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1199.6 to 1213.5 (Bus stop near Breckinridge) (13.9 miles)
A relatively simple description of the trail today; climb for a little over five miles, descend for a little over eight. No kidding. No level, cruisy trail today.
Our altitude gain was pretty close to yesterday, about 2700 feet. The trail up was pretty steep in sections but overall not bad. Also helping was the fact that the climb was on the west slope of the mountain so we were in shade most of the way up until the sun was higher. Despite this, both Just Jim and I struggled with this climb more than normal. We don’t know why. Maybe that Frappuccino from yesterday wasn’t helping like we thought it should. Whatever the reason, it took us longer than anticipated to reach the high point and take a break. As with all recent days, we saw a lot of other hikers, and several were taking a break on top as well. The weather was perfect, with just a slight breeze. The views were marred only by a large active mining operation toward the southeast. You could see our destination from there (above tree line), which made it hard to believe it was another eight miles. But it was.
As hard as climbs are, descents can be painful too, especially when steep. Since the descent was so long, it was only steep in sections. But it just kept going and going....We thought it would never end. There was one climb toward the end to break the monotony, but even the descent from that was kind of funny. The slope was gentle but had huge switchbacks. Weird.
There were some mountain bikes but not many today. It looked difficult to me for that. We did pass two riders on horses, something I had not seen since early in New Mexico.
The goal for today was to catch a bus into Dillon to visit an REI store there. (REI is a national outdoor outfitter, with stores across the country and sells lots online. They are well known in the hiker community.) Just Jim has a new pair of pants and a replacement for his leaky sleeping pad there.Then find a place to stay a get resupplied for our next segment.
The trail crosses Colorado Highway 9 right at a bus stop north of Breckinridge. The bus system is free in Summit County and covers four cities that are close; Breckinridge, Frisco, Dillon, and Silverthorne. All are popular tourist destinations in winter and summer.
We didn’t even make it onto a bus. As we were taking our packs off a nice SUV pulled over and an older gentleman asked if we needed a ride. (A new record for me; got a hitch without even trying!) He said he didn’t usually pick up hitchhikers (we weren’t at the moment) but said he felt like he should. We had a great conversation on the way to REI. And... he was going to the grocery store next to the REI anyway. He stated he was wanting to have more conversations like ours and not ones involving politics/the news/ etc etc. Coincidence to meet him? I think not. Thank you!
After the visit to REI we went to a burrito place. From there we tried to find a place to stay. Unfortunately for us, it was Friday in a popular area. The only places available were expensive. But there was a comment on Guthook about a hiker making his way to a new hostel in the town of Alma. We called and they had room. But we had to get there. We found we could use the bus system to get there, but it would take several connections and even then we would catch the last bus to Alma. Away we went and it all worked out.
Alma is small. One general store, one saloon/restaurant, one food truck, one hostel. We were able to grab some stuff from the general store to make breakfast at the hostel and some ice cream from a food truck. It is a cool little place to stay.