This trail is extremely difficult.
This trail is not for unfit individuals.
It is not recommended that children attempt the incline.
For a successful experience, consult your physician.
This is considered an advanced hike.
Van Dyk Kids:
Hold our Gatorade.
That’s right! just two days after our hike had mom and dad questioning their calling as “good” parents, we took the kids to the Manitou Incline. 2,744 rail-road ties embedded in the side of a mountain for the sole (remaining) purpose to be climbed. For the Holland locals, it is kind of like Mt. Baldy, 10 times, with thinner air, and arguably better scenery.
Built as a funicular in 1907 the Manitou Incline was originally used to access water tanks at the top of the mountain. The tanks were to be used for gravity-fed water pressure to Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs. After a brief utilitarian life, it was naturally converted to a tourist destination with a summit house at the top to sell overprice trinkets and water. (Some of this data is from Wikipedia, the rest is opined by the author). In 1990 a rock slide washed out the rail bed and the Pikes Peak Cog Railway who had been running the track, decided not to repair it. Cue the enterprising mountain folk who decided to use it as a trail, training location, and likely the fodder of many late night brainstorming sessions at the local watering holes.
Team Van Dyk started off strong finishing the first 10-20% of the mountain with little trouble. We had spend time the night before preparing the kids for a challenge and encouraging them to push through the tough parts, because this was something difficult yet knew (did we????) they could do it. As we climbed we met people on the way down who were obviously training, how they RAN DOWN A MOUTNAIN with narrow steps is mind blowing because I would surely stumble and fly/roll down the rest of the hill. We also met people on the way up and offered (and received) words of encouragement. Kristi and I rarely got any positive feedback, our kids were all told they were special for their efforts. As the kids faced more fatigue we took stops every 10% up the mountain for water or snacks. In between we each had our own cadence of steps to rest that we employed to make the ascent easier. This was all Kristi’s idea, I would have just kept going and told the kids to toughen up.
2/3 up the mountain, roughly 1,800 steps up, is a bailout to the local Barr Trail which lets the weary hearted and weak willed (and I’ll allow for medically induced decisions) climbers to exit the trail safely and make their way back to the camp. As we climbed we were near a man in his early 30’s and what I can only assume was a family member or older friend. At first I thought he might be John Legere of T-Mobile, but John would have never taken the bailout, this guy did. Up we climbed until around the 2,400 step mark when we found a mother and her daughter who were also climbing up. Mom (Grandma) lived at the base of the trail, and the daughter came from Louisiana, so this must have been a real shock to her. We struck up a conversation and our kids did the rest. Mom went up ahead to get a picture of her daughter and in the process took a few of our kids as well which she shard with Kristi. Ben was the first to summit, then Madeleine, followed by Kayleigh, Kristi, Josh, and Steve. The record time up the roughly 1-mile hill is 17:25 which we just missed, coming in at just over 2.25 hours.
After what remained of our food supplies we started our trip down the Barr Trail which was nice, but it turns out the way down was mentally harder than the way up. I think the kids had just used up all their mental fortitude to get up the hill, and reverted to young kids/family on the way down. Regardless, Kristi and I were just so proud that they made it and no one tumbled their way too far down the mountain. The trip to the bottom took nearly as long as the hike up, but the kids were obviously thrilled to have it over with.
Before we could return to the house we had to find a shirt for Madeleine, so in to Manitou Spring we went for a post hike snack and some shopping. To help reclaim our “good” parent status we did make the kids model their new threads. All in all, a good day and we certainly earned our dinner.