One challenge of repairing the infamous Manitou Incline: Hiking the darn thing six days a week for three months.

It was all part of a wait-till-you-get-a-load-of-this gig for Hugo Benitez, a Timberline Landscaping laborer who shed 25 pounds doing his part to execute the trail's $1.5 million overhaul.

Standing at the base of the newly spiffed-up trail after a recent day of work, a perspiring Benitez, 35, sounded anything but bitter.

"We're excited," he said of the trail's long-awaited reopening, set for 10 a.m. Friday. "It's a big project, and the whole city is going to know that we did it. I guess we're going to be famous now."

Click here to see past past and recent photos of the Incline.

Call it another perspective on excitement that's building for the trail's return.

The Manitou Incline - an abandoned tourist railway that packs 
2,000 feet of vertical climbing in roughly a mile - was cordoned off Aug. 18, leaving its dedicated fan base out of luck while the Timberline crew worked to reverse flood damage and prepare for future storms.

The project focused on the most heavily damaged portion beneath the false summit, said project manager Sarah Bryarly of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

Workers geared up in climbing harnesses while replacing railroad ties, removing rebar and debris and installing retaining walls and other drainage features.

Photo Gallery - Manitou Incline: Through the years

A core group of 12 to 18 laborers worked six days a week to complete the work, said Timberline Landscaping owner Tim Emick.

For beating their deadlines, workers were paid bonuses totaling $22,500, Emick said.

That's not to say everything went off without a hitch.

The city planned to have the Incline open by Dec. 1, but the project was delayed by a last-minute change that added three retaining walls to the design to shore up defenses against erosion and rushing water, Bryarly said. The retaining walls potentially add "a couple hundred thousand" to the bill, but an exact figure wasn't available, she said.

Among the improvements already complete is a redesigned bailout, now boasting its own platform along with a connection to Barr Trail.

Volunteers also helped construct a trail connecting the top of the Incline to Barr Trail, though it won't be ready when the Incline reopens, Bryarly said. Instead, hikers will follow signs toward a road that ties into Barr Trail.

"The biggest change is that it looks cleaner," Bryarly said. "Before it was like mass chaos and now it's cleaner. I think that might be the biggest shock."

Wiping sweat, Benitez - now an Incline veteran - said he expects the public will be happy.

"It looks cleaner, but the challenge is the same."

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