Story and photo by Andrea Stone
As the sun peaked over the horizon, a steady stream of cars flowed into the Pikes Peak Cog Railway parking lot, many of them headed for the Manitou Incline.
The incline, a former cable car route that climbs 2,000 feet in the course of a mile, officially became legal to hike Feb. 1.
“It’s a wonderful place to do (physical training),” said Anneliesa Barta, Sustainable Fort Carson planner. “With that legalization comes a new set of rules. We’re hoping to educate units on using the land without overwhelming it.”
The increase in early morning traffic has also led to some concerns. Parking is limited, some of the roads are private, and the noise level can be bothersome to nearby residents.
“They’re doing their chants and things, and I’m thinking, ‘Guys, it’s 6 o’clock in the morning. There’s people trying to sleep here,’” said Roger Austin, longtime incline hiker.
Although, he’s quick to add that Soldiers are generally polite and most people don’t resent them for being there.
“A lot of folks are happy to see them here. When they deploy, you want them as fit as possible … It’s nice to see them going up with their ruck sacks,” he said.
Capt. Rob Clark, commander, Company A, 3rd Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, tries to do company PT on the incline at the end of every month to enhance esprit de corps.
“The Soldiers like it. It gives them the opportunity to see what Colorado Springs has to offer. Without this, a lot of the Soldiers wouldn’t get out of the barracks.”
There are solutions to the issues on the hill. In May, Manitou Springs began offering a free shuttle service that runs along Manitou Avenue with stops at Memorial Park and the incline. The service is scheduled to run until Sept. 7. The buses hold about 25 people and run every 20 minutes from 6-10 a.m., and every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Soldiers can also carpool, a more economical option since the city began charging for parking. Parking in the cog railway lot is $5 per car, and as tourist traffic picks up over the summer, there may be fewer spaces available.
Regardless of where Soldiers choose to park, they need to be attentive. “(When) a whole group of Soldiers comes up, they have to be able to park correctly or they’re going to get ticketed. The parking authority drives up and down Ruxton (Avenue) looking for that sort of thing,” said Steve Bremner, president of Incline Friends and local resident.
Austin has advice for anyone using the incline: “Don’t use car alarms. Try to be quiet and respectful of the people who live there.”
But he understands why Soldiers want to use the incline for PT.
“You just get hooked. The views are beautiful. The sunrises are incredible. … You can’t get a more intense workout anywhere. It’s only one mile, but it’s the toughest mile you’ll ever do,” he said.