We hiked 15 mile days, usually making camp by around 4. This left time to collect firewood, enjoy backpack-less walks, and be fed and tucked in before the cold bit too deep.
Climbing into the passes on the eastern border of Holy Cross Wilderness, the Divide reared ritualistically to our West. The formal, light colored rock rose like mighty miters. We lunched, marveled, and again, descended. Only to climb again. And again. And again. Until miles and daylight passed smoothly, as they had exactly a year ago, when we were approaching the Canadian Border.
Days were clear and, while the air was cool, the sun shone warm. Perfect weather for hiking. Snow-globes of fluttering, yellow Aspen leaves broke in intervals between the dominating Pine and Spruce. Impossible beauty and contentment abounded within and without.
Over the 4 days out there, Autumn came into her prime. To celebrate her coming of age, the Aspen groves held fantastic ballets; a few leaves would free spin to catch attention then the wind would whirl and a milieu of flakes of gold would pirouette out of the boughs. I laughed and squealed and clapped and danced along.
We camped at Turquoise lake just South of Holy Cross at May Queen Camp Ground. I enjoyed chatting with the variety of other folks there but was sorely disappointed to come up against the fact that we are now officially out of camping season; therefore, the bathrooms are locked and the water spigots shut off. But hey, camping was free and Leadville lay low and peaceful in the crux of the mountains at the far side of the lake.
We began the next morning by ‘schwacking half way up Sugarloaf before finding the trail. Again I had been unable to stomach much breakfast and so the start was brutal. Slim encouraged me to eat a mystery pop-tart and I shot an Emergen-C, feeling better within 10 minutes. We trucked up into Mount Massive Wilderness and along the folds of Mount Massive’s hem before making a final descent to the tiny town of Twin Lakes.
Truly, those who subsist in these high mountain villages are hardy folks. we sat outside the General Store/Post Office/only place to get food in town and watched the afternoon clouds roll in and the vehicle bound visitors roll by, marveling at the dream-like landscape.
When the cloudmass began threatening, Shannon handed me a “Hiker to Town” sign, written on a large page of atlas map. The tidy sightseers became unusually enthralled by the boarded up hotel across the road from me. Shy about hitching at first, I came to realize I’d have to be more aggressive to catch a ride. Remove hat and sunglasses, tidy hair, throw three stones at the nearest road sign (for luck), lock eye contact, and do little hopeful dances. Finally a Westfalia took the bait.
It turned out to be a 2 part hitch which, all in all, went very smoothly. I made it home in time to debrief, take a shower and eat straight out of the refrigerator like a ravenous animal before Anne got home from work and Emily Johnson pulled in from Kansas City.