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Manitou Incline 4.0: A by-the-numbers look at the improved trail

November 22, 2017 Updated: November 27, 2017 at 8:37 pm
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photo - Hugo Benitez walks past improvements he and other workers from Timberline Landscaping have made to the upper reaches of the Incline trail on Friday, November 17, 2017. New timbers, anchor cables, new retaining walls and drains and erosion netting were added to the trail.

(The Gazette, Nadav Soroker)
Hugo Benitez walks past improvements he and other workers from Timberline Landscaping have made to the upper reaches of the Incline trail on Friday, November 17, 2017. New timbers, anchor cables, new retaining walls and drains and erosion netting were added to the trail. (The Gazette, Nadav Soroker) 

Regular users of the Manitou Incline have returned to the mountainside stair stepper and found themselves in what looks like an unfamiliar place.

The highest portion of the region's most popular trail has been transformed beyond recognition.

The city of Colorado Springs' much-anticipated third and final phase of multimillion-dollar repairs is complete. And compared with the 2014 and '16 makeovers to the trail's middle and bottom, the latest is most staggering - "amazing and more than necessary," said Fred Baxter, among devout users.

The Incline's upper stretch once looked like a life-size Jenga failure. The hillsides were strewn with ties, and those on the former railway were loose and jagged and ran amok with rebar and rusted, cracked culverts.

Now the trail is a uniform spine of close-together steps. Trying to beat your finishing time from bottom to top? You should fare better now with no need to get on all fours to negotiate the mess.

A helicopter flew out the surrounding debris and delivered the timbers and riprap that shape the retaining walls on the slopes. The series of them are linked by netting and rock walls, other erosion-mitigating components.

The most appreciated structures might be at the top: The rows of boulders are also meant to direct rain off the trail, but strained finishers surely will use them as a restful seat.

"This is my seat right here," Hugo Benitez said recently as he settled into a recliner-looking rock form, stretching his legs and closing his eyes.

He and the crew with Timberline Landscaping can rest easy after three projects, each 3½ months long, on the mountain. How did they pull off the latest high-altitude job? Have a look at these stats to get an idea:

Budget for overhaul: $1.95 million

Number of core workers: 11

Average work day: 11 hours

Highest number of "super Saturday" workers: 43

Worksite elevation: 8,500-feet plus

Gallons of water supplied to worksite: 715

Pounds of snacks supplied, including granola bars, cookies, chips, nuts and energy shots: 250

Number of trips made by helicopter to deliver materials: 378

Tons of dirt used to shore up the hillside: 470

Pounds of seed planted, for erosion-mitigating vegetation on the slopes: 150

Number of ties replaced: 117

Ties used for new steps and retaining walls: 948

Pounds of each tie: 60-80 pounds

Retaining walls built: 32

Water chases installed across the trail: 11

Tons of rock gathered from forest to build structures: 100

Tons of riprap flown in: 292

Length of hidden, high-pressure water line that workers had to be careful not to puncture: 15 miles, spanning from Lake Moraine to Manitou

Miles of rocky, rutted road traveled to top of Incline: 4

Number of UTVs driven: 4

Average commute time: 45 minutes

Gallons of gas guzzled during commutes: 50

Number of trespassers who refused to turn around: 3

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