Breaking Down on the 6th Day
CT Day 6: 22 miles. Tenmile Creek to Leadville - mi 139.4 (intersection w hwy 24).
Last night was rough going. I’ve been having difficulty sleeping and my achy legs have been waking me up in the middle of the night. Last night I was trying to move around in my mummy sleeping bag to stretch out the crappy feeling and just couldn’t get comfortable. Finally at about 2:00 am I just rolled over in my half stupor and got in child’s pose and just waited. Everything gets better in child’s pose. I took another round of “Leg Cramps PM” and eventually I was able to squeeze in a few more hours of sleep. I remember Robbie dealing with this type of leg pain at night during his transcon run. It is the kind of pain that makes you just want to cry and nothing really seems to make it better.
We got a very early start so we could maximize our relax time in Leadville later this afternoon. We were on trail by 5:30 am. We started with a two mile detour at the Copper Mountain resort due to construction on a chairlift. The signage wasn’t too visible and we missed a turn and got all turned around in resort-land. We eventually figured it out, but it definitely made us grumble a bit. I really had to poop and when everything is closed in civilization and digging a quick cat hole isn’t an option it can be uncomfortable.
Finally we made it back to single track trail and began our 12 mile climb for the day. I was so tired and had a hard time getting going. We pushed for long stretches because the weather was PERFECT and we knew we had a long exposed section at the top (with two passes).
We met a couple that had hiked the PCT in 2015 and we were able to exchange thru hiker stories with them. Their names were Ewok and Podcast. It was fun to pick their brains about the PCT. Red Stripe plans to thru hike it in 2020 and my interest in the trail is certainly piqued. Although they told us they once carried 8 liters of water each for a dry section! That’s 16 additional pounds! That is basically doubling my current base weight just in water. I would need to get creative and probably not cook and live off of bars during the dry stretch because having too heavy of a pack is just not enjoyable.
We eventually got to the top of the first pass and it was so incredible and stunning. We then traversed the ridge to the second pass and opted to cruise through and eat lunch at the next water source down by the tree line.
On our way we had a slightly more challenging rocky/snow/ice situation that we were able to skirt around on the rocks. It still paled in comparison to anything on the AT.
Neither one of us had any altitude issues today and we got above 12k ft again. On our way down I started to feel a slight headache and just achy body. My legs and shoulder and back were really taking a beating. Going from zero to 100 in terms of lack of training to thrusting myself with a 25 lb pack into the mountains of Colorado from sea level has taken its toll.
We took breaks on our way down but they were minimal. My quads were screaming at me on the way down as were the bottoms of my feet. I was also going pretty quickly to try and make it to the road between 4:00 pm and 4:30 pm.
It took everything I had to get to the bottom of the mountain to Camp Hale trailhead parking lot. I still didn’t have service to arrange with the Leadville Hostel owner about a shuttle and I just wanted to be done. There was no chance of hitching a ride from this parking lot and we still had a 3 mile climb to get to hwy 24. As I sat there resting my feet thunder started clapping nearby. Red Stripe and I mustered everything we had to start going again. We put on rain jackets and pack covers and started moving.
We climbed, we heard thunder, then we started to get a little rain. It rained for about 2 miles very lightly. It was never enough water to make our feet or bodies wet. This type of rain hardly counts in our book after getting soaked day after day on the AT. We avoided a majority of the storm yet again and just got some of the showers on the outskirts.
Finally I sat down with 1.5 miles left. I didn’t know if I could do it. I wanted to take a nap right there on the trail. I was so exhausted and broken. Red Stripe got her phone out and played the song “Final Countdown” to get me moving again. We both were beyond complete exhaustion and just needed to get to that road. I still didn’t have cell service so we were likely going to have to hitchhike the 15 miles or so to Leadville. I felt so bad because I had made loose plans with the hostel owner to come and get us, but he never heard from me because I didn’t have service all day.
We pounded out the last mile and a half in a half zombie state and FINALLY reached the road. We got a hitch within 1 minute and sat in the back of a pick up truck freezing and wet. Our ride dropped us off at Safeway and I had service so was able to text our hostel owner where we were. He came and got us and we went to the hostel.
We did laundry, took nice long showers, and they had leftover food from a meal they prepared for a large group so Red Stripe made a pizza and we both ate salad. Red Stripe’s resupply box didn’t show up again, so she rode a bike from the hostel to the grocery store to get provisions for the next stretch.
We ate vegan ice cream in bed for late desert and had many good laughs about our mental state and what we had just done. We decided we would tame our pace down to 20 miles per day and not try to do more from here on out. The 25 mile plus days were taking their cumulative toll and the terrain is getting more challenging and the altitude higher after Leadville.
Having these nights in a hostel are so helpful in making us feel a little more human again. Getting all the grime out from our finger and toenails, talking with other people, eating different food, and sleeping in a bed makes a world of difference. Red Stripe and I agreed that 6 days is probably our max length of time before a shower and bed are in order to revive us. This night in Leadville made me feel so much better and gave me strength to face the next leg of this hike.