Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Incline

I am not an outdoorsy kind of gal.  I hate being sweaty and I hate bugs.  I especially hate doing anything that feels like working out, but not as much as I hate not having access to indoor plumbing - homegirl needs to wash her hands whenever she thinks she needs to.  I had a nightmare of an experience camping outdoors when I was 12 years old (I still can't even think about it, *chills down my spin,* it was awful) and vowed to never camp outdoors ever again.  Except, I did go camping again, with friends when Isabelle was just a baby, thinking that maybe that one time when I was young was a only fluke of horrible events that couldn't possibly repeat themselves.  I hear that camping is a thing that people do; that those people actually enjoy camping.... outside... in tents.  So maybe I missed something the first time, maybe I wasn't being fair about the whole sleeping outside... in the dirt... with bugs...and no a/c... or protection from the elements... that thing that people call "camping."  {That camping thing would have been a gosh damned luxury compared to the experience I had when I was 12 years old, though.}  It turned out, that camping sucks as an adult too, and I hated it only a teeny bit less than when I was younger; validating what I already knew, I am not an outdoorsy kind of gal.

But what I lack in the outdoorsy thing I make up for in ambition, a love for adventure, and a romantic heart, and I kinda feel like all of that makes up for hating the whole camping thing.
I love seeing new places.  
I love setting a crazy goal and actually doing it.  
But I especially love going on a new adventure with my man by my side.  
So when my husband wanted to hike part of the Appalachian Trail a few months ago, I knew that I was all in - even if there weren't sinks along the trail so that I could wash my hands whenever I needed to.  I was all in!

But what I didn't expect, was to fall madly in love with hiking with my husband.  


The Manitou Incline!  These two pictures were taken a few hours apart.


Eric had some leave to burn, so I suggested that we go to Colorado Springs for a few days to climb the Incline!  The Incline was something I came across on Pinterest while researching other trails to hike, I had never heard of it before, my husband hadn't either when I first mentioned it.  But I'm so lucky to have married a man with the same adventurous spirit who rarely, if ever, says no to me, so he didn't even think twice about indulging my romantic idea, especially when it meant a couple of days out of town just the two of us.

Just like I thought Eric's idea of hiking to McAfee Knob was crazy, he thought my idea of climbing the Manitou Incline was insane.  And I have to admit, climbing a 1 mile long staircase that gains 2,000 feet in elevation was a romantic notion that I didn't think all the way through.

Essentially, the Incline is a giant mile long staircase going up the side of a mountain, and is considered either 'extreme' or 'difficult' depending on which link you decide to click on in the internet universe.  But since Eric and I are amateur hikers, I will confidently call the Incline 'extreme.'
It was really hard for me to capture the entire Incline in my pictures because my pictures aren't all that great, but also because I didn't really get what I was taking a picture of - blame the romantic heart that never consults with the very smart brain attached to the body it operates, but you can see in the first picture straight ahead that that it is truly a staircase all the way up to the tippy top. Except that that is not the actual tippy top, that is the false summit, beyond that point there are about 300 more stairs straight UP to the actual top.  

To help visualize it a little better, I've included a video of the Incline that I found on YouTube: 



Here we go!  Let's get this party started!

Looking up the Incline....

....Looking down at where it starts.

Don't let pictures or the video fool you, it is not an actual staircase - those are railroad ties that were used for cable cars way back when.  Those ties are not evenly spaced or level, they only help to reinforce the Incline, not to help you get to the top.  The incline is very steep the entire way up (41% gradient) but there are parts where it is a 68% gradient!  At the steepest parts of the Incline you have to climb it like a ladder!

A ladder!

It's also at high elevation, which makes breathing difficult, but gaining 2,000 feet in elevation in one mile makes breathing extremely difficult.  Maybe it goes without saying because you already know that I hate most everything outdoors, but I am not athletic.  I've got the whole watching documentaries on Netflix all day long down pat, but I've never been outdoorsy or athletic, and even amateur hiking takes at least a little bit of athleticism.  The Incline is the ultimate workout!  It's hard, and makes your muscles and lungs hurt.  I had done a little bit of research before our trip and the tips that I found were to: 1) Stay hydrated - thankfully, when we were climbing it was cooler than normal for the time of year, so we weren't combating humidity and heat, but we still stayed mindful to keep hydrated, especially since it's only been a couple of months since my seizure and there is concern that another seizure could be lurking, and 2) Go slow!  Go slower than you think you should - pace yourself and stop when you need to to catch your breath, however many times you need to.









The people at the bottom of the picture are climbing up the Incline - this gives you a little perspective of how steep it is because I am standing on the Incline pointing my camera straight ahead of me.



Going slow is what I did.  I especially took the "go slow" advice to heart.  For me, the hardest part of the climb was the elevation.  It was so hard for me to catch my breath; there was never a point on the Incline where I felt like I could breathe very well.  Even being in our hotel room it was difficult for me to breath freely because Colorado Springs is more than 3,000 feet higher than what I'm used to here in El Paso.  I took a LOT of breaks during our hike.  So when I saw that there were little chipmunks along the trail that are so used to people that they crawl right up on to your lap, I totally took it as an excuse to rest and take pictures.  I unabashedly took breaks. 

There is a point on the Incline where the Barr Trail intersects about 3/4's of the way up to the top where you can call it quits and take a nice leisurely (but longer) stroll back down to the parking lot if you want.  Also, there is a false summit.  Tricky little bastard.  The entire way up the Incline your eyes focus on the tippy top, the end, the ultimate goal.... except that that it isn't the tippy top!  There are 300 more stairs straight UP to the actual tippy top of the Incline.  

The false summits only goal in this world is to make you want to cry and give up.



But we didn't give up.  And we didn't take the temptation of the Barr Trail - I actually gave that trail a big fat middle finger on my way past it as I bear crawled up more of the Incline (but just a middle finger in my head because there were people all over the place and I'm not inappropriate or disrespectful in real life.  But if anything ever deserved a real life middle finger, it's that Barr trail with it's temptation to derail me from my goals.  Jerk.).  

Eric and I came to Manitou Springs to climb the Incline, and dammit, that's what we were going to do!  But it was at this point that Eric had to take my camera away from me (he was the one carrying the backpack) because the rest of the way up was pretty much straight up that we had to crawl up like a ladder, and since it was hard for me to breathe I kept getting dizzy, and he wanted me to pay attention to keeping myself on the mountain, not to my camera.  My man knows good and well that I'd ball myself around my camera to protect it as I rolled and bounced down the mountain because I care more about taking pictures than being careful.

And then... all of a sudden.... WE WERE AT THE TOP!  The actual top!  The for real top of the Incline!  

WE DID IT!  

What had been a crazy idea just a few weeks ago, was now an accomplishment!  

We did it!  We totally did it!

I couldn't stop taking pictures and selfies, my happiness could have been measured in the number of selfies I took.  

I was so happy!  And I was so proud of ourselves!

We totally climbed the Incline!


Do you see the man in the background bear crawling up to the top?  That's what it took in some parts in order to make it to the top.





The thing about hiking that I never knew existed until we hiked to McAfee Knob, and was probably the single biggest reason why I fell in love with it as much as I did, is how nice everyone is!  I'm talking more nice than I've personally ever been in my entire life, and I'd like to think I'm a pretty nice person!  People hiking on the same trails as you are so friendly and encouraging, and you truly feel like you know them.  People go out of their way to encourage you.  And it's contagious!  Before you know it, you're cheering someone else on and then you've made another friend!  And then they cheer someone else, who in turn cheers you on, and it just keeps going.

When I finally made my way to the top (Eric had beat me by a good 10 minutes) there was an entire group of people hoot'n & hollerin everyone that was within minutes of the actual tippy top.  It was so invigorating!  

Eric and I took some time at the top resting our lungs and legs, and then partaking in the cheering of everyone behind us making their way to the top.  We took selfies, took pictures for other people, and rested our lungs some more.  It was so beautiful up there!  But we couldn't stay forever.  There was a hot shower and a bottle of wine waiting for us at the bottom, which was incentive enough to get going.

It is not recommended to hike down the Incline the same way that you went up.  The Incline is so steep with uneven and loose rail ties and metal spikes scattered throughout the path that you risk losing control because of the momentum and being impaled by a spike (apparently it's happened).  Instead, you are encouraged to take the 4 mile hike down the Barr Trail back to the parking lot (however, there were a lot of people going down the Incline who I wondered if they weren't crazy or something, but I secretly couldn't help stare at them with my mouth gaping open in adoration and amazement as they expertly navigated each step without a single moments hesitation).








 Another little chipmunk!  This little fella looked right at me and asked for an almond so politely that I couldn't refuse.  It was truly a princess living in the woods-esque moment.


I was absolutely in love with life at this moment. 



There was no comparison between the Incline and the Barr Trail, or even between the small part of the Appalachian Trail we hiked and the Barr Trail, but because our legs were screaming at us from the Incline, it was a little harder than we anticipated.  We relied on the high we were feeling from our newest accomplishment and the bottle of wine waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain to get our asses back to the car, otherwise we probably would still be up there.

We took our time though, and truly enjoyed the hike back down.  The scenery was stunning.  El Paso is pretty in it's own way, but it'll never be Colorado, and we fully inhaled all that we could.  

We went to Colorado for the sole purpose of climbing the Incline, so we didn't have a lot of time to spend doing much of anything else.  For the rest of our time (after the most amazing showers ever) we wandered through the adorable city center, bought a few souvenirs, Eric played some old video games from his childhood at the arcade, and then we met with Eric's family for celebratory drinks in downtown Colorado Springs for the remainder of the night.

It could not have been a more perfect day!











I have NO idea what I've done in my life to get so lucky as to be able to think of these crazy ideas and then have the Universe align in a way that allows me to actually do them.  I can only give credit to the good Lord who made my crazy little spirit and put into this body, and who led me to the Godly man who was even crazier for falling in the love with me (that's a lot of crazy.... and very much the secret to our marriage).  So because of Him here we are.... living for each moment, living for each other, and living for this life that He so generously created.  

And now, here I am, sitting here on my couch blogging about our latest adventure, feeling like nothing is too crazy of an idea or too far out of reach- knowing now that we can do anything!  And here I am, sitting on my couch sipping a glass of wine with sore muscles thanking God that hiking with my husband is nothing like camping outside in gosh damned tents.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

San Antonio, Texas

Sometimes, you just need to get out of town for a little bit.  Get a way with the one that you love for a minute, ya know?  You know that all of your problems will be there waiting for you when you get back home, but for just a few days, you can go somewhere and forget about everything.

That's how Eric and I were feeling.  We needed to go away for a couple of days.  

So we jumped in the car and headed to San Antonio, Texas!  The only city that we really care to see in the entire State that we now call home.

The Alamo!  Actually, this is only the church on the grounds of the Alamo.  The Alamo was an entire compound, it's a misconception that the church is the actual Alamo. 



The Emily Morgan Hotel


Eric has beef with Texas - I assume it stems from his childhood, but no matter which angle I take to try to sneak into his childhood psychology, he just shrugs his shoulders and simply says: "I hate Texas."  Maybe it is that simple, but jeez, the man really hates Texas.  So San Antonio is probably as far as we will explore while we are living here.  I might convince him to visit Waco and the Magnolia Market - but considering his hate for Texas, and my hate for the whole farmhouse home decorating craze going on right now (I am a fan of the show though), that's a trip that's not even on our bucket list, soooo... I've got a fat chance of that trip ever happening.

San Antonio is like 7-8 hours away from our home, which didn't seem like a big deal when I was Google-mapping the distances to everything, but within an hour of driving, Eric and I both looked at each other at the same time and said: "TOO SOON!"  And then we laughed because we do that all the time but it's never not funny or a little weird, even after 11 years together.  But seriously, it was just too damn soon being back in the car for another long road trip after only one month since our hellacious trip to get to El Paso.  But, there we were....back in the car..... again.... driving for a really long time.  Getting out of town seemed like that was exactly what we needed, until we were actually in the car.... driving for forever.... with nothing to look at but the desert.... and then it all of a sudden didn't seem like it was worth it anymore.  

Eric reminded me again how much he hates Texas.  

But we eventually made it to San Antonio, and no part of a stupidly long car ride stopped us from exploring San Antonio the way that we do on a last minute romantic trip with just the two of us.... an open mind, no pajama's packed, and not much of a plan!


The hospital where Carol Burnett was born.  If there was ever a movie made of my life, I would want Carol Burnett to play my Grandma Sue. 

The Menger Bar is where Teddy Roosevelt recruited Texas cowboy's for the "Rough Riders" in the late 1800's.  Eric and I got some drinks here, it was really dark in there but so beautiful!  We sort of lost track of time.... it was perfect!

The Menger Hotel (the Menger Bar is attached to this hotel) is the most haunted hotel in all of Texas!  There are 38 different spirits haunting this one hotel.





 The Buckhorn Saloon and Museum.

Eric standing outside the oldest VFW in Texas.  Eric is a member of the VFW (Veteran's of Foreign Wars).















Since Eric and I just sort of.... left town, I didn't plan anything for our weekend away.  I did manage to book a hotel in a great location, and hop-on/hop-off tickets so that we could see as much as we possibly could without having to think about anything, but that was it.  Neither one of us wanted to think about anything, we just wanted to get out of town and have fun, without doing any work or worrying about what to do or not to do.  

And it didn't even bother me that we didn't have a plan!

If we wanted to stop somewhere, we did.  If we didn't want to stop somewhere, we didn't, and then got a drink instead.  If we wanted to tour a museum or Mission, we did.  If we wanted to have a drink (or three) at 10:00 in the morning, we totally did!  And if we wanted to go back to the hotel and take a nap at 2:00 in the afternoon, we did that too.  Eric and I slept in every morning and ate all the carbs we wanted.  {Back story: Eric and I are on a very low-carb/no sugar diet right now, we combined that with our already clean-eating and it's going really well!  So well that I wouldn't call it a "diet," it's more of a way of life for us now.  I could not physically handle the amount of sugar/carbs that we were eating just a few months ago, and I know that for a fact since I'm writing this blog post after our trip, and after our experience of eating all the carbs we wanted, because, you know, that's what you do on vacation.  So since we ate all the carbs we wanted in San Antonio, I can confidently tell you that eating all the carbs/sugar/starch you want after a month of not eating any of that is a bad idea.  Bad.  So bad.  Your gut won't give a hoot that you're on vacation.  Trust me.  Cringe.  Shudder.}  Anywho... like I was saying, we did what we wanted!  My husband and I didn't pay attention to anything on our trip, except each other.  


The River Walk

6 tiny babies!





We spent the majority of our last day in San Antonio on the River Walk because we wanted to save the best for last.  The River Walk is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River - it was beautiful and romantic.  The canals make an almost completely separate city underneath San Antonio, and we thoroughly explored every part of it.  

Eric and I took a riverboat cruise (because that is an obviously touristy thing to do and we are the ultimate obvious tourists), and then we walked back and forth along the canals.  The canals conveniently linked every thing we wanted to see to our hotel, they made everything so easy and ensured that Eric and I didn't have to think about anything more difficult than what we wanted to drink at the next bar or restaurant.  
We truly did not have a care in the world!  For our last night in San Antonio we ate dinner at a restaurant along the River Walk knowing full well that we were paying way too much just because of its location, and didn't mind at all - it was the best way to end our getaway-from-it-all weekend.

Statue of Saint Anthony - San Antonio's namesake.









I'll eventually sneak my way into little 7 year old Eric's psychology to figure out why he hates Texas so much, but until then he's going to have to suffer through a few years of living here.  I don't think he'd argue though, that San Antonio was exactly what we needed!  Don't let him fool you, we had a blast... in Texas! {sarcastic winky face at Eric}

My husband and I were able to run away for a weekend and spend a couple of days alone together, not having to worry about anything but each other.  And I feel like when things in the world hit you a little harder than you expect, or when you encounter toxic people and they take from you your energy that you weren't willing to give, concentrating on the person you love and their goodness that sustains you, is grounding in the most valuable way.  His love makes me stronger.  And he knows that sometimes.... I just need to get out of town for a little bit.