Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods, The Incline in Manitou Springs

Last weekend we packed up the van and took the family to Colorado Springs to camp for a night. We went with our friends, the Browns. Camping gear sure takes up a lot of space! Our van was more full and tight for this one night camping trip than it was for our 2 week road trip across the country!

We stayed at a KOA campground near Colorado Springs...I like staying at KOA's, they are usually well kept, safe and they have flushing toilets. This campground had a bunch of extras too, like a basketball court, mini golf, playset, swimming pool and right next to our site was a place to play ladders and horse shoes.

Ann made dinner for everyone that night in the dutch oven. She made cooked a meal with onions, potatoes, sausage and cheese. I ate everything minus the sausage and added a black bean burger to mine and it was all wonderful! Thanks Ann! After dinner we roasted marshmallows and ate smores.

Saturday morning our family got up between 6-630 and we started breakfast: French toast in the dutch oven made with a loaf of French bread, and sausage all made by Scott! Thank you dear! I also made some sticky buns/monkey buns in the dutch oven once we finished the French toast, not that we needed more, I've just been wanting to try that recipe in the dutch oven, and it worked (be sure to line with dutch oven with foil because they stick a lot!).

After breakfast we packed up camp and drove to the Garden of the Gods. It reminded Scott and I of Arches National Park in Utah with it's large, red clay rock formations. We hiked to the Balancing Rock and let the kids climb.

From Garden of the Gods we drove to Manitou Springs (not far, maybe 10 min) and our husbands dropped Ann and I off so that we could get a head start on The Incline, an extreme hike, since Ann and I wanted to make it to the top. Our sweet husbands then parked and then brought the kids to the trailhead and went as far as the kids wanted. Ryan made it over half way with Julia, Owen, Elisabeth and Annabelle, though Scott had to turn around a bit earlier with Charles, Jane and Nora because Charles was not wanting to continue; Charles definitely can go longer but they didn't bring water and he was feeling it more than the others.
The Incline hiking trail was formerly a railway whose tracks washed out during a rockslide over 20 years ago. It was used to access a hydroelectric plant and service the water pipes. It is less than a mile long and rises from 6500 feet to 8590 feet so a gain of over 2000 feet in that short distance. It was intense, taking large steps climbing up railway ties and scrambling over broken water pipes, and add in the high elevation with less oxygen and ears popping etc, but I loved it! I would totally do it again! Once you climb up, hikers usually take the Barr Trail back down, which is a 4 mile hike and a lot less intense. The climb up was so steep, I'm afraid if I had attempted to take the same hike back down I would have fallen and rolled and broken all sorts of things. Maybe not, but maybe so.
Here is a picture Scott took of the group before they began their hike.
Ann and I stopped every now and again to have a drink of water, catch our breath and snap a picture. I read before hand that it takes the average, fit hiker to do this hike in about 45 minutes to an hour and that's just going up! I think the record time is like 20 minutes-ish and wow, that seems impossible! We still have a long, steep way to go from this picture below!
Ann and I stayed together for probably 2/3 of the hike and then I asked her if she would mind if I tried to power up and see how fast I could finish. I ended up getting to the top around 50 minutes, and Ann came in about 10 minutes later. That top 1/3 is brutal. Seriously. Less oxygen and bigger steps! I had to use my hands to really push down on my knees to give myself that extra 'umph' on each step.
Getting closer! Oh and there was a false summit and once I had about 30 steps to go, it still looked like a lot more for some reason, so when I reached the top and there was a group of people standing around congratulating others I was so happy to see them!
The view from the top is spectacular! What a magnificent earth our Lord has created for us to inhabit! So beautiful and diverse! I love it! Hiking and being in mountains and out in nature is another affirmation to me of not only the existence of our Lord and creator but also of their eternal love for us.
And here comes Ann! I cheered her on at the end, and actually the time we hiked together we both were sharing words of encouragement which was nice. We talked to other hikers too, and they to us, as we would pass them by (or get passed) and would say, "almost there!" "you're doing great" etc. Angels among us lifting and helping along the way.

Once we caught our breath we called our hubbies: Scott informed me he was in the van with his group of kids and they had gotten gas and drinks and would be meeting us at the bottom. Ryan said he was still hiking up so they caught onto the Barr Trail at the false summit and started hiking back down and Ann and I jogged down, about 2 miles, until we met up with them and which time we all finished the hike together.

After our hikes we stopped at Wendy's for lunch (not a healthy weekend at all, though we did have apples, almonds and raisins for snacks, and I didn't eat much of the cooked breakfast and had some granola I brought instead with a little almond milk and then a salad at lunch...okay, fine, with some fries and a jr vanilla frosty) and then drove on home. The only other thing I really wanted to do that we didn't get to was to actually drive up Pikes Peak which is a 'fourteener' as the people of Colorado have labeled the mountains here that are over 14,000 feet in elevation. So we'll have to go again sometime, and I'm totally cool with that!

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