This story was saved from the July 24, 1999 Out There section of the

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Private property or not, incline offers challenge


By Todd Burgess/The Gazette

The incline, a 1.02-mile stretch of gravel and railroad ties in Manitou Springs, awakens some powerful emotions in the people who exercise on it.

“It’s a love-hate relationship,” said Dave Williams, 50, a physical-education teacher and assistant football coach at Mitchell High School. “You hate it when you’re in the middle of it. When you’re at the top, you love it.”

In the nine years since the Mount Manitou Scenic Incline Railway closed, the route has lured hundreds of runners and hikers seeking a challenging workout. What most don’t know, however, is that a large chunk of it is private property and closed to the public.

The first 1,000 feet of the incline are owned by the City of Colorado Springs, and the top 600 feet are owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The middle portion is owned by the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad and that part has never been open to the public, said Doug Doane, the cog railroad’s general manager.

The Railroad plans to put up signs at the start of its incline property to discourage trespassing, Doane said. Cog railroad officials have not prosecuted people for trespassing on the incline, but they want folks to stay away.

“I would just encourage people to respect that,” Doane said.

The incline gains 2,011 feet, topping out at 8,585 feet. It takes approximately 2,696 steps to get to the top. In comparison, the Empire State Building gains 1,224 feet and has 1,860 steps to the observatory on the 102nd floor.

It’s that sheer steepness that temps people to make it to the top.

Williams hikes the incline twice a week. Like many users of the incline, he was unaware he was on private property.

“It’s fun to watch all the different people,” he noted. “All the different lifestyles and body types. You see people with boots on, running shoes. People even bring their dogs. It’s a social event.”

On a recent evening, Maryls Cobb celebrated her first trip up.

“I’m a great example of a 44-year-old woman who isn’t in good shape, but I did it and lived to tell about it,” said Cobb, who spent 1 1/2 hours going up. “I might even think about doing it again, in a month or two.”

When Sue Green made it to the top here first time, in 90 minutes, she didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“It was easier than I thought it would be,” she said. “I’ve been hearing horror stories for months now, about the false summit and how I would have to climb with my hands in parts.”

“I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. All of my friends that are athletes are always saying how hard it is, how they feel like they’re dying.”

Accompanying Green was Karen Mitchell, hiking the incline for her second time and lowering her time from 2 hours to 90 minutes.

She said it was much easier the second time.

“I knew what to expect,” Mitchell said.

“The first time the false summit got me. This time I had a time goal, a benchmark, and I knew I was going to do it faster. It was just when, not if.”

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