I wake up in our lumpy, rogue campsite behind the Visitor Center in Twin Lakes just before 6 am to the sounds of the magpies squawking, the hummingbirds whizzing by our tent and a car pulling up on the other side of the willow bushes that separate us from the Twin Lakes Forest Service parking lot. I listen to all the sounds around us from the comfort of my cozy sleeping bag for several minutes before I remember that today is my birthday!
We have a zero day planned for today, and that sounds like just about the best present I could have after two weeks on the Colorado Trail. You know what would not be a good present? A ticket for camping illegally. And, if there are already tourists arriving in Twin Lakes, we better get a move on before we get discovered by the Forest Service and fined for camping too close to town.
I wake Matt up, and we pack our things up as quickly and inconspicuously as possible. Nobody notices us and our stealth night of camping. Hooray!
The light on Mount Elbert is gorgeous this morning. There are dark clouds in the sky behind the mountain range, making the scene even more beautiful and dramatic. It is still early, so the shadows are long.
We still have a few hours before the World Cup Final is scheduled to begin, so we follow the village nature trail up to an overlook. There are some benches at the top where we can eat our breakfast and enjoy the stunning view over Lower Twin Lake and the Collegiate Mountains looming across the lake.
The rainfly of the tent is soaking from camping in the meadow, so we lay that out to dry and light up the JetBoil for some coffee and tea. Not bad for an improvised outdoor cafe!
This turns out to be our CBS Sunday Morning Moment of Nature, as we see a lot of cool stuff from our little perch. Matt first spots a coyote slinking around on the expansive plain below, and then a small herd of elk emerge from the willow bushes. Meanwhile, numerous birds land on the tops of the trees that are all around us. We see the handsome red House Finch, Green-tailed Towhee, and Mountain bluebirds in addition to the hummingbirds and magpies that are still cruising the landscape. What a great way to start the day!
There are some really neat flowers, too. These nature subjects aren’t moving, and we can get close enough to them for a few photos.
We head over to the Village Inn at 9. We are staying there this evening, and the owners said we could watch the World Cup Final on their television in the breakfast room this morning. Margaret lets us in and makes us feel welcome. Matt gets her permission for Paul and Ellen to come watch, too. Together with Yoli, another guest staying at the inn, we have a little watch party going on, which is kind of fun in this tiny town.
I take advantage of the wifi to get some blog work done, but I am very distracted by all the hummingbirds attracted to the feeders outside the window. The inn has five feeders on the front porch, and there is a constant parade of Ruby-throats coming to them. There may be as many as 40 at a single time. It’s nuts! I go outside to get a closer look at all the beautiful birds.
The hummingbirds are so pre-occupied with getting their tongues in that sugar water and with fending of their rivals that they don’t care about me standing a few feet away from them. They buzz all around me. Sometimes they come so close that I can actually feel the brush of air from their little wings on my skin. Check out the slow motion video I took on my iPhone of them coming into the feeders. It is super cool!
Yoli tells me that you can even hold your hand up next to the feeder, and they might land on it, so I go back out to give this a try. Sure enough, a little female hovers above my finger until she is brave enough to land there. I can only feel the slightest little tickle of her feet on my skin. How cool is that?
Back inside I mention to Yoli that we are trying to get to Leadville to do our laundry. She says that she was planning on going there today and will give us a ride as soon as the game is over. What a lucky break!
France wins the World Cup pretty easily over Croatia, and we gather our dirty clothes and a few other necessities for the day. We store our backpacks in the inn’s library and hop in Yoli’s car for the half-hour ride to Leadville. Yoli is from St. Louis and out here relaxing in Colorado for a week or so, using Twin Lakes as her base to explore the area. We are thrilled that she is giving us a lift. Thank you, Yoli!
The laundromat is at the northern end of town near the Safeway, so we are able to get our clothes cleaned while Matt runs over to get a few last minute grocery store items for our resupply. We love being able to get these chores done efficiently, so we can spend more of our time on fun things during these zero days that seem to disappear way too fast.
Once the laundry is all clean (hooray for clean laundry!), we start taking a leisurely stroll on foot to downtown Leadville, where we are hoping to grab a pizza for lunch.
Along the way, we see a fresh peach stand and can’t resist stopping for some to eat right now. It’s almost 1:30, and we haven’t had anything since breakfast. Our hiker hunger is kicking in, and we are starving!
The peaches are delicious, and the young woman running the stand is as cute as she can be. She is impressed that we are hiking the CT, and she doesn’t seem fazed at all by us digging into the peaches right in the parking lot. We appreciate her not staring at us as the sweet peach juice runs down our chins. Very kind, indeed!
From there, we walk down Main Street and head straight to High Pie Pizza, which was recommended highly by Andy at the Twin Lakes Inn. We order a salad and a pizza and take a seat out back at one of the picnic tables. We are both so hungry that we can barely hold a conversation until the food comes. Both the salad and pizza are delicious, and we devour it all in no time.
We decide that we have time for a quick stop at Periodic Brewing (Pb—get the clever name?) before we try to hitch back to Twin Lakes. The taproom is cozy and pretty packed for a Sunday afternoon. We get a sampler flight of four beers to share that are served in measuring cups and a cute tin container that reminds Matt of something he made in shop class eons ago.
When it’s time to look for a ride, we head down to the end of Main Street to try to find a hitch. Would you believe that the fifth car that passes us stops? The only problem is that it is a Leadville policeman! I can’t believe that we are going to get some time in the pokey on my birthday!
Luckily, the officer is kind and tells us that we have to be outside of the Leadville city limits to hitch, which is about a mile further up the road. We thank him for the information and start walking. There are lots of cars heading our way, so we still stick our thumbs out even though we aren’t out of town yet. Just before hitting the city limits, Luke from Texas pulls over for us and says he will take us all the way to the inn, even though it is six miles out of his way. Thank you, Luke!
Luke is camping in Buena Vista while his wife is doing a week-long yoga training class at Mt. Princeton. He works in IT and can work anywhere with a good internet connection, but this time of year is his slow period, so he is just as happy to make a vacation out of his time here in Colorado. Just before he drops us off at the inn, it starts to rain, and within minutes it is pouring. We are so lucky that he picked us up and drove us all the way to the village.
It is about 4:30 now, and we are able to check into our cozy, little room. Our room is small, but we have our own bathroom (some of the rooms have a shared bath). The bed is super soft, and we are both already excited for the restful night of sleep we have ahead of us.
Matt waits for the rain to die down before he goes over to the General Store to pick up our resupply box. All the boxes are kept in a large storage locker outside, which he has to dig through to find ours. Luckily, he guesses correctly and finds our box buried at the bottom of the left side of the bin and brings it back to the room.
We have way too much food and other consumable items (Band-aids, ibuprofen, wool for blisters, etc.), and Bob, the General Store owner, has agreed to mail a box of stuff off for us when he heads into Denver in the morning. But for now, we need to get through the shower and head down to dinner with the gang and Yoli, who we invited to join us for my birthday.
We have a large table in the middle of the busy dining room. Besides the food truck, this is the only place to eat in town, and it is hopping. We toast with two large mugs of Elevation IPA from Salida. Matt has freshly-caught trout, and I have a plate of fried-green tomatoes and a Caesar salad. The food is excellent, and we do our best not to talk about the trail too much, so Yoli can join in the conversation. The Orchestra (now just Paul and Ellen after Kat and Layla the dog left yesterday) buy me a brownie a la mode for my birthday dessert. It’s a fun evening, but everyone is ready to go to bed by the time we are all done.
After dinner, Matt and I head out to see the gorgeous view one last time. The rain has stopped, and there are some ow clouds hanging just above the lake that create a moody atmosphere.
We head up the street to check out the Sherrif mannequin in his deliberately parked squad car and get a few shots of this quirky Twin Lakes oddity.
Then it’s up to our room to sort out our resupply and figure out what is staying and what is going. When all is said and done, we have a sizeable box of things to send home, and we are thrilled to think about all the weight we are dropping as we head into the Collegiates tomorrow.
It’s almost midnight before we get to bed, and, as always, we are wishing we had a few more hours to get everything done that we hoped to. There’s just never enough time…
Day 15 Stats
Starting Point: Twin Lakes
Ending Point: Twin Lakes
Mileage: 44 miles to Leadville and back (thankfully in cars)
Number of laws broken: 2 (sorry!)