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Live, Play, Travel

Hiking Hope Pass

August 17, 2015

It’s mid-August which means that things are about to get really real up in Leadville. In honor of the bunch of badasses that are getting ready to take on the beast that is the Leadville Trail 100 run, here is a write up about a little run (that term may be a bit generous …) I did last summer on Hope Pass. Good luck to all the runners racing next weekend and congrats to those who raced the bike a few days ago! 

One weekend last summer I found myself up in the mountains and in need of a long run. I was training for Imogene Pass (which never happened due to a slew of injuries) and wanted to do something long, hard, and high. Being somewhat of an ultrarunning groupie, I decided that I’d go check out Hope Pass. And that I’d take my furry dog with me.

For those of you that aren’t ultra running fangirls, I’ll tell you that Hope Pass is the crux of the infamous Leadville Trail 100 run. It comes smack dab in the middle of the day, when storms are rolling in and runners are getting tired, and as far as I can tell it’s 20 miles of hell. Runners hit the Twin Lakes aid station at around 40 miles into the race, climb to the sky, top out at 12,600 feet, and cruise down a steep and slippery hill to the ghost town of Winfield and the turnaround point at Mile 50.

And then they repeat the whole thing in the other direction.

Sounds hard, right? It is.

I had been wanting to get up there for a while to see what the buzz was about and with a long run on the schedule, I figured it was a perfect time to do it. On the advice of a friend who has done this thing a few times, I started on the Winfield side. The furry dog and I made quick work of the easy, gently rolling section of the Continental Divide Trail that leads to the base of the climb. And then the trail turned skyward and the real hike began.

It was hard, you guys. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this thing was freaking steep. And if it was kicking my butt on fresh legs (um, it was), I can’t imagine doing it 50+ miles into a 100-mile race. The people that do this for real? They have my utmost respect.

While I was huffing and puffing my way to the top, the Spotty dog was running laps around me. She was doing the infuriating and endearing thing that dogs (and sometimes husbands) do, where they run ahead and look back at you like well, aren’t you coming? I was coming, just not at her pace.

We reached the top of the pass, where it was cold and windy, took a few shots, and headed back down the trail. We made quick and easy work of the top section but slowed considerably near the bottom where things got steep and rocky. By the time we hit the road to Winfield, we were both ready to be done. I was beat and the furry dog had blisters forming on her pads from the hot rocks (this was a hike I wished I had brought booties for). We were beat.

The thought that was stuck in my mind the entire time we were out was that I can’t even imagine doing this twice in the middle of a hundred mile race.

Leadville, for me, is a bucket list race. It’s the race that would easily be my answer if you asked me “If you could finish one stupidly hard event in your life, what would it be?”. I’m not an ultrarunner. Most days I’m barely a runner at all. I’m painfully slow and tend to get injured if I so much as look at my running shoes. My body and heart love the bike more … but there’s just something about Leadville.

Good luck this weekend to all the LT100 racers. You’re all a special kind of crazy!


Live, Play, Travel

Paddelboarding Leadville’s Turquoise Lake

August 14, 2015

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I am on a mission to paddle as many places as possible this summer. I added #8 to the list today – and it was a doozy.

Leadville is one of my favorite places in all of Colorado and Turquoise Lake, which sits just outside of town, is a beauty. It’s also really high and really cold, making the paddling season fairly short. I had been wanting to get up there for a while – I just hadn’t had a chance to do it when the weather was good.

I found myself with a few child-free hours to kill this morning so I decided to give it a go.  And since the furry dog hadn’t been out on the water yet this year, I decided to bring her along. I also knew that this was possibly a very bad idea.

Neither the kid nor I have fallen off the board since the very first time we went paddleboarding and most of the time I feel pretty confident that neither of us is about to go for a swim. I have pretty good balance on the board and he knows that he has to sit still. We’re a pretty good team.

Put a 60-pound somewhat high-strung herding dog on a paddleboard and it’s a whole nother ballgame. She gives exactly no warning before she jumps up and moves to the other side of the board and counterbalancing her weight takes some effort. And did I mention that this water is cold? I did not want to fall in.

I learned just how cold the water was before we even left the shore. I had coaxed Spotty onto the board and was about to hop on myself when she decided it was time to make a break for it. She leapt for the shore which sent the board shooting out into the water. Before I knew it I was up to my waist, rescuing my board before it floated off into the sunset.

This seemed like a really bad way to start to our adventure.

Fortunately things got a lot better after that. She settled in and we found our groove. The water was calm and quiet and the air was warm. And the reflections of the clouds? You guys, I have never seen anything like it.

I had always thought that paddleboarding in Leadville would be like floating on the clouds. As it turned out, I was right.

We wrapped up our morning with a quick stop for coffee and a croissant and then headed back over the pass towards Summit. It was a perfect way to spend a morning on the water and the company most certainly did not suck!

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

If you go: Turquoise Lake is a perfect place to paddle but remember that it is high and cold. Start early to avoid the storms and winds that rip through the high mountains on summer afternoons. I highly recommend a stop for coffee and lunch at City on a Hill on Harrison Street in Leadville. I have pretty high standards for coffee shops and this one is one of my favorites!