writing and photography by Josh Rotunda

Mysterious trails are part of the backyard of Manitou Springs dwellers. The word Manitou in its Algonquian definition is the spirit of the beings that live within the flora and fauna around us, light and dark. Anyone who stays here even for even a brief period will affirm having felt “something else” about the area.

In the hidden paths of Manitou Springs, quiet moments can be found to commune with the nature around you, and commune with yourself. One such path is off of Ruxton Avenue, over a wooden bridge and to the left around a bend. A wooden sign hangs from a tree: “TRAIL,” pointing to the right. A rocky path becomes a red rock ravine. It goes past a small waterfall and up a hill overlooking Manitou Springs, with a memorialized bench made of rock marking the vista point.

The trail goes around a bend and down through a small valley. Here, I’ve heard strange sounds from tree trunks and bushes. The path forks as you walk up and out of the valley, with a sign marking left for Intemann Trail, which continues parallel over Manitou Springs. To the right is Red Mountain.

You’ll find yourself zig-zagging up the mountainside, surrounded by large trees, the air fresh, the sun filtered as it shines through the high canopy above. At one point you will pass a visible arch formed by two trees, the path running beneath and around them. The path here has been well-trodden, and in the darkness one will still be able to follow the trail and stay on it, but natural markers like those help to let you know you’re on the right track.

Climbing Red Mountain is not a brutal workout like the Incline, but is still exercise, with large tree trunks, rocks and roots acting as natural blockades you’ll find yourself stepping over. Just when it feels like you’ve invested in a longer trek than anticipated, the path ends – you’re at the top, at the mysterious rocky foundations of an establishment long since gone, built into the rock.

This place was the site of the Red Mountain Incline and an abandoned restaurant with its own story – the foundations are all that remain. Scrambling up a climbable parting in the rocks, you’re rewarded with a unique view above Manitou Springs, the concrete rubble serving as a safe, pseudo-bird’s nest.

There’s a power about this pathway, and it’s rich with the feeling of Manitou if one opens oneself up to it. You could run along with your dog, or with a Dale’s Pale Ale and a bunch of lunatics clambering into the darkness, but even alone, there is a feeling of having company here, something intangible, as you walk on these lesser known trails. You owe it to yourself as part of the spirit to get to know it.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It was the Red Mountain Incline that ran to the top, not the “original Cog” as stated in the article.]