After climbing the infamous 2000 steps of The Incline in Manitou Springs several years ago, I was excited when a new shorter set of stairs opened in Castle Rock in 2014. When my Thursday morning running group decided to visit this 200 step staircase, I was thrilled and eager to add this challenge to my list of “firsts — one which is definitely more my cup of tea (or coffee)!
At 7:30 am this morning, our group met at Safeway parking lots near our homes in Littleton to carpool the 25 minutes down to Philip S. Miller Park in Castle Rock. When we arrived just after 8, the sun was just rising above the backside of the west facing climb and the parking lot was with filling with other equally dedicated climbers. I was surprised to find the staircase situated in an expansive new park featuring a zip line course, hiking trails, sports fields, an amphitheater, a sports center with a pool, fabulous playgrounds and more. What a great place to bring a family!
After all nine of us assembled, we started the shaded climb. I was pretty sure that I would not be running up the steps and happy to find that none of the other runners in our group were running either. Climbing up the first 50 steps, spaced at a more gradual incline, was relatively easy. The next section was steeper and little more challenging. Many of us stopped every 10-20 steps to take a breath.
Thankfully, the steps were marked at intervals of 10 so by the time I got to 170 and my heart was pounding, the remaining steps seemed manageable. The morning sun blazed in our faces as we reached the top and once our eyes adjusted, were greeting with a magnificent view of the small town of Castle Rock to the east, the front range the to west and snowy Pike’s Peak to the south — a fabulous reward for the 10 minute climb.
After a few long minutes catching my breath, I remarked that I must not be in as good a shape as I thought despite running, hiking, skiing and generally leading an active life. There were nods of agreement among us and chuckles about how hard we all were breathing. Nothing like a stair climb to test one’s limits! We waited for everyone to reach the top, took a group photo and headed down the trail on the south side of the hill. I was pleased to see stunning view of Pike’s Peak on the hike down. The second time up, I was able to pace myself better and challenged myself to climb 50 and 20 steps at a time. Enjoyed a few minutes in the Adirondack chair at the top too!
By 9 am, we’d all climbed enough laps and resolved to return to run the trails in the park too. As the last of us reached the bottom, the sound of sirens approached. Red trucks arrived and a crew of firemen headed up the steps to assist a young man who’d fainted at the top. Fortunately, the ladies in our group were all OK and ready for coffee. We loaded up our vehicles and headed north on Highway 85/Santa Fe for a breakfast rendez vous at O’Brian’s in Sedalia. Was happy to see a few cowboys drinking coffee and a historical photo of a horse hitching post outside this local eatery. Fun times with the Columbines!