The Manitou Incline
     Okay, the title may be a slight exaggeration.  However, if you examine the above photo you will notice a harmless little crack going straight up the mountain.  That crack is "The Manitou Incline" or "The Manitou Challenge" and, yes, it also is know by locals as "the most beautiful trail I ever puked on."  The Incline is a hike of 0.88 miles to the top of a mountain overlooking Manitou Springs, Colorado. During this short distance you gain over 2,000' in elevation and conclude over 10,000' above sea-level.  Hundreds of people attempt this challenge every day and quite a few make it. However, the hike is not for the feint-hearted as it is a dangerous and strenuous endeavor.  There have been a lot of injuries, including heart attacks.  In fact, on the day of my hike I watched an EMT crew of around 20 volunteers attempt to rescue a lady with a broken ankle.  On my hike I experienced lightheadedness, shortness of breath and mild nausea.  The guy I was hiking with informed me that he had a "breakfast burrito" for his high-energy breakfast (Eurrp!!!).  (After we arrived at the halfway point I no longer saw him on the trail.)
The Incline doesn't look like much from this view at the start.
However, those stairs soon become more like climbing a ladder
with the angle of accent reaching 69 degrees!
The view of Manitou Springs from the top of the Incline.
Since the Incline is too dangerous to hike straight down
there is a 4+ mile trail around the mountain back to town.
     Our next stop was Twin Lakes, Colorado.  Twin Lakes is a small town consisting of a few houses, an inn and a general store.  However, the town is located on a beautiful lake at the base of several 14,000 footers.  In fact, from our National Forest campground we overlooked the lake and had a 360 degree view of the surrounding Rockies.  This was one of our most beautiful campgrounds.
The view from our campsite in Twin Lakes.
     While in Twin Lakes we toured the towns of Leadville, Frisco and Breckenridge.  Frisco and Breckenridge are cute, up-scale ski resort towns which reinvent themselves into summer resorts with tons of outdoor activities.  
     My favorite trip from Twin Lakes was over the Independence Pass.  I've been over a lot of mountain passes and Independence clearly rates among the best.  The views of the snow capped Rockies overlooking mountain valleys with waterfalls and meandering mountain streams were spectacular.  The pass is over 12,000' above sea level and at the top the mountain meadows were in full bloom with a riot of colors from the alpine wildflowers.
A view from the road up to Independence Pass.
Independence Pass

An alpine meadow at Independence Pass.
     Aspen is the town at the other end of the drive over Independence Pass.  Aspen is a big ski town located in a pretty valley.  The town defines the term "up-scale" with corresponding rip-off prices and heavy traffic congestion.  However, in addition to Independence Pass the town is the home of Maroon Bells National Recreation Area.  Maroon Bells is one of those not-to-be-missed day trips featuring a beautiful ride up a mountain valley to alpine lakes which are surrounded by uniquely shaped and colored peaks.  

Maroon Bells National Recreation Area.
     The highlight of the Maroon Bells trip was that the "Meandering Moose" finally got to see a moose casually catching a bite to eat in one the park's streams.  
The meandering moose of the Maroon Bells.
     We are currently on Blue Mesa Reservoir outside of Gunnison, Colorado.  This is a wonderful location for visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Lake City, and Crested Butte.        The National Park is beautiful.  It is a massive gorge carved by the Gunnison River which flows 2,000' below.  At places the gorge can be as narrow as 40' and at the top there is one spot on where the north rim and south rim are only separated by 1,100'.  The tour of the park involves traveling to a variety scenic viewpoints and hikes which look directly into this fantastic gorge.  Even from 2,000' above you can clearly hear the Gunnison River roaring through the gorge.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
     On the day we toured Crested Butte there was a huge art festival.  As we were walking into the festival we saw 2 police officers carrying shotguns and running toward us.  It turned out that a fun-loving, very large black bear decided to attend the festival.  After passing near some of the artist's tents it became a little agitated so it decided to enjoy the festival from a convenient observation post high in one of the trees. 
The Crested Butte bear hiding in a tree overlooking the art festival.
Crested Butte
     The town of Crested Butte is another ski town but had a less pretentious feel to it. We enjoyed the festival, had lunch, and toured the scenic mountain area before being driven out by a huge thunder-boomer.
Crested Butte area.
Crested Butte area.
     This is the conclusion of our 16 day experiment to live "off grid."  In other words, stayed in camping areas with no water, electric or sewer.  We lived only off the water we carried and were powered solely by the sun.  This presented a few challenges but our living expenses were dirt cheap. Even after 16 days it looks like we could go a few more days before needing to dump and bring more water on-board.  This is good practice for us as we plan to do a lot of boondocking this winter.
     Tomorrow, it is off the Ouray, Silverton, Telluride and the Million Dollar Highway.


  1. Amazing landscape you explored and photographed. You are like pioneers. In a big rig with conveniences but sort of... especially without plumbing and electricity!


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