9/5 – We awoke in a celebratory mood. First, it was our year anniversary for having completed our first thru-hike from Mexico to Canada along the Pacific Crest Trail. The overwhelming emotions of that day will not soon be forgotten. Second, we were to meet our good friend Claire in a few miles at Tennessee Pass. Dan met Claire while working at Georgetown University Outdoor Education Program in 2005. Claire was one of the student leaders (GOATS) who Dan worked closely with to plan lead rock climbing, kayaking and backpacking trips. Together Claire & Dan discovered ultra-running, first setting up a home-grown 50k and later competing together in their first race – the Laurel Highlands 70 miler. Fast-forward 5 years… Claire had moved to Colorado and we’d done some hopping around ourselves so it had been 3 years since we’d met up. Now we were eager to reconnect and also meet her boyfriend Casey.
Casey & Claire arrived at the pass at 8:30am and after a dose of shrieks and hugs, set to work cooking us a gourmet breakfast on their MSR whisperlight stove. They prepared us a feast of french toast, bacon, soysage and fruit salad. They’d even brought a bottle of champagne and orange juice for mimosas! Wow! As it turned out Casey had hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2006 (his trail name was Casey Jones) and so he knew just what a thru-hiker needs! In addition to the deluxe breakfast they had devised an elaborate plan to have Casey take our heavy loads in the car while Claire, Dan & I set off with day packs and hiked the 13 miles to Turquoise Lake, where we’d reconvene that afternoon. It was the perfect opportunity to slackpack (hike with just day packs) and catch up with Claire.
The miles on the trail flew by, in part because of conversation to catch up on the past 3 years and in part because Claire set the pace at just under a jog. Claire had brought homemade brownies and fresh fruit to supplement our picnic lunch and we enjoyed easy hiking under an endless banner of blue skies.
We reconvened with Casey at Turquoise Lake and then C&C brought another trick out of their bag – ingredients to make fresh guacamole on the shores of the cobalt waters. Then we drove into Leadville, where they’d booked us into the hostel for the night.
Leadville, Colorado is the highest incorporated city in the US at 10,152 feet. It was much more reminiscent of the old mining towns we’d gone through in Montana than the sleek and shiny cities we’d passed through in Colorado. It was a old boom mining town that now survives mainly on tourism and the perseverance of its rugged and working-class townsfolk. We walked around the town admiring the old architecture and the view of 14,000 foot peaks Elbert and Massive on the horizon. We then devoured a quality carmelized onion, spinach, Portobello mushroom, and roasted red pepper pizza from Mountain High Pies. The Leadville hostel was great – clean, cozy and kitschy with a family atmosphere and years worth of collecting contributing to its eclectic decor. We finished off the night with a game of spades where we discovered Casey’s quick wit and Claire’s club prowess. It had been a magical day but now we needed to rest: tomorrow we would climb the highest mountain in Colorado!