Belfast City has a piece of my heart

Northern Ireland flag

Wether I refer to it as The UK, or Ireland these days from far off North Carolina, Northern Ireland is both a piece of my past, and very much linked to my heart every day. I enjoyed the culture, the food, the nightlife, shopping and lots of concerts and events during my 20 years of having home base only 30 minutes away from the bustling city centre. My eldest girl still lives and now works there, kicking butt as an Estate Agent and has taken the companies social media to new outstanding heights. Belfast City was a place I had to learn to love, but my restless soul found plenty to keep me engaged and it will always be the place that nurtured me while I nurtured my girls.

Spanish Sun

Spanish Flag

One of my favourite places to be is on the balcony at my brother’s house in Southern Spain. It isn’t just the temperature, it isn’t just the proximity to the beach, it isn’t that I’m usually in holiday mode when I’m there, it’s being with family, that brings warmth, relaxation and a general sense of wellbeing to the world.

Valkyrie’s Log – Hiking up Red Mountain

Location: Red Mountain, Manitou Springs, Colorado.
Status: 6,798ft above sea level.

As my husband flies through the sky, heading east to hot dusty lands, the impending lack of communication drives a desire to throw the Tuesday schedule out of the window and head out for a hike. After a good amount of Skype conversation yesterday, I knew I would feel the radio silence today all the more, we may have spent more of our relationship apart than together, but other than travel days, we video chat everyday. My little worldschooler started work as soon as she woke up (6:30am!) and finished up before lunch, so the rest of the day was ours to do as we pleased.

We were originally heading for Helen Hunt Falls, we had driven past it on the return from a family picnic beside Bear Creak so I knew roughly where I was heading… but then I heard from one of those lovely new friends asking if we wanted to go on a hike up Red Mountain. The coincidence of her suggesting a hike on the day we’d just decided was going to be a hike day, was just too good! Red Mountain it would be!

They picked us up after lunch and after driving through the adorable Manitou Springs we parked below the infamous Manitou Incline. I have heard a lot about this hike, just under a mile in length, the 2,744 steps take you up nearly 2000 feet until you are at 8,590 feet above sea level. My husband felt the pain when he, while in the best shape of his life, struggled to make it up as quickly as he’d like due to not allowing time to readjust to the altitude after just arriving back from close to sea level life.

His dad called when we got home and shared a story of doing the incline with his son, my crazy husband would run up to the top and back down to his dad, like an impatient puppy by the sounds of it, as his dad made slower progress up the mountain. Until his patience wore thin and he goaded his dad by telling him there was a lady hot on his heels and if he didn’t pick up the pace, he was going to be overtaken!

The view from over the valley, half way up Red Mountain, made the Incline look intimidating enough. My very obvious heavy breathing on this albeit steep, yet much easier hike up the Intemann Trail made it clear that I am not quite yet ready for the Incline… but training has begun!

The Intemann Trail starts as a wide gravel road and then reduces to a rocky loose gravel path with many switchbacks. There is merciful tree coverage, Colorado in October is like Colorado in July except the nights are cooler! The loose ground adds a sand dune like quality to the hike in places and there were a few times I accidentally sent small landslides down on my hiking buddy. She took my relatively unapologetic shouts of “Eat My Dust!” with great patience and a sense of humour. Our daughters, my 9 year old and her 14 year old, where happily chatting and making it look easy up ahead. Although thankfully mine voted for regular shade breaks on the way up and there were no complaints from me! My breath always came back to me pretty easily on these breaks despite our chatting… but I also found my breath leaving me again pretty quickly each time we resumed! Although the altitude is undoubtedly partly to blame, life has been pretty sedentary over the past couple of months so I can’t confidently blame it exclusively.

The view from the top was spectacular, a few very precipitous parts of the final ascent where only seen out of the corner of my eye as I find a fear of heights is greatly eased if you pretend the death drop isn’t there. My advice is don’t look down. Or to the right. Eyes to the left and keep moving!

The way down was wonderful in that I didn’t get out of breath… but those soft gravelly sections would be easier to ski than they are to walk. My hiking buddy’s advice to “Just jog down it, don’t even try walking slowly, you’ll just start to slide” didn’t seem like sound logic but turned out to be the best method! So we jog/walked all the way down whooping if we slid and being grateful for the tree roots and rocky outcrops for some much needed traction.

A well deserved cold drink was just what the doctor ordered and all agreed that we were looking forward to the next hike!

Grateful for:

  1. New friends
  2. Health and (improving) Fitness
  3. Nature
  4. Excellent trainers