Fortunately, nothing too crazy happened from Kansas to Colorado. Driving through Hayes reminded me of last year's road trip to Utah that resulted in my friend and I driving 35 mph through some of the worst hail and rain I have ever seen. Then, once out of the blinding precipitation, we looked to our left and saw an F-4 tornado that would cross I-70 only fifteen minutes later.
The trip took me 7.5 hours, and every minute of it was spent in complete appreciation for western kansas. It's not so much the large expanses of flat land that really excite me. It is the constant, slow gain in altitude that seems to sneak up on you. Suddenly, you are wondering why you can't catch your breath. And then, the real treat. Large peaks start to rise out of the haze, and you realize you have reached the Rocky Mountains!
After a night spent in Denver, I made my way out to Leadville, where I plan to spend a majority of my time acclimating to the altitude and weather. The first place I went was a store called Sawatch Backcountry to buy some gels and protein bars for the next day. Then I made my way out to Turquoise Lake to camp for the night.
Once I found my campsite, I decided to jog down to the potable water faucet. Even though it was only about a 100 yard jog, I was seriously out of breath. I filled the bottles, and made my way back to the car to put on some running shorts and go for a 90 minute jog, or should I say a walk with some jogging.
After seeing the Turquoise Lake trail, I am pretty sure this is going to be my favorite part of the course. The views of Leadville, Mt. Massive and the lake itself are amazing. Along with that, the terrain is smooth singletrack with few hills. After 90 minutes of exertion, I sat down at the mouth of a stream and spent about 15 minutes relaxing in the ice-cold water. What a great day! That night, I went to sleep around 8:30 in order to get enough rest for tomorrow's task,
climbing Mt. Massive.
To anyone who has not seen it, Mt. Massive is very appropriately named. It dominates the landscape, even while sitting next to the tallest mountain in Colorado, Mt. Elbert. I shot out of my sleeping bag at 5:30, giddy for what the day was going to bring. Leaving the campsite by 6:00 would leave me plenty of time to get to the trail head and start my hike before the clouds rolled in mid-afternoon.
Once you hit the trail head you immediately start to climb a steep grade for close to 40 minutes. Then, the as the trail levels out, you are able to catch your breath and enjoy the scenery. However, the views are nothing compared to what you see above tree line.
The views became increasingly beautiful and more breathtaking the further I climbed. However, the oxygen becomes thinner and my water depleted more quickly. About a half mile from the summit, I had to turn back. The lack of water combined with the feeling of my heart pounding in my forehead made me think it was the best idea. Somewhat defeated, I made my way down below tree line. Maybe climbing the 2nd highest peak on my 2nd full day in Colorado was a bit overzealous.