Today was a very short hike and hitch into Leadville, where I stuffed myself with food and washed dishes at a pizza restaurant.
It rained a bit overnight, but it was nice and clear by morning. I was concerned that the overnight humidity (both from the rain, as well as being nearby a river) would hinder my phone drying out enough to charge it, but by the time I woke up, it was finally ready to start charging.
I left camp a bit after seven, heading towards Tennessee Pass. With only 3.7 miles to go, it was a pretty quick hike.
After crossing another creek via a bridge, I saw a sign warning that there was abridge at the bottom of the hill. It seemed a bit silly of a sign to me, but I guess it’s an important warning for cyclists. Or maybe equestrians.
The trail meandered through a nice pine forest, with grasses and small plants covering the mountain side where the trees weren’t. Occasional gaps in the trees were filled with grasses. Of course, everything is wet from last night’s rain. A light breeze occasionally blew raindrops off the trees.
As the sun rose, it started to cook off the moisture on the ground. In the occasional small meadow, steam rose where grass was getting direct sunlight.
As a nice touch, a wooden swinging bench had been built adjacent to the trail. I didn’t give it a try since it was still a bit damp, but it would have made a great place to take a break.
It only took an hour and a half to reach the trailhead, which had a huge parking lot and several porta-potties. Stumblebee had already arrived and had taken the opportunity to spread out her tent, sleeping bag, and wet clothes out for drying. I did the same as we waited for Pale Ale and Sprouts to catch up.
One we started trying to hitch into town, it only took a few minutes to get a ride. A guy named Paul stopped to let us pile into his van; the back seat had been removed to make room for his bike and other storage, but we weren’t really going to complain.
Once we arrived in town, we went to City on a Hill for breakfast; my breakfast burrito was pretty good, and they had some other excellent breakfast pastries as well. While there, we saw Rattler, and also Bass, who had hiked with Pale Ale, Sprouts, and Stumblebee for a time in the San Juans. Also, the son of the owner of the Twin Lakes General Store came by (to drop off trekking poles for a hiker who’d accidentally left them at the store), and gave us some pastries from City on a Hill. We were all stuffed, so I put them away for later.
The primary reason we were in Leadville (as opposed to Breckenridge, as I’d planned) was so Pale Ale, Sprouts, and Stumblebee could go to Melanzana to get hoodies. I had no desire to get one, so instead, I hiked up the hill to the Inn the Clouds hostel to get a shower. We were planning on tenting there tomorrow.
When I got there, in talking with the owner, he mentioned that there was a room available for four people, not currently available via their website, for $12 total more than the four of us were going to be paying to tent. I communicated that to Pale Ale, and while I was getting my shower, she got us changed from tents to that room.
Back in Basalt, Pale Ale worked out a plan for slackpacking the next 23 miles of trail. After my shower, I arranged with the owner that we would be able to drop our packs off tomorrow morning so that we could catch the early bus to Copper Mountain and hike back from there.
Now freshly showered, I returned to town, stopping at a burger place for lunch.
For tonight, Pale Ale had heard that High Mountain Pies, the pizza place in town, offered a work-for-stay. A few days ago, she’d arranged it so that we could wash dishes from afternoon to closing, two at a time, and they’d pay us time plus tips, give us each a pizza, and let us camp out in their back yard. (They’d apparently started doing this last year, and said that hikers basically saved their business, because they couldn’t otherwise get enough staff coverage. Seeing how busy they were, and the never-ending stream of dirty dishes, I could believe that.) The four of us, as well as Bass, participated.
It was an interesting experience, but now I can say I’ve worked in a pizza restaurant. Having never done work-for-stay before (I never needed to, and even when the option was there, I’d have preferred to leave the opportunity open for someone who actually needed it), I never would have expected that I’d actually wind up doing it. The trail, though, is excellent at providing opportunities for new and interesting things.
Their backyard consisted of a concrete patio with tables and chairs, as well as a wooden platform stage and a large grassy area. Most of us opted to cowboy camp on the stage; with a pavilion tent above, and a fence on two sides, it was the closest thing to an Appalachian Trail-style shelter since the Davila Ranch in New Mexico (which had a dirt floor).
Tomorrow: we get up early to slackpack 23 miles, which will actually wind up being my second-longest day on trail so far!