I’ve been through Leadville a number of times, but never to Leadville. I did not know it as a place that one visited. To my surprise, Leadville’s tiny downtown was clustered with families wearing Colorado hoodies. Sleuths of black leather motor bikers sat on split-rail fences and clogged restaurant entryways. A shrewdness of dirty campfire Yawp! Company non-motor bikers mobbed the beer and pizza joint. Like rebels, we took up both parking spaces and ate all the cheese. But then we went immediately to bed because we are also old.
As Colorado fills up and the planet heats up, I suppose it makes sense that this windblown little town in the midst of some towering Rocky Mountains would become a Getaway Destination. When I say windblown, I mean that some of the buildings have blown all the way down and no one seems to mind. The Yawp! Company went there, and it was pretty darn swell.
With our first two trips of the year troubled by snow and injury, it was something of a relief for this trip to go on much as previous trips have gone: bikes, beer, campfire, repeat.
On Saturday, we rode the Pipeline to Twin Lakes loop, 2/3 of which I would heartily recommend. Should you go to Leadville, you might enjoy section 11 of the Colorado Trail, with its fairly mild (for the CT) climbs and dense aspen groves. There are lots of folks hiking Mounts Elbert and Massive. Many of them start hiking around 4am. I don’t really know that’s a fact, but based on how many vehicles passed our campsite between 3:45 and 4:30am, it’s a good guess. So as long as you don’t start your ride at 4am, you’ll hardly see anyone. Unless a storm blackens the sky around the mountain tops and unleashes a bout of lightning that sounds like that other Janet Weiss band, in which case 7,000 hikers may be flushed onto the CT from their respective summit trails by nature’s own Ice Bucket Challenge.
While in Leadville, you might also enjoy the Twin Lakes trail south of the lakes as an out-and-back. It’s quick and punchy with some fun tech. For a trail that is entirely flat, it’s almost never flat.
Okay, it looks pretty flat in those photos, but it’s not flat.
Those two sections are the 2/3 that I recommend. If you enjoy ending rides with a climb as well as long, un-scenic doubletrack slogs and exposure to afternoon storms, then I also recommend the easternmost third-third of this loop.
I didn’t take a picture of the campfire. I know these pictures, as a genre, are unexciting, but I like them. I like how faces are overexposed on one side and bleed into the surrounding darkness on the other. Campfires are one of the few social situations in which this introvert can fully relax, so I have a soft, blurry overexposed spot in my heart for such photographs. I’m lucky to share campfires with people who are so interesting, creative, and funny that we can always find new and worthwhile things to say about poop. Just kidding. We don’t talk about poop. Except for when we do.
On Sunday, we followed good advice from Brian and rode nine miles up an increasingly steep, loose, and rocky fire road to the Champion Mine. The creek crossing was so cold it made my ankles feel like they were going to burst.
We rode past the site of a fairly recent avalanche, where hundreds of trees lay on their sides, and what little air there was at 11,000 feet smelled so strongly of pine sap and tree flesh that it would’ve made the CEO of a scented candle company collapse out of spite. Being the hardened and emotionless Company that we are, we casually noted the tree genocide and continued on.
The mine is huge and old and made by hand, and in a remote Rocky Mountain gulch with little other evidence of humankind. For some reason, that makes it incredibly cool.
It doesn’t happen often, but on this trip we had a couple of different groups riding different rides simultaneously. That means I don’t have photos of everybody, and that I didn’t get to spend much time with some of the folks who came on this trip. I do really like, however, that people are comfortable camping with us and then riding their own rides.
I feel like this is the appropriate place to leave you with a poop joke, but we don’t talk about poop so I guess I’ll just log off.