Hiking, Leadville, and hitching in the wrong direction.

Day 9, 7/16
Miles: 12.4 (plus a town stop)
Mileage: 133.7 – 146.1

We wake feeling good about the day, knowing we only have a 9 mile walk until our next town stop, Leadville! I’ve been excited about Leadville this whole trip. The town is Americas highest incorporated city- the two mile high city. It is famous for it’s elevation, and for it’s annual race called the Leadville 100. I’ve read about the race, and about those who have participated, in many of the ultra-running books that I’ve loved over the last several years. This town is famous in my eyes, and I can’t wait to see it first hand.

We get started around 7:45, and walk a pretty good speed without stopping almost the whole way. A man runs past us, twice, and eventually we find our he just ran the Leadville 50, and he’s training for the 100 coming up in a few weeks. 7 miles in I feel weak and drained so we stop real quick for an electrolyte break. Shortly thereafter we come upon a dirt road and the Colorado Trail sign points us in it’s direction. The road is perfectly level, smooth, and just barely uphill. Easy terrain to walk on.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if the last two miles was on this road? Highly unlikely though”, I comment to Simone.

It’s our lucky day, because sure enough our last two miles of walking stays on the easiest road to walk on ever, and we get to the trailhead within a half hour.

It takes 5 minutes to get a hitch, but the guy drops us off about 5 miles outside of town, where we get a second hitch to complete our journey almost right away. First order of business, lunch. The nice man drops us off downtown and we make our way to a pizza joint, where I’m ecstatic to order a Caesar salad. I’ve only been craving Caesar salad for the last two days, and it’s only consumed my every waking thought leading up to this moment. Of course I get a pizza too, because what type of hiker says no to pizza.

We chomp down on our salads and pizzas, noting that we probably look like starving pigs to everyone around. It’s hard to take a breath in between bites, it’s just sooo damn gooood. Taking a digestion intermission, we look at the map and plan out our next three days before arriving at Twin Lakes, our next stop. As it turns out, the best thing for us to do is to hitch back to the trail tonight and walk another 3.5 miles so tomorrow is only a 16 mile day. We’d better get moving then. I ask for a box for the rest of my pizza but don’t want to carry a giant pizza box around town. So, as any hungry and smart hiker would do, I manage to secure the pizza to the top of my pack. We walk across the whole down this way- just two dirty, smelly girls with backpacks and hiking poles and pizza boxes strapped to their packs. People think this is funny. Okay, I think this is funny.

At this point I start feeling real sick again. Maybe the pizza wasn’t the best idea. I have a hard time walking, and I sit several times throughout our trek across town, afraid that I will throw up. We make it to the laundromat, and thus begins a task that shouldn’t have taken us three hours. I sit in the chair for a long time. I get up occasionally, trying to get my clothes gathered or put the soap in the washer or get coins or whatever task is next, only to sit back down again a few seconds later. We do get to shower during the process which is a huge plus.

I tell Simone that I don’t know if I can walk another 3.5 miles like this. After discussing our options, we decide to go to Safeway for our next 3 days’ food supply and buy some cold and flu medicine. If that doesn’t make me feel better, we won’t walk till the morning. If it does, we’ll walk. I meander my way through the store, slow as a snail, and finally finish our last task. I take the medicine and pray it does wonders.

It once again only takes us 5 minutes to get a hitch back to the trail. The couple are smoking a joint in the car and tell us to pile in the dirty back seat. Hmm… This should be interesting, but I’m not gonna complain. It’s a ride. 15 minutes later Simone and I look around and wonder why we don’t recognize any of the scenery. 5 minutes after that we wonder why it is taking so long to get to the trailhead. As it turns out there are two highways going out if town, and we took the wrong highway. So we just hitch hiked 18 miles in the wrong direction… Awesome. Luckily for us, the couple also meant to take the other highway so the man turns around and heads back to Leadville. This is turning out to be a long day.

When we finally make it to the trailhead it is just starting to rain hard. I’m feeling a little bit better with the medicine kicked in. With rain gear attached, we speed walk through the forest trying to walk this 3.5 miles in an hour. The Leadville Hostel put out a bucket and some gallons of water for trail magic which is amazing because that means no filtering water for us tonight! Thanks Leadville Hostel. Just barely over an hour later we make it to camp and I immediately go relieve myself in the woods. This is not good. We set up camp and crawl into the tent, and within seconds it starts to hail. Perfect timing.

Thank goodness we don’t have to cook dinner or filter water or do any other chores tonight. I am drained. It’s 8:30pm and we have had a full day since 7am. 12.4 miles of walking, over an hour of driving, and 6 hours in the town of Leadville. I get cozied up inside my sleeping bag and slowly let myself drift off to the sound of rain dumping onto the rain fly.

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