Feeling Inclined

hike copyA journey of 2000 feet begins with a single step.

That’s what I told my kids as we gazed up a popular and foreboding hiking trail known as “The Incline” in Colorado. It’s a crude staircase of railroad ties rising 2000 feet of elevation in just under a mile.

Yep, we were about to conquer the world!
(A little piece of it anyway.)

My kids’ excitement about this activity didn’t match mine. Their responses to my motivational prompts were, “I thought this was supposed to be a vacation?” and “You can’t make me!”

They’re old enough and big enough that the second threat is true, but I said I could deny them a ride home, which would force another hike, and nullify the promise of a fabulous treat. The kid that can drive made a move for the car keys in my pocket, but I dodged her and ceremoniously placed my foot on the first step hoping they’d follow.

In some ways, the first steps into a challenge are the most difficult. You’re not fatigued yet, but you’ve committed and backing out would make you a quitter. On step twenty my daughter said between gasps, “This is horrible!”

This was definitely not going to be the stairway to heaven.

Music! That’s what we needed; some jammin’ tunes to pace us. I cued up a workout playlist on my iPhone and cranked it, which unfortunately is much louder in an enclosed space than in the wild expanse. The plinking beat helped some though, until a Michael Bublé cha cha came on. My son quickened his pace to lose me and my daughter slowed hers for the same reason (and others). I defended my crooner, “Hey, some if his songs have a legit cardio beat!” Yelling competed with breathing, so I turned my focus to the task at hand.

Approaching the halfway mark, I regretted Googling information about this hike to learn of an alternate “Wimp-out” trail head there. At least I hadn’t told my kids about it. I also didn’t tell them I read on Wikipedia that “there is no vehicle access to the trail and anyone injured or suffering a medical emergency will have to walk or be carried down by other hikers.” I was quickly regretting this exclusion since the possibility of them becoming a team of pack mules was increasing.

What I did tell them about the hike is that it’s a former cable railway with a rich and controversial history. I told them Olympic gold medalist Apollo Ohno climbed it in record time. I told them of incredible trail accomplishments, like the guy who hiked it 22 times consecutively in 24 hours. I told them how a challenge can seem impossible in the thick of it, but conquering it gives a great sense of accomplishment. I told them . . .

“Mom, stop! We’re doing it, so can the trivia and pep talks!”

We eventually made it.

After some rest and water, we stood at the top and took some selfies. My kids talked about posting the pics on Facebook and Instagram so their friends could see the “cool hard” thing they did on vacation. They used the word “vacation” in conjunction with this activity.

A very good sign.

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