Monday, March 28, 2022

Day 72: The Leadville Zero

July 1: Having secured a bed at the hostel for two nights in Leadville at a relatively reasonable price (by Colorado standards, at least), I had the pleasure of taking a zero day. And to celebrate my day off, I wanted to ride the Leadville scenic train! I missed the train in Chama, but I wasn't going to let this one get away too. Not if I could help it!

I'd spend two nights at the Inn the Clouds hostel in Leadville

In fact, I had gone out of my way to check out Leadville. I missed the town during my Colorado Trail thru-hike and regretted never making a stop. It wasn't directly on the trail and I hate hitchhiking, and I was in a rush to finish the CT before the first winter storms hit, so I skipped it--but I always wanted to see this storied town and made a definite decision to not pass by it this time around. Nope, I was gonna visit Leadville, and I wanted a quality zero day to explore the legendary town.

So I woke up and headed a few blocks away to the train station, arriving at 9:00am to see if there was space available on the 10:00am ride--and there was! I bought my ticket, then hung around admiring the locomotive parked outside and checking out the gift shop, and eventually boarded at the designated time.

It's my ticket to ride! Woo-who!

The train ride would take me about a dozen miles down the line, then turn around and come back. Also, it was a regular diesel-electric train--nothing quite as exciting as the steam-powered train in Chama. But still... it was a train! And I could ride it! Through some beautiful areas! =)

It was a beautiful day, partly cloudy and--at least for the time-being--little threat of rain, so I took a seat in one of the open-air cars. Everyone else boarding the train turned right into the closed car, and I mean everyone was doing this. It made me wonder if they had closed off the open-air car that led to the left, so I asked the guy collecting my ticket if it was okay to go that way. "Yeah, sure!"

As soon as I set the standard, numerous others behind me followed suit. I was a trend-setter! =)

As the train started moving, the conductor provided a narration of the history of Leadville and the area. He told the stories with the air of a man who had memorized the lines of a long poem, having recited them hundreds if not thousands of times. But still, it was interesting and educational, and he threw out some facts--and I'm assuming they're facts but I never bothered to fact-check anything he said.

For instance, Leadville once boasted a population of 50,000 people (it's less than 3000 now), making it one of the largest cities in Colorado and a contender for becoming Colorado's state capital, missing out to Denver by just 2 votes. The town is also the highest incorporated city in America at 10,152 feet (3,094 m) above sea level, although the locals never seem to make the distinction that it's the highest "incorporated" town in the America. All the local merchandise also likes to round off the elevation to an even 10,200 feet, because hey, 10,200 sounds better than 10,152. But who knows? Maybe there is one side of the town that does rise those extra 48 feet? The town certainly isn't flat.

At this sharp turn in the tracks, I could see pretty much the entire train at once.

Anyway... it was a great deal of fun and I enjoyed the ride immensely. =)

After returning to town, I trekked down to the post office to retrieve my package with the laptop, but--annoyingly--it still had not arrived! The expected arrival date had been June 26th--five days ago! Where the hell was it?! I was planning to leave town tomorrow, but I really wanted to get some work down with my laptop before leaving town. Argh! The last time I used this laptop was in New Mexico almost three weeks earlier! I asked the clerk at the front desk if they at least knew where it was located, and she left the counter for a seemingly long period of time before returning to tell me that it was at the post office in Denver and maybe it would arrive tomorrow. *shaking head* I was literally hiking faster than the post office could deliver my laptop!

My laptop was now 5 days overdue. *frowning* Just as dark clouds started rolling into town... coincidence? Hmm....

Then I grabbed some lunch at a restaurant whose name I failed to note, but I ordered a tasty Cuban sandwich with a Coke.

My next task was to find a new umbrella to replace the one I lost in the blowdowns a couple of days back. It seemed like it would be an easy thing to find, but it gave me a lot more difficulty than I thought possible. I toured the city searching for one, checking the outfitters, convenience stores, stores with touristy junk and even tried the Safeway in town because sometimes I've seen umbrellas available at grocery stores--but nobody in town had umbrellas! It was very frustrating! 

While I did not find an umbrella at the outfitters, I did find a pair of Darn Tough socks with the CDT logo on them, which I couldn't help but purchase. They called out me. "Tortuga! Buy me! Buy me now! Let's explore the CDT together!" Although I didn't need a new pair of socks right away, I knew the ones I used wouldn't last much longer. Now I had replacements already prepared. =)

I spent a couple of hours searching for a store--any store!--with umbrellas. I had finally given up when I checked out the Safeway, but I needed to buy groceries anyhow so why not? But then I realized there was a hardware store attached next door and figured I may as well check them out as well and finally! I found an umbrella! It was the only one there, plain black, but relatively small and lightweight and only about $10. Yes! Finding an umbrella in this town was definitely way harder than it should have been, though. Doesn't it ever rain out here?!

I went back to the Safeway to purchase the groceries I would need. I have to admit.... I love walking through the chip aisle in Leadville. At this high altitude, all of the bags looked like they were about to burst. Row after row of puffy packaging. I loved it. =) If one of the packages had a small hole and was leaking air, you would know it! Don't pass through Leadville without going down the chip aisle at the grocery store!

I never had so much fun walking through the chips aisle! =)

By the time I finally finished my shopping, a colossal rain storm started dropping buckets of water from the sky. It was a huge torrent of water! Fortunately, I had my new, trusty umbrella to help me get back to the hostel. I was still wet--the umbrella mostly keeps my torso dry, not my legs! Back at the hostel, I changed into dry clothing and put out my wet ones to dry during the night.

Late in the evening, I sat around the lobby chatting with others staying at the hostel. A few were other thru-hikers, but most were in town for other reasons. One couple I met were training for the infamous Leadville 100 race--an absolute insane race that only truly crazy people would even contemplate. Most of the race track actually follows the CDT, right over places like Hope Pass which I had passed over just the day before.

I overheard the woman made a comment about being from Poland. "What?!" My turned my head in her direction. I hadn't a clue that she was Polish. Her English was absolutely flawless without even the tiniest trace of a Polish accent. "Czy mówisz po polsku?" (Do you speak Polish?!) And yes... she did! We chatted some more--mostly in English since my Polish isn't super great--but she was stunned to run into someone who was actually knew some Polish and was even learning it. "But why?!" "Because I'm crazy too." *nodding*

I asked her boyfriend if he had learned any Polish, but he said that he only knew a few bad words like "kurwa"--which he butchered so badly that both his girlfriend and I bust up laughing. I turned to her, and joked--in English so he could appreciate how amused we were: "He can't even say kurwa correctly!" and she replied, laughing loudly, "I know! He's terrible!" The guy didn't really laugh, but he didn't seem upset about us laughing at his pronunciation either. He knew he wasn't speaking it very well, but I think the humor is lost when you can't really tell how badly a word is being pronounced. =)

"That's okay, though," I told him, "I still knew what you were saying! So it's good enough!" =)

The woman said something about them visiting Poland and seeing her grandmother who only spoke Polish. "Well, that should be an interesting conversation," I joked with the boyfriend. "The only Polish words you know you can't use around her!" We all all laughed. It was a lot of fun and I'm not sure anyone else in the hostel were as amused as we were. =)

Indeed, I loved my visit to Leadville. *nodding* =)

Eventually, they headed out for the night, and I continued chatting with others at the hostel, including a couple of guys doing some 14,000-feet peaks the next day. They were Zach (a.k.a. "Jack Rabbit") and Jacob, and after chatting for the better part of an hour, I had told them that my plan tomorrow was to hitch a ride back to the trail and keep hiking and they immediately offered to give me a ride. Sweet! Sure! I was thrilled that I wouldn't have to hitch a ride back to the trail.

By around 11:00pm, I was getting tired and called it a night, and headed back to my bed for the night. I had thoroughly enjoyed my day off and was tempted to stay in town for another day. I had even checked if there might be availability for another night, but there wasn't so that was decided for me. I would be getting back on the trail tomorrow whether I liked it or not!

The train that I would be riding!

I choose to hang out in the open-air car.




I took an embarrassingly large number of photos of chips at the supermarket! =)

1 comment:

Suzanne Elizabeth Huber said...

Maybe she was from Poland, Indiana