We had the good fortune of connecting with Tara Alexander and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tara, what are you inspired by?
I’m inspired by systems of nature. Hiking around the diverse landscapes of Colorado, I’m awed by “big” processes such as rock formation and erosion by water. I’m also energized by the constant goings-on on smaller scales. I wonder how many animal eyes are watching me pass through, or how much CO2 is converted to oxygen by the greenery around. A scientist, I’m not! But books, apps, social media groups and trail buddies are plentiful resources to learn more about these forces of nature. It’s a lot about adaptability and persistence, which are good qualities to mull on the trail.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I came up with my base brand, Trailheaders, while rounding a bend in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A family member had needed a hand with healthcare, so I spent some time helping out in east Tennessee. That experience ultimately lead to my career pivot to wellness from economic development.
Although I’d traveled solo in several countries and states at that point, I was still really weary about hiking by myself. However, after a chat at the Visitors Center and obtaining a map, I headed into the national park feeling fairly confident. I didn’t want to let the fact that I was alone keep me from feeling the fall season in the Great Smoky Mountains.
On my hike, the late morning light dappled the trail and led to a prismatic waterfall scene. I realized then that I can indeed hike solo, more safely, especially if I stick to established trails and parks. I added an “s” because I have always hoped Trailheaders would feel like a community. Whether traveling solo for work or personal reasons, staying connected to a community spirit means you never have to feel alone. Our actions can feel isolated at times – whether it’s by quarantine or nature serene. But they are actually *inter*actions, and every step we take is a shared journey.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Take it from a 5th-gen Coloradan, Colorado Springs is the place you’ll say, “You remember when…?” It’s poised for shocking growth and welcomed 23 million visitors in 2018, according to VisitCOS.com. As a tourist, I’d love how simple it is to fly or drive in and navigate the city.
The number one feature I hope our guests appreciate is Pikes Peak. It inspired the song, “America the Beautiful,” and it’s easy to see why. At least once on your visit to Colorado Springs, I insist that you catch a sunset against Pikes Peak. The sunrises, reflected rosily, are also a treat. The most colorful days are the ones with some light cloud cover. Here’s a sample itinerary for a trip to the Pikes Peak Region of Colorado!
Day 1 – Visit Garden of the Gods, with reverence as it is considered a sacred place by some and a special place by all! Drive, bike, hike, climb or stay on the sidewalks at this day use City Park standout. Don’t miss the Visitors Center across the road, and the Trading Post.
Also on the west side of the urban area is Manitou Springs. This quirky adjacent community was established for its healing spring waters, which you can sample along the main street, near the large parks or a private spa. The fittest folks can complete the Manitou Incline, nearly 3000 steps ascending the east flank of Pikes Peak. Catch the cog railway, which travels to the summit of Pikes Peak, in Manitou Springs as well.
Day 2 – Downtown Colorado Springs can’t be missed. There is plenty of parking all around. It’s bustling during the days with businesses, and nights are becoming more active as residential options grow. The Pioneer Museum and grounds are a classic view of the city. The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum was named the country’s Best New Attraction in 2020 by USA TODAY’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Its distinctive design leads to America the Beautiful Fantasy Park which you might see from the interstate.
Downtown COS has some art installations that make walking down there even more delightful. Then, visit the Fine Arts Center for masterworks from O’Keeffe, Kuhn, Chihuly and more.
Day 3 – Weather permitting, take the 19 mile drive up Pikes Peak Highway. The new Summit House is an architectural feat since building at 14, 115 feet has certain complications! My year as a Pikes Peak Highway Ranger helped me learn, grow and always play in the snow. Enjoy the views, the curves, the caution.
Afterwards, Old Colorado City would be a great place to walk around and hydrate. Don’t let the high altitude get to you (that’s why it’s best to save Pikes Peak Summit until you’ve acclimated a bit).
Day 4 – Hike at Painted Mines, an El Paso County Park that will have you marveling at the diversity of nature. About 45 minutes east of Colorado Springs, the desert landscape of Painted Mines is a major contrast to the Pikes National Forest you drove through the day before.
In the evening, catch a concert at Broadmoor World Arena or Pikes Peak Performing Arts Complex. The city also has many budding performers and artists through its higher education institutions which include University of Colorado-Colorado Springs (UCCS), Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC) and Colorado College.
Day 5 – Visit another prestigious learning institution, the U.S. Air Force Academy. Just north of Colorado Springs, most of the Academy is open to visitors. There is a short nature trail to the iconic Cadet Chapel. Maybe you’ll even take in a game out there! For more sports action, catch the Switchbacks FC playing at the new Weidner Stadium.
More activities in the Pikes Peak region include Cave of the Winds, Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Broadmoor Hotel.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d love to dedicate my Shoutout to Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC). The support and encouragement I feel as a student there is invaluable. I returned to school initially for pre-nursing, and now I’ve changed courses to focus on wellness. I’ll be earning my Dietary Program Manager certification this year and have been learning Spanish too. The staff, faculty and leadership at PPCC are invested in the community and their students. We even have textbooks at no cost this year! What a generous way to ease some concerns of college. Being a student again has taught me almost as much as the coursework itself. Thank you, PPCC, for the inclusive and motivating experience!