On Sunday, I did the hour-long trek down to Manitou Springs (perhaps the most charming town I've been in since we left Chagrin Falls) to run with the Incline Club. The route for the day was the Barr Trail to Barr Camp (elevation 10,200 feet) and back. My goal was to get to at least 11,000 feet on Pikes Peak. Here's a photo of the members of the Incline Club signing in at Memorial Park, right on the outskirts of downtown Manitou Springs, before our run:
It's hard to put into words my thoughts on and feeling of Pikes Peak, because it is such a magnificent natural wonder that is full of surprises. Pikes Peak soars to 14,100 feet. From where I live in Parker, it looks like a huge mountain out there by itself. The photo directly above kind of gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. But Pikes Peak isn't alone. Pikes Peak is located amongst many mountains and on the edge of the Rockies, but it is the biggest in the immediate area and probably the most celebrated and famous of Colorado's 14'ers. On sunny mornings, it practically glows. The Barr Trail forms the longest base-to-summit trail in Colorado. You can read a short history of Pikes Peak here, but the foremost authority on Pikes Peak as a big playground for runners and outdoor enthusiasts is none other than Matt Carpenter, co-founder of the Incline Club who has written the most detailed description of the trail that you'll ever come across.
To get a sense of the challenge of the Barr Trail, here's the sign that greets you at the trailhead:
The Barr Trail affords the most spectacular views I've ever experienced and delivers the ultimate trail running experience. The first few miles up the Barr Trail are totally vertical as you navigate challenging switchbacks on Rocky Mountain. There are some fairly flat sections after Rocky Mountain where you can catch your breath and prepare for the next climb while appreciating the aspen forests, meadows, rock formations and views all around you. At a number of points you can see the peak itself--a breathtaking site. Here's one such example:
At 10,200 feet you come upon a welcome site--Barr Camp. Barr Camp has been there since 1921 and is operated by a very nice couple, Teresa and Neal Taylor. When I arrived there I felt like I'd come home. As I didn't have cash to buy a few pancakes and make a donation (though I'm sure they'd have given me a pancake if I asked, but I didn't because I wasn't that desperate), I didn't stick around long--just long enough to say hello to the Taylors, quickly converse with another Incline Club runner and head back to the trail. With my Camelbak backpack still quite full and two gels, I didn't need to refuel at Barr Camp, though pancakes would have been nice. Here's a photo of the Barr Camp sign that greets you:
The journey became increasingly challenging after Barr Camp as my breathing became more labored and I encountered very rocky, technical trail, especially near the Bottomless Pit area. (Next time I'm on the trail I'm going to check out Bottomless Pit for the views. It is also the unfortunate site of a number of suicides.) Here's a photo showing what I mean by rocky and technical: