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Tennessee Pass (Leadville) (1176.0) to 1183.4 (NFS Group Campground) (7.4 miles)
If I haven’t said it before, I have noticed that I am now sleeping better out in the trail than in town. We shared a four bunk room in the hostel last night. I did not sleep well. And I am starting to develop some hiker hunger. So despite the large meal last night, I was hungry this morning. I got up before my hiking companions and walked to a recommended cafe downtown to eat a double breakfast and drink coffee. That was great.
The hostel is several long blocks from the downtown area. My knees had been very stiff and in pain coming into town and still were this morning. The walk to and from the cafe helped loosen them up.
Upon returning to the hostel I got out my damp items and hung them to air out on some clotheslines behind the hostel. By now my hiking buddies were up and getting ready to go to eat as well. During this process, Feral could not find his wallet. (If you remember, he had his wallet stolen at a laundromat in Chama, NM). We all searched the common area helping. Eventually the hostel manager found it outside on the driveway. Unfortunately, all of his cash was missing. Unlucky Feral.
All of this took time. Our group found ourselves at check out time and not ready. We emptied the bunk room and moved to the common area. Their we planned the next segment for our resupply. Pockets is booking another room at the hostel since a friend is coming to visit and will catch up with us later. Just Jim and I are going to Breckinridge next, only a 38 mile leg. He needs to get to the REI store in Dillon, and there is a free bus from Breckinridge to there. (Added bonus for this next segment: the trail goes right by a Starbucks at Copper Mountain Ski resort at about the halfway point, so maybe camp nearby for a luxury breakfast? Hmmm....) Since we were not getting back to trail until the afternoon, we planned on 2 1/2 days for food.
Just Jim and I then finished packing to make our way to the laundromat and grocery store. We shopped while laundry was going. Then we ate a late lunch before hitchhiking.
It only took about 10 minutes for a local young hiker to give us a ride from Leadville back out to Tennessee Pass. (Thank you!) At the pass, trail magic! A young woman was waiting for her boyfriend who was section hiking the Colorado Trail and wanted to help other hikers. She had a cooler with cold beverages and fruit. Wonderful!
The trail at Tennessee Pass does two things we have not seen before. First, it does not cross the highway. It simply turns back to sort of parallel the road down the valley. Second is that it descends! Every other pass with a road has the trail climbing away from it. Additionally, the trail initially is on an old railroad bed, so is graded nicely. Wow.
The bottom line is that we kept a good pace. With our late start (3:40), we decided to hike until 6:30 and then find a good campsite.
Due to both the initial downhill and the good shape of the trail (and great weather!) we made good time. We made it to a valley that had been the location of Camp Hale, home of the 10th Mountain Division in World War II. Because of asbestos concerns, you cannot camp in the valley. But the trail also starts climbing at the end of the valley, with limited camping. We lucked into a great site. Just before the trail climbs there is a group campsite that was empty. And.... a privy that was pristinely clean with a working toilet paper dispenser. And... a bear protection vault for food. And... a picnic table. Too good to be true! And.... for once no rain. Pinch me. Wow.
Side note: why the Melanzana store picture? Short answer: the Melanzana fleece hoodies are only made at this store and are insanely popular in the hiking world. They are only sold in person at the store, with an appointment. No kidding. Had to take a picture.