Friday, August 7th, 2020
We passed the same four girls first thing in the morning before entering the Holy Cross Wilderness. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would befriend this group of girls further down the trail. The climbs were steep and rocky, but not lacking in nice views of mountains and lakes!
A lot of climbs followed! Sadly, our views now included power lines. We were getting closer to civilization. More climbs were to come through the pines, but water was abundant. We called it a day at mile 167.3 which was about 2 miles from the Mount Massive trailhead. That was where we hoped to hitch from to get into Leadville. We learned the next day, that it would likely be a challenging task.
20.8 miles (33.5 km)
Saturday, August 8th, 2020
It was a good thing we stopped where we did because now we were in tourist central! When we reached the trailhead, we realized all of the tourists got there via a long, bumpy dirt road. It was also the weekend and most of the traffic we saw was incoming. It was going to be difficult to hitch out of. We probably should have hitched out at the Tennessee Pass trailhead like normal people. I didn’t think there was a chance in hell we were going to get into town.
Every now and then we’ll get an interesting hitch. This was one of them. By chance, a lady who was heading out stopped to hear our ordeal. She was hesitant, but decided to drive us into Leadville. Her name was Vasia and she had a lovely accent. She was originally from Bulgaria, but moved to Oklahoma to become a teacher in the states. She was on break and decided on a whim to try to hit up as many Colorado 14ers* as she could.
So far, Avalanche Mountain was her favorite, but Mount Elbert came close in second. We were going to take a detour to hit Mount Elbert when we returned to the trail. Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado, the third highest of all the U.S. high points, and the 14th highest peak in the United States as a whole. A side goal of mine is to step foot on as many State High Points as possible. This side trail would jot Colorado’s off the list.
We both have very small backpacks and she found it hard to believe we were completing a thru hike with next to nothing. She was very interested in our gear and asked to see what we were using when we reached town. We exploded our packs in the Safeway parking lot and we wrote down what we had on a piece of paper for her to research later.
We were happy to be in Leadville! We got lucky! We grabbed Hunt Brothers pizza and coffee at the gas station before we resupplied at Safeway. We’d spend a good deal of time at the local laundromat. We wanted to clean our clothes, and ourselves. They had a coin operated shower there which we took turns using as our clothes got spruced up. We ran into two familiar hikers there, Chica and Sunsets, who recently started running a hostel in Franklin, NC near the Appalachian Trail (AT). We met them when we hiked the AT in 2017.
The rest of our time in town involved charging our electronics, browsing through the outfitters, and waiting to get a few, delicious pizza pies from ‘High Mountain Pie.’ We have been to Leadville once before. We took a road trip across the U.S. seven years ago living out of a van, and fell in love with ‘High Mountain Pie.’ It was just as good as I remembered it! Totally worth the wait!
We couldn’t find a place to sleep in town to enjoy a zero day, so we worked on hitching back to the trailhead before it got too late. It took some time, but we caught another interesting hitch with a lady named Kim. She was driving with her puppy Chessie, who was quite sleepy and snuggling in the back seat with me. Kim was no stranger to hitching rides herself. She told us about her adventures hitching around Africa when she was younger. She also used to live around our neck of the woods close to Washington D.C. She invited us to a gathering she was attending later that day, but we were eager to get back to the trail. After a bumpy ride in the sticks, we arrived back to where we left off.
Upon our return, we met a guy named Dr. Thunder who had just finished his Colorado Trail thru hike and was driving around giving out trail magic to hikers. What a guy! He was also a former AT hiker. We also met another thru hiker who was going by the name of Swifty. I’m going to call him Filter instead. Filter was his trail name on the Pacific Crest Trail. He tried to change names on this trail, but it never stuck. Filter it shall remain! We hiked with Filter, who was also planning on climbing Mount Elbert, and we all stopped to camp before going above tree line.
[*14ers – a term used for mountains that are 14,000 feet in elevation or higher.]
3.7 miles (6.0 km) of the Colorado Trail (+ ~1.3 miles of Mount Elbert Access Trail)
Jump Ahead to The Colorado Trail: Part 9
Jump Back to The Colorado Trail: Part 7
Start from the Beginning: The Colorado Trail: Part 1