Opting Outside to Hike the Incline

Yesterday, I hiked the Manitou Incline as part of Opt Outside, and I’m grateful I did.

Most people reading this probably know about the Incline and Opt Outside, but just in case:

The Incline is a short and punchy hike in Manitou Springs that ascends 2,000 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile up railroad ties. I previously blogged about it in this post a few years ago.

Speaking of Opt Outside, REI launched it in 2015 to motivate people to get outside on Black Friday instead of fighting crowds indoors to buy stuff.

This day has really taken off, since at least 16 million people have posted to Instagram using #optoutside. Pretty crazy.

I have participated each of the years since it started, whether hiking, biking or climbing. Of course, I don’t need a campaign to motivate me to get outside, but I’ll take the excuse 🙂 And for me, the day has even deeper significance than celebrating the outdoors.

The day falls after Thanksgiving—a time when I’m already primed with gratitude.

Thankful to Opt Outside

When I head outside on Black Friday, I’m stoked to enjoy fresh air, nature and beautiful landscapes of open spaces or parks. But I’m not just grateful in an abstract sense. I’m thankful to God because he created these spaces and wild places, knowing that they would provide refreshment, relaxation and a much needed “reset.”

He knew that our modern society would force us indoors more and more that breathing all of the manufactured air and living a sedentary lifestyle would kill us slowly.

Case in point: much of my work these days involves writing, content creation and managing websites. After a long workday on the screen, (or sometimes in the middle of it) I don’t just want to get outside; I need to get outside and move.

And so I am grateful that God provided such outlets. Psalms 107:21 seems to sum it up: “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”

My Incline adventure

So, with thankfulness in my heart, on Friday morning I showed up to the Incline about 7:30 a.m.

While hardly a wilderness experience, this short hike gives lot of bang for your buck, offering beautiful views while easily giving you as much cardio as a hard run. It usually takes less than 1:30 car to car, depending how you descend, which helps me return early enough so my wife and kids could enjoy the day, too.

Opting outside is a family necessity, too.

Pandemic changes on the Incline

This year’s hike on the Incline would be a little different, considering the pandemic. Because of Covid-19 guidelines, hiking the Incline now requires registering for a free permit in advance, so they can limit the number of people who hike it. In fact, I noticed probably as few as 1/10 of the normal crowds.

Another difference is that by city ordinance, hikers must wear a face mask in Manitou Springs, even outside.

I noticed that most people ascended maskless, which I later discovered is ok. But I still put mine on whenever I passed anyone, as a courtesy. However, I will say wearing the mask made it super difficult to breathe (surprise!) as the altitude already pushed me toward the redline anyway.

Keeping a fairly casual pace, I reached the top in a decent time. Though, considering I currently live in the Flatlands, it’s hard to feel very strong on this hike.

That wasn’t always the case. In the first couple years of our marriage, my wife and I lived in Colorado Springs and made the Incline a regular thing. Maybe someday we could be locals again?

Once I reached the top, I enjoyed views of the early morning Colorado crystalline blue over the valley. I love the Centennial State.

Descending with gratitude

No longer so hampered my need for oxygen, I pondered some more things I’m grateful for on the 3-mile descent of Barr Trail.

Rounding out this year’s list includes my family and extended family and also health—some of them weathered Covid-19). I’m also thankful for our friends, and that the non profit I started, Hope Has Arrived, continues to grow, which might be one of the few blessings of the pandemic.

I’m also grateful for how the people of Manitou Springs have adapted with rules that help keep people safe on the Incline, instead of just shutting it down. It’s great to see many cities and states that continue to preserve and protect public lands.

I look forward to opting outside again next year. And in the meantime, I still have another 364 days to get out there as well.

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