thanksgiving. Although I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for Adam and I for the past 4 years, it’s always been only the two of us, so the quantity of food isn’t that different and the pressure was never very high. Usually, we just grill Cornish game hens rather than doing a full turkey. This year, though, my parents came up from Florida, and even though they have to love me no matter what, the stakes were raised a bit. Fortunately, the turkey turned out wonderfully – even I thought so, and I’m not a turkey fan. I dry-brined and spatchcocked it for more even cooking. Served along with traditional Thanksgiving sides, it was a wonderful meal, and of course it meant so much that my parents made the journey out. My mom spent most of her time cleaning, reorganizing, and helping me complete house projects I’d been meaning to get around to, but we also took some time to play in the snow, grab Starbucks peppermint mochas, shop, and pick out a Christmas tree. It was a pretty perfect week of vacation.

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    My mom is loving this. My dad is wearing long underwear, two sweaters, a scarf, a hat, gloves (with hand-warmers), extra-thick socks, and is tolerating this.

  5. Waking up earlier to enjoy morning coffee and sunrises in a quiet house. I used to be a huge morning person – even in college I was up before the sun (and everyone else) 98% of the time. I was that weirdo who purposely scheduled 8AM classes – and liked it. But since I started working from home, I slipped into a bad habit of sleeping until my husband’s alarm clock went off at 7:15. I make him breakfast every morning, and he needs to be out of the house by 7:45 to make his daily 8AM meeting. Waking up that late kept stressing me out, and even though getting out of a warm bed while it’s still cold and dark isn’t easy, I’m so much happier overall. My alarm goes off at 5:45AM and I have time to make coffee, do some dishes, catch up on emails, and watch the sun rise. It’s the perfect routine for me and I’m glad to have rediscovered my inner morning person!

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    Trees on fire

  6. Trying to compose a Christmas list like a gosh-darn adult. Here’s what I should be putting on my Christmas wish list: a new faucet for the kitchen, snow tires (as we just got another foot of snow here in Denver and we’re on track to have one of the snowiest winters in recent memory), furniture (right now our TV is propped up on a chair from the kitchen table and we have a spare mattress doing stand-in duty as a couch in the basement), Home Depot gift cards, money to pay someone to put insulation in our 50+ year-old home (see the part about the snow), a snowblower, and so so many other things we need for our first home. What I want to put on my Christmas wish list is a little different: a jewelry subscription from Erin McDermott (you know, because I toooootally get dressed and wear jewelry when I work from home #not), overpriced gym clothes (but they’re SO CUTE – send help), money to put towards our next Europe trip, cozy sweaters, and a gift card to our favorite pizzeria in Denver, plus a bajillion other superficial things that I just don’t need, dammit. Adulting is overrated.
  7. Ordered new blinds. The front of our house has two large sets of windows – my husband pulled one set of blinds down within 2 weeks of us moving into the house, and a foster dog shredded the other set when we left her alone in the house for too long and she escaped from her crate. They were the cheap, plastic variety, so I don’t mind replacing them, but talk about the least fun thing to spend money on in the history of ever. I suppose it’s a small price to pay to spare our 80-year-old neighbors the shock of seeing us walk around less than fully clothed.h5qsgltx6rzmzr9y8xvrwc1dcuspc2itfdldryckbpaizqd4mvgbj-dvjwqhs3gtwbaaemf1bi-q_5-2po_td3zdfnch_6sxda68ttvhzh-tc_gy5x49c3rrva1

And that’s about it! I was trying to get to 10, but I simply haven’t done enough fun/cool/blog-worthy things. We leave for Florida next week to spend Christmas with my family, which will be a weather change from this snowy tundra, to say the least. Denver is predicted to have a white Christmas while Florida is….predicted to be 85 and sunny. I never thought in a million years that I’d be saying this, but after spending the past week bundled up like an eskimo and shoveling snow from our driveway, sidewalk, and walkway, I might not might a bit of warm weather.

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The Incline at Manitou Springs

A month ago, my husband and I tackled the Incline, which is something of a Colorado hiker’s rite of passage. To say it is a hike, however, is rather misleading.

Not exactly your average hike in the woods.

Not your average hike in the woods.

The Incline is a mile-long staircase that takes you up 2,000 vertical feet, from a base elevation of 6,035 at the start to 8,035 at the top. Think stair-stepper, not treadmill.

Some locals climb the Incline every day, and there are insane people who can run it in under 30 minutes. For some perspective, it took us 1.5 hours. Towards the end of the “hike”, as oxygen became increasingly scarce, we were taking a break every 20 steps, and that was a struggle.

History

From The Manitou Incline Website: “Completed in 1907 the Manitou Incline was a 1 mile cable tram built to support the construction of a hydroelectric plant and it’s waterline.” Once the plant was completed and the cable car’s function complete, an enterprising man named Dr. Brumbach (fun name, right?) purchased the line and marketed it as a tourist attraction.

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Dear old Dr. Brumbach took the cars that were used for dragging construction equipment up the mountain, added benches, and voila! Instant money maker. Eventually the cars were upgraded, a station house was built at the top, and the Incline remained a popular tourist attraction for many years. At one point, a competing Incline opened on another mountain, but the views and hiking trails weren’t nearly as good, so that business went under.

In 1990, a severe rockside damaged the tracks and put the cable cars out of service, so locals began using the newly abandoned trail for a tough workout. Until 2013, it was privately owned, and hiking up the line was technically illegal, not to mention more than a little treacherous, as those pesky mudslides frequently washed away steps and walkways. Finally, in 2014, the trail was closed for extensive repairs and then reopened to the public. The Incline is now once again marketed as a tourist attraction and is just as popular now as it was in its heyday.

Logistics

To “hike” the trail on a Friday, we left Denver around 7:30AM and arrived at the Incline just after 9. It was already busy, but not too crowded. We came prepared with water bottles, Cliff bars, and sunscreen. There’s a paid lot at the base, but we were lucky enough to find a metered spot, which was considerably cheaper than the $10 being charged in the lot. There is a free shuttle service if you want to park farther away for less money, but we didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

From the parking lot, you can follow signs and people towards the start of the climb. There are port-a-potties at the base, which I suggest you take advantage of, because once you start your ascent, there aren’t any facilities.

Though the Incline was recently repaired and improved, the stairs are quite steep and missing or broken in places, so wear good shoes, pay attention, and take your time. “Thin air” is a real thing at 6,000 feet above sea level, so if you aren’t acclimated to the altitude, go slow, and drink lots of water. There’s a “bail-out” point about half way up, where you can cut over to the winding, gently-sloped trail that will take you back to the base.

Barr Trail

Once you reach the top (don’t be fooled by the false summit), there’s a 4-mile path that will take you first to the bail-out point mentioned above, and then all the way down to the base (and some actual bathrooms). This was a great relief for me as I can’t imagine having to descend back down the stairs with legs of jelly.

The Incline

The hike up starts at a moderate pitch, and gets steeper as you go. For the first few hundred steps, we had to make ourselves take breaks to save our legs. I quickly learned that it’s all about pacing, and it was better, for me at least, to take short climbs (50 steps or so) followed by short breaks. That number quickly dropped to 30 steps, then to 20 by the end. Groups of people were constantly leap-frogging each other as we climbed and rested, climbed and rested. (With the exception of a group of middle school boys who passed us with ease, never looked back, and as far as I could tell, never stopped for a break. Damn children and their endless endurance.)

At the half-way point, still smiling.

At the half-way point.

For the most part, everyone is concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, and there’s too much huffing and puffing to be doing much conversing. Despite the crowds, it’s a peaceful climb with great views, not to mention an awesome workout. At the end, everyone who has finished it stands at the top of the staircase and encourages you on; there’s a very real bonding experience that occurs between people who have just climbed 2,000 steps.

We made it!

We made it!

After we’d chatted with a few other Incliners, we walked around the summit, my husband peed behind a tree (because men can do that, the bastards) and found more stuff to climb on (he’s half-mountain goat, I swear), and then slowly made our way down the 4-mile trail. We made it back to our car right at lunch time, and our first priority was to consume all the calories we had just burned in the form of beer and pizza!

Total time, start to finish – just under 3 hours.

If you ever find yourself in the Denver area looking for a an excellent Colorado workout, check out the Incline!