Twin Lakes, CO (Elevation: 9700’)
We would have liked to stay in Salida longer, but the summer temps, even at 7,000’, were starting to climb into the 90’s. So we moved on the Twin Lakes Colorado at 9,700’.
If you are familiar with the notorious Leadville 100 trail run or the Leadville 100 MTB race, then Twin Lakes will be familiar as one of the stops/aid stations runners and bikers resupply before heading over Hope Pass at 12,600’.
We initial boondocked at Lake Creek Dispersed camping area on the west side of Twin Lakes. This was a lovely pull out area with room for 10-12 RV’s with terrible connectivity. What we gave up in connectivity we gained back in proximity to the Willis Gulch trailhead, just 3/10ths of a mile away.
Willis Gulch offered access to the Colorado trail, the Continental Divide trail, Hope Pass and a 9-mile round trip hike to the restored 1880’s community of Interlaken.
The Interlaken Hotel complex was started in 1879 as a lakeside resort. It was considered a top destination in Colorado in its time with tavern, pool hall and a unique 6-sided outhouse.
Unfortunately Interlaken lost its attraction when Twin Lakes was dammed for irrigation purposed around the turn of the century. People considered the shallow waters of the lake a breeding ground for malaria and the hotel fell into disrepair until 1979 when the Bureau of Reclamation recorded and stabilized the community.
Today you can access Interlaken by hiking trails or boat.
After three days at Lake Creek camping area we jumped in the truck to look for some connectivity and found the most amazing campsite of our 4-½ years on the road.
Twin Lakes View dispersed area is on top of a mountain on the north side of Twin Lakes. There are several areas to camp on this mountain and it’s VERY popular in the summer. Sites are plentiful…if you are small and nimble or tent camping. But larger rigs will find it challenging to find a level, accessible site that isn’t occupied.
The day we were doing recon we took our camping chairs to hold a site in case we found one that would work for our big girl. As luck would have it a camper was packing up in an amazing site. So we left our chairs and raced back to relocate the RV.
WHAT. A. SPOT.
Not only did we have screaming fast Wi-Fi and stunning views, we were at the south trailhead for Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in Colorado.
Mt. Elbert (the second highest peak in the continental US) was on our list of peaks to bag at 14,440’. This strenuous 11-mile round-trip hike starts at 9,800’ and climbs 4,600’ to the summit.
There is parking at the trailhead, but if you have a high clearance 4X4 vehicle you can knock off 2 miles by driving to the “Upper” trailhead.
Getting to the upper trailhead was nerve racking, even in our GMC 2500 diesel 4X4 truck. Especially when we accidentally passed the trailhead taking ourselves about a mile too far down a sloppy, narrow, shear drop-off forestry road. Yikes!
Hiking to Mt Elbert was much more enjoyable that Shavano. The trail was more gradual and less rocky, except for the last mile. Sections were so steep we used our hands in some areas to climb. We crossed snowfields and noticed that new trails are being cut in to make this climb a bit easier.
While camped at Twin Lakes we were situated just across the street from Mt Elbert Forebay. There is a lovely level 3-mile trail around the entire reservoir with an eagle’s nest on the southwest shoreline.
We loved everything about this location and can’t wait to get back there next summer!
Leadville, CO (Elevation 10,152’)
As the highest incorporated city in the US, Leadville has a rich past in gold, silver, lead, zinc and molybdenum.
And if mining wasn’t enough it had its share of western characters as well.
Dock Holliday spent his lasts days served as a lawman in Leadville. Buffalo Bill died here of pneumonia. The Unsinkable Molly Brown moved to Leadville at the age of 18 and later survived the sinking of the Titanic. Poker Alice learned to play poker in Leadville and was a sought after dealer that liked smoking cigars while wearing pretty dresses.
Un-like a lot of mining towns out west that experienced boom and bust in the 1,800’s, Leadville actually managed to hang on to mining up until 1983, when the Climax Mine was finally closed.
In an attempt to save the town, the Leadville 100 trail run was started in 1983 to boost tourism.
The LT100 or “Race Across the Sky” has a cult following with thousands of irrational runners applying for 1600-ish slots to run a course with 15,600 feet of elevation change, at elevations ranging from 9,200-12,620 feet.
In most years, fewer than half who start the race actually complete it within the 30-hour time limit.
A LT100 MTB mountain bike race was added in 1994.
We showed up a week before the LT100 with the hopes of pacing our friend and “Leadville Legend”, Marge Hickman. Marge holds the woman’s record for number of Leadville finishes of fourteen.
Since being in Colorado this summer Jeff ran the entire Leadville 100 course in sections to train for his responsibilities as a pacer. But after Marge published a book about the start of this iconic race that differed from the current race director’s recollection, Marge was dismissed from the race.
Not to be deterred, Jeff jumped into the final 25 miles of the race to pace some random strangers and got a small taste of this iconic race.
We absolutely loved the little town of Leadville and it’s sporty vibe. It’s another place we would like to return to in the future.
Lake Tahoe (Elevation: 6,225’)
After Leadville we allowed ourselves 6 weeks to meander to Southern California for our camp host position at Doheny State Beach at Dana Point, CA.
We raced across western Colorado into Utah in the heat of summer, so we opted to stay at RV parks in order to run the air conditioner.
We made a quick stop in Reno to pick up some new Battle Born lithium batteries on our way to northern California to camp for 2 weeks at Jeff’s sisters house. Our plan was to accomplish two things. Install the new batteries and have the fifth wheels axels aligned at All Wheel in Redding CA.
It’s always a joy to stay at Jeff’s sisters, especially since they have plentiful tools, 50amp service, fresh eggs, blueberries and two Airedales.
Once we had our projects done we headed to the South end of Lake Tahoe for the Tahoe 100k.
Last year Jeff competed in this race and missed a cut off, giving him a DNF for the race. He redeemed himself this year completing this race in 17hours.
Mt Whitney (14,505’)
Two years ago I had a failed attempted of summiting Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 and the highest peak in California.
It was a painful lesson in preparation, especially when I had to turn around within 1 ½ mile of the summit.
Since we were passing through the Alabama hills on our way to SoCal I decided to give this beast another shot…pending my ability to snag a permit.
We had left Tahoe early the next morning after Jeff’s race and put in a long day of driving to Lone Pine, CA. Planning a 4-day stay, I had hoped for a couple days rest in preparation to attempt to summit.
I had borrowed a tent from a friend and planned to hike the 22-mile round trip with 6,100’ of elevation gain in two days. The first day start a leisure morning and hike 6-miles to Trail Camp, relax, eat and sleep, then head for the summit early the next morning, turn around and hike all the way back down.
Painful lesson #2 in preparation to summit Mt. Whitney…check your equipment well in advance of said hike!
The awesome lightweight tent I had borrowed only included the rain flap… but no tent. YEP! No tent.
Forget the tent and camp out and leave on the hike at 3am to summit in one day. Once I got my brain wrapped around a 13-14hr hike I was all in.
But after checking on-line for a permit our first day in Lone Pine there was only one permit available…as long as I could start my hike by midnight…that night.
Drive up to Whitney Portal after dinner, sleep in the truck for a few hours then start my hike at 11:59pm and summit in one day.
Next post…Mt. Whitney. Why do you hate me so?