The Incline, it’s a uh, it’s a pilgrimage of pain and pleasure. It’s a staircase of railroad ties going straight into the sky. It’s serves as a lot of people’s gym, and a lot of people’s church. It became the thing to do, even if it was not technically legal to do There’s nothing quite like it, no other trail that climbs that much in that amount of time. Our secret got out, Ding it! Put on your hiking togs and a warm jacket and we’ll ride to one of the highest points in the Rockies via the Manitou Scenic Incline Route, the route that is responsible for the scar on the face of the mountain. I am one of the few people who used to ride up the cable car when the Incline was truly an incline as it was originally intended to be you know which was to transport things and people up the mountain, then it became a kind of tourist attraction, early 1900’s. It was a very popular ride, there were hundreds of thousands of people going up in a year you know. In summer time I would watch that thing go up and come down, there was a string of lights all the way up this mountain hill, I never, ever thought that I would be climbing the thing! The thought of it being a hiking trail it really never came up. I leave that to other people! I would hear people that would come over here, tourists and stuff that would take the train up and talk about it and that’s one of my big regrets, is that I never rode the train and actually get that experience now that I know every single inch of the place. It shut down in the 1990’s, early 1990’s The buildings on top were taken down and removed. The demolition was done in ’92, and uh, that was the end of it. Once the incline closed back in the ’90s people started just using it and experimenting with it At first it was illegal, it was trespassing, to go and do it, nobody cared There was rusted drain barrels, ties were falling down, there was still hundreds and thousands of people going up there a day even though it was technically trespassing. You know we had to basically rebuild the Incline, in order to make it legal We said, oh maybe 50, 75 thousand people might be using the Incline, if we were to open it up. We just didn’t think it would be very popular. What we have since learned is we were wrong. We have a counter that’s buried towards the bottom of the Incline and it keep track of all the uphill and the downhill traffic and it’s quite common to have 2 or 3 thousand trips logged a day. The fact that, there’s such a collection of people there, all enjoying that same experience at the same time, does give a community kind of church like atmosphere to the Incline itself. Well, I lived here probably 20 years and I had heard people talk about we’re gonna go do the Incline and it never really made any sense or impression on me, I decided I’d come over and see what it was about that was kind of the start of it all. I was here for I think, 2 days, and in the 2 days that I was here, I got up the next morning, I was like “I need to go do that again, that was awesome!” So I moved closer to the mountain, I now live in Manitou. So, just kept going back up and back up and it just became a regular thing, you know I just started doing it all the time, almost everyday It’s like the sirens calling you in, cause you can see it from all over town, it’s this ugly, straight scar and when you’re on it, it’s just railroad ties, so, you know, I think face value you’re like “well, what’s the appeal?” If you live in Manitou it stares at you everyday! It’s like, if you don’t go it kind of calls to you and guilts you a little bit, “why aren’t you up here?” Yes, from here you can see how steep it is looks like you need climbing equipment to go up there. The incline is my hiking trail believe me. That’s where I like to go. I truly do love it, sometimes I describe it as very much a good friend, You know, it’s always here, never lets me off the hook, challenge me every last single time, It never gets easy that’s for sure, you get faster but it never get’s any easier. It just works you like nothing else. It’s nothing but up, there are no downsteps on the incline, I tell people it’s only a mile! You can do it, it’s only a mile but it’s the hardest mile you’ll ever do. Nice job. When you see that big a variety of people all descending on one common trail, it just really speaks to the uniqueness of the trail itself and how hard that challenge actually is. Well, yeah I think so, after a while it becomes obsessive, it becomes part of your routine. Ever since June 1st 2007, I’ve done it 1255 times. It’s probably almost 2000 times I’ve done this thing. My wife calls it my mistress, because I like it so much, which is true. It’s just such an integral part of my day at this point. You know I think people, whether you’re amateur or you’re a professional athlete, everyone is kind of looking for a challenge, some of the greatest athletes in history have come to the Incline so it’s a good way to see where you rank up. Yeah, and there’s a whole bunch of guys which are now doing different events up here. I know people have sledded down on it. There was a lady, she’s a double amputee, did it on her hands! Oh my God! That’s just crazy. A guy walking with a parakeet or a parrot or something on his shoulder. That’s totally Manitou too, you just never know what experience you’re gonna get on it. This is a whole new territory for the Poga stick. To my knowledge no one has done this before, so I might be the first one. A world record for Mitch! That’s what I’m going for. There are now 9 of us who have done 500 ascents or more in a year, that we call the Incline 500 club, so even if you were there every single day, 365 days a year, you have to double at least 120 of those days. I mean, it’s not that easy, in addition to the 500 club, we have this thing that Brandon Stopanowich started, The Inclinathon. So it’s basically a mile up and a mile down, so one trip is 2 miles, he thought, I’ll do 13 back to back, 26 miles, there’s your marathon. Brandon I think in a 24 hour time period did 21 trips, back to back. I was just curious about what that would feel like, to go through the total failure. I spent a year trying to ascend enough elevation to reach the height of the international space station, Some of my friends said, “that’s how we do it in the 719” that’s our area code, that’s how we do it in the 719. I thought, that’s the number I want. And he hiked the Incline 719 times, and the following year I came back and hiked the Incline 1400 times! I thought “well, ok, he just dropped the gauntlet on me, so now I need to break the 1400. You gotta be there everyday, you got to do multiple trips everyday. If you do 5 trips a day, an all round trip is probably gonna cost you an hour, that’s 5 hours a day, in addition to working 9 hours a day, so you don’t have a whole lot of extra time after that. What number would work? 1 7 1 9 is our Colorado Springs long distance area code, that just became the goal and you know I was doing, 100, 150 a month, and I have a little OCD, so when that became my goal to get, nothing was gonna stop me from getting it. My 1719 is probably no more important to the person who set a goal and did one. Well done, you were quick today! So yeah, that’s just a little of the absurdity that’s going on in the world of the Incline. It should be playful, it should be fun. You can get a good work out and also have that enjoyment factor. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The first year I lived here I thought people were nuts and then I slowly started to do the Incline and I tried to do other things and there’s nothing that replaces it for me, I’ve tried. Gyms make a lot of sense but it never worked for me. Doing those machines, First I just thought it was physical, good work out, good for my heart, but now it’s uh, seems to be a highly spiritual thing. I never once in my life thought I’d be doing this, never, I’m retired you know, but it made me feel good physically, and number 2, the people up here, I mean I didn’t sit down and say “ok, I’m going start doing the Incline for that reason, but that is the reason, it just works out that way. You share this, you know this, pain and misery together up here, everybody is suffering, nobody is breezing through here you know. There’s just a feeling of mutual support, When I was running there people say “runner!” and move to the side cheering for me, these people are so friendly, that’s what I will remember the most. It just holds me together, I don’t know why. Where else does this exist in the world? It doesn’t. You know it’s home, The Incline makes Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs feel more like home. I’d even done a writing a while back, cause this is where I feel at home. It’s like coming home or something like that, It’s just a great place, and a great part of the country, I just love the weather here and the people and I don’t know what I’d do without it. This is where I’m home!