Friday, October 27, 2017

Day 6: And into Breckenridge!

August 30: I woke up to another beautiful morning, but I knew the weather forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms so I didn't linger in camp. I hit the trail early--a little before 7:00--hoping I could make it into Breckenridge before the afternoon storms started.

I wonder what my elevation is? Hmm.... I wonder how I could figure that out? =)

By day 6, I figured my pack was probably a solid 13 pounds lighter than it was when I started the hike at Waterton Canyon which would have left my pack weight at about 35 pounds. Still far too heavy, but so much better than the 48 I started at. And I felt stronger already. My sore hips weren't nearly as tender after those first couple of days. And! I had a mere 16 miles to cover to get into Breckenridge. I'd travel quickly, minimize breaks, and beat the storms into town.

At least that was my plan. When I left Denver, I brought 7 days of food with me, but I had hoped I could complete the distance in 6 days. Things were going well!

Late in the morning, from high on a ridge, I got a signal on my smartphone and called a hostel in town to make a reservation. Labor Day weekend was this coming weekend, and while I didn't expect the Wednesday night before to be particularly busy, I didn't want to take the chance of showing up in town and finding everything already booked. But they had space for me, and I reserved my spot at the hostel for the next two nights. I'd be taking a day off in Breckenridge.

The rest of the day's hike was uneventful. The trail climbed a short 1,000-foot hill before steadily descending most of the rest of the way to Highway 9 halfway between Frisco and Breckenridge.

By the last mile or two of the hike, dark and menacing clouds had rolled in and spit a few drops of rain. I prayed for the rain to hold off--just another half hour I said to the weather gods. Give me a half hour and I'll be done with the day's hiking.

Ahead, I saw another hiker and I slowly closed the gap between us. When the first spits of rain fell, he stopped and pulled out a pack cover and I nodded approvingly. The surest way to make sure it doesn't rain is to start putting on rain gear, and this hiker was doing it for me. =)

I continued to close the gap between us, and I followed him to Highway 9 a mere five seconds after he arrived. He introduced himself as Two-Pack, a name he got while carrying his daughter's pack for 15 miles on the Appalachian Trail when she wasn't feeling well, and I told him that I once carried two packs on a trail. (You can read all about that in A Tale of Two Trails. (Or the Kindle version.)

Happily, neither of had to hitchhike the four miles into town. A bus regularly runs between Frisco and Breckenridge every half hour during the day. And--even better--riding it was FREE! And it stopped right at the trailhead!

It couldn't be more convenient! There was even a small shelter where we could duck out of the rain to wait in the event the rain started coming down. It didn't rain, though, so we enjoyed the sun in front of the shelter while waiting. We checked the posted schedule and saw that the next bus was due to arrive in about five minutes. Perfect! I also noticed a trash can nearby and chucked my ZipLock bag of trash. No reason to carry that one step further than necessary. Life was good!

Two-Pack is looking through his one-pack while we wait at the bus stop for our ride into Breckenridge.

The bus arrived on time and we both boarded and took our seats, chatting on the way into town. It dropped us off near a gondola that was running, and I was immediately curious about how much it cost because I planned to take a day off tomorrow so I had time for a little fun the next day. I walked over to find out about prices and was surprised to learn that it too was absolutely FREE! At least for foot traffic it was free. Bikes needed a paid ticket.

I walked back to Two-Pack and told him of my discovery. We were both ready for real food as well and decided to eat lunch together. We walked into town and agreed on The Canteen Tap House and Tavern because we were both attracted to the outdoor patio. We smelled pretty bad--being in an enclosed room probably wasn't the best of ideas. Also, the tables had umbrellas so even if it rained, we were protected from it.

After lunch, we parted ways since we had reservations at different hostels. I dropped by the post office and picked up my maildrop, then walked to the edge of town where my hostel was located and checked in.

The hostel was gorgeous! It looked like a 5-star lodge with a giant lobby and a soaring ceilings. I thought for a minute that I might have walked into the wrong place. It didn't look like a hostel at all!

The one odd anomaly I noticed was the chandelier made from antlers. Well, the antler chandelier itself actually looked totally in place--the odd part was that all of the antlers had been painted blue. It was the only thing in the whole building that had an unnatural color to it, and I asked the desk clerk, Annabelle, about it. "Why are the antlers blue?"

She didn't seem to know, though, and that might forever stay a mystery.

The lobby of the Bivvy Hostel was gorgeous!

I was booked into a room with two 3-story bunk beds. I didn't much care for the beds because to fit three levels of bunks, each level was very short and I couldn't sit up fully in bed. But that's okay--it just meant that most of the time, I'd sit out in the lobby to work on my laptop. It was huge, after all, and absolutely gorgeous. Much more comfortable than the small room with beds that didn't have enough head room.

When I arrived, there was one person already there--a fellow named Glenn, a friendly guy that I pegged as a heavy pot smoker immediately. He confirmed it later saying he was from upstate New York but was looking for places to live in Colorado because of their legalized marijuana.

Later in the evening as more people arrived, it seemed that the vast majority of the people in the hostel were mountain bikers. Which shouldn't have been any surprise since I had seen far more mountain bikers on the trail than hikers, but somehow I was still surprised. They talked about the trail like it was something entirely different than the one I did, or how biking the trail in different directions was like biking two entirely different trails. It was kind of interesting, actually. A different point of view that I rarely heard about.

But there were a couple of thru-hikers as well as well as former thru-hikers. I met Gabe, a surprisingly large man with a wide girth to undertake such a rugged trail. He had claimed to have hiked the PCT earlier, though, so I didn't doubt that he could do the trail. Then there was Will, a CDT hiker from England. I asked him a little about the CDT since that's a trail I might do someday. What parts did he like, which ones he didn't like, etc.

My large and late lunch was enough to count for dinner too, so I never left the hostel after arriving. A few snacks for dinner was plenty to get me through the night. I didn't see much of Breckenridge, but I'd have all day tomorrow to explore the town. =)

Horses often can't use bridges because they weren't built to support the weight or pounding that a horse would give. But they don't care as much about getting their feet wet either!
For instance, horses should not be using this particular bridge!

Horseshoe Gulch

That's Breckenridge below! I was a little surprised at how large and spread out it seemed to be. If and when a big forest fire rolls through this area (and you know it's always a matter of when, not really if!), a lot of these houses are going to burn. You'd think they'd design these kinds of towns to be more defensible from out-of-control wildfires. Of course, I'm not an expert on these matters so maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about, but logically, it seems like a denser, smaller area would be easier to defend than a sprawling, spread-out town thick with trees between every lot.
Our bus dumps us off in Breckenridge. That's Two-Pack, messing with his one-pack again. =)
What?! The Great Rubber Duck Race is THIS WEEKEND?! I was a little disappointed to realize that I'd be missing it by a single day! I've never watched a rubber duck race before. It sounds like fun! =) (I'm also a little amused at how painfully obvious it is that they reused this sign from the year before.)

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